As Donovan Mitchell sets the playoffs on fire for the Utah Jazz, Kings fans have grown vocally frustrated about the Kings missing on Mitchell not once but twice in the 2017 NBA Draft. Mitchell had visited the Kings in the predraft process, and yet Sacramento went another direction. As Mitchell put a playoff exclamation point on his superb rookie season, it’s worth asking “how did they miss this?”
In the latest episode of the Kings Insider Podcast, James Ham addressed this very question in his discussion with Sam Vecenie.
Ham reports that the Kings liked Mitchell, and could have taken him with the 10th pick if De’Aaron Fox had been drafted before the fifth pick. As Ham explains it, the Kings could have taken a small forward like Josh Jackson or Jason Tatum if Fox had been selected over them, and then could have taken Mitchell at 10. I’ve heard similar explanations from other sources as well, suggesting the Kings weren’t interested in creating a logjam in the back court any more than would already exist with Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield already in the guard rotation.
This still begs the question of why Fox was ranked above Mitchell. Can Fox be better than Mitchell? Sure, anything is possible. But based on their rookie seasons Fox has a long way to go. He’s two years younger than Mitchell, but it’s still going to be difficult.
It’s also difficult to buy the logjam argument when the Kings also drafted Frank Mason and then signed George Hill. I think we can agree that if Mitchell had been in a backcourt with Fox, Buddy, Bogdan, and Temple, he wouldn’t have had the offensive freedom and opportunity to succeed that he’s had in Utah. Nonetheless, the logjam argument feels like an excuse.
We’ll never really know how the Kings felt about Mitchell at the draft. But more than anything this feels like a strategic leak of information in the same way that every team claims they loved Draymond Green and “would have” drafted him if only one other thing hadn’t happened.
Update: I edited some wording. Han stated that “there was a path” where the Kings could have taken Mitchell, rather than it being as definitive as I originally wrote.