If there was one thing the Sacramento Kings didn’t need on draft night, it was another guard. Last year, they drafted Tyrese Haliburton 12th overall and in 2017, they drafted De’Aaron Fox fifth overall. They also already had Buddy Hield on the roster.
Despite that, they went ahead and used the ninth overall pick in this year’s draft to pick Davion Mitchell, a 6’2 guard out of Baylor university with a reputation for being a hound on the defensive end. Since then, the general expectation has been that Mitchell will get minutes behind Fox, Haliburton and Hield, but according to a report from Sam Amick of The Athletic, the Kings also believe they can play three-guard lineups featuring Mitchell:
With questions swirling about whether the 6-foot-2 Mitchell can guard up, so to speak, slowing the 6-5 Bouknight was a great sign. But for the Kings’ purposes, sources say it was his defense of 6-8 No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham last season when Baylor faced Oklahoma State that convinced them he could guard bigger talents. And make no mistake, that kind of defense was nowhere to be found in a Kings game last season when they had the league’s worst unit on that end.
Mitchell is showing an ability to produce on the other end too, having averaged 11.3 points (47.5 percent overall, 50 percent from 3) and 5.5 assists in Vegas for the undefeated Kings (4-0). And to hear Kings officials tell it, they’re optimistic about the idea of routinely running three-guard lineups.
What Mitchell’s shown in Summer League thus far certainly can’t be disregarded, but he’ll likely have to show that he can guard bigger players against actual NBA players before he regularly plays alongside Fox and Haliburton. If he can succeed in doing that, he’ll suddenly become one of the most valuable players on the team and one of the most valuable defenders in the NBA.
Although Mitchell is listed at 6’2, he’s much closer to 6’0 and the same can be said about his wingspan, so him being able to check bigger wings at his size would make him a defensive unicorn of sorts and that alone would make him worthy of his spot in the draft, especially for a team that ranked dead-last in defensive rating last season.
Now, is Mitchell going to turn the Kings’ defensive woes around in his rookie season? Probably not, but the early signs suggest that he can be the defensive-minded cornerstone they’ve needed for several years.