Initial reactions to the Sacramento Kings selecting Davion Mitchell with the ninth pick in this year’s draft were mixed at best. Analysts understood the upside on defense that Mitchell would bring to the Kings (who were historically bad on defense a season ago), but they also questioned the inevitable crowded group of guards on the roster (De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, and now Mitchell).
Mitchell displayed exactly how his skillset could motivate this team to take the next leap when his defense helped steer the Sacramento Kings Summer League team to a championship. While the Kings sit at (1-2) on the early season, Mitchell’s prowess on defense has already garnered praise from some of the NBA’s biggest names, while also coming at the expense of some notable opposing scorers.
In Sacramento’s first two matchups with the Portland Trailblazers and Utah Jazz, Mitchell guarded two of the league’s premier scoring guards in Damian Lillard and Donavan Mitchell. The final stat lines for each of the two:
Lillard: 8-24 FG, 0-9 3P
Mitchell: 9-25 FG, 5 TOV
Off night indeed.
In Sacramento’s 119-107 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, Stephen Curry scored a game-high 27 points, but by no means did it come by way of the absurd efficiency we’re used to seeing from Steph. Curry shot 9-23 from the field and 4-15 from three while dishing out some praise of his own to the Kings’ rookie first-round pick:
"I think, all that hype about his defense, that man was an offensive assassin tonight…I wasn't sure he had that in that tank. But he has, again, a knack for on-ball presence and, obviously, the way we play, you've got to do both, so I'm sure he felt a little bit of that. But, just the confidence of a guy coming in -- it's his third game in the league -- he has a lot of room to grow, but you can tell he has all the tools in the kit to be a defensive stopper. Just a pest out there, in the best of ways."
Davion Mitchell finished with 22 points on 9-16 shooting, 3-8 from three, and four assists.
It’s a small but significant sample size through three games for Mitchell, who’s already making a name for himself with his impact on the other side of the ball. Energy and effort on defense are invaluable for any team, and for this Kings team, it’s proven to be their missing piece.
As Mitchell continues to get more and more comfortable as the season rolls along, he might prove to be the spark this team needs to meet their expectations.