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Why Monte McNair made the right decision drafting Davion Mitchell

Davion Mitchell is proving to the rest of the league why the Kings wanted him.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Utah Jazz Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

When Sacramento Kings general manager Monte McNair decided to take Davion Mitchell with the ninth overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, many fans questioned his decision. The Kings already had a point guard locked up in De’Aaron Fox, the team’s franchise player. They also drafted another point guard in the previous draft in Tyrese Haliburton, who turned out to be a finalist for Rookie of the Year.

On top of that the Kings had one of the league’s elite three-point shooters in shooting guard Buddy Hield. So why did McNair choose to draft another guard with a lottery pick?

Earlier this week, McNair sat down with Sam Amick of The Athletic to discuss a few things, including why he chose Mitchell.

Among the reasons McNair gave as to why he picked Mitchell was his winning pedigree. When he was at the University of Baylor, Mitchell achieved a nice handful of hardware. He was the recipient of:

  • NCAA champion (2021)
  • Naismith Defensive Player of the Year (2021)
  • NABC Defensive Player of the Year (2021)
  • Lefty Driesell Award (2021)
  • Third-team All-American – AP, NABC, SN (2021)
  • First-team All-Big 12 (2021)
  • Third-team All-Big 12 (2020)
  • Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year (2021)

Having awards is nice and passes the eye test, but it’s not the sole reason Mitchell was picked. The real motive was the fact that many within the organization considered him the best available player on the board:

Certainly, when you just look at the team we had and who we had drafted the year before and Tyrese and who we already had on the team with De’Aaron, and you say, ‘Why would you draft another point guard?’ (But) this is where we talk about being a best player available in the draft. And it’s a hard thing to do sometimes, but we truthfully sit here and try to (draft) best player available. And when Davion is sitting at the top of our board, we do not hesitate to draft him.

As seen in his college career and now his young NBA career, Mitchell can provide the Kings with something they desperately need: defense. Mitchell earned the nickname “off-night” in college due to his ability to make opposing players have a statistically bad game and he’s shown why through his first few months with the Kings.

2021 Las Vegas Summer League Championship Game - Sacramento Kings v Boston Celtics Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

In a Summer League game against the Celtics, Mitchell was lined up with guard Payton Pritchard. Going into the game, Pritchard was the Summer League’s sixth-leading scorer, averaging 20.3 points per game while shooting 51.4% from the field and 57.7% from behind the arc. He also scored 92 points at a Pro-Am in Portland just days before. When guarded by Mitchell, Pritchard finished with 4 points on 2-6 shooting from the field and 0-4 shooting behind the arc.

Then, in his first week of NBA action, Mitchell was tested in the toughest way possible having to go against some of the best guards in the league in Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, and Steph Curry. When guarded by Mitchell, the three superstars shot a combined 33% from the field. He most impressively forced Lillard to shoot 14% from the field.

Mitchell has also provided some necessary offense off the bench for the Kings. His career-highs through 12 games are 22 points and 8 assists. For the season, Mitchell is currently averaging 10.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.

As he continues to adjust to league play and becomes more comfortable, there is no telling good Mitchell can become. Like McNair said: “Davion is obviously a very special player.”

McNair was right about Haliburton and so far, it looks as though he made the right decision again when he chose Mitchell.