Last summer, the Sacramento Kings chose to select Davion Mitchell from Baylor University and — much like the Keegan Murray pick this year — some fans of the team didn’t necessarily receive the pick with the amount of joy you would hope for. They had selected a guard in Tyrese Haliburton the previous year, and already had their franchise guy in yet another guard De’Aaron Fox, whom they drafted only a few years before.
So why another guard?
Well, the answer to that question came quickly, in the 2021 California Classic and Las Vegas Summer League. After seeing Mitchell play, every fan that was initially disappointed with the Kings for selecting him changed their mind expeditiously.
Throughout the Summer Mitchell showed off his defensive prowess, high basketball IQ, and offensive abilities with ease despite being a smaller guy. He even earned the nickname “Off Night” due to opposing players having bad stats whenever they faced him.
DEFENSE— NBA (@NBA) August 9, 2021
Davion Mitchell forces the turnover on NBA TV! #NBASummer pic.twitter.com/6A7KBFg7Fm
The part that really got the fans on his side, however, was that this display of talent immediately translated over to the regular season when Mitchell was tasked with guarding some of the league’s most talented scorers and was still able to hold his own. In 75 regular season games, he averaged 11.5 points, 2.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists on 27.7 minutes per game. The Kings were also 4.6 points per 100 possessions better on defense last season with Mitchell on the court than they were off.
Even though Mitchell played in 75 games, the last 11 of the season may have been his most important. Fox sustained a hand injury against the Milwaukee Bucks on Mar. 16 and was shut down for the rest of the year, which thrust Mitchell into the role of starting point guard. Over those last 11 games, with his minutes increasing to 39.9 a game, Mitchell averaged 18.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 9.3 assists.
DAVION MITCHELL SKIES FOR THE POSTER pic.twitter.com/v0ckHxPTs5— NBA TV (@NBATV) March 31, 2022
He also put up career highs of both 28 points and 17 assists during his time as a starter. While still being the defensive anchor of the team. Though he wasn’t put on any of the All-Rookie teams, there is no doubt in my mind that Mitchell is in the same tier as those that were selected.
What is the best case scenario for their season?
Going into last season, Mitchell’s expectations were for him to be one of the team's best defenders and simply to prove he was the right pick for the Kings. He did that and more. But going into this season, the Kings have completely revamped their team, and are officially back in the hunt as a legitimate playoff contender.
Mitchell will be looked at to replicate what he achieved in those last 11 games and be a leader on the team on both sides of the ball. Now with a defensive minded head coach in Mike Brown, Mitchell will likely be one the guys Brown leans on for success. His best case scenario would be proving the All-Rookie team voters wrong by showing them he is one of the premier players in his class. He can accomplish this by showing he is the best defensive guard in the league and helping lead the Kings out of their playoff drought.
What is the worst-case outcome?
His worst-case scenario would be to fall into a sophomore slump. This is something that happens often in the league, notoriously for Sacramento with Tyreke Evans. Though I don’t think Mitchell is the type of player to regress the way Evans did, it is still a possibility. This would cause a lot of trouble for the Kings because they need all the talent they can get playing in the ever-dangerous Pacific Division. But we won't have to worry about that, right?
What do you think is the most likely role for them?
Even after an impressive rookie year, Mitchell will be most valuable for the Kings as their sixth man. That doesn’t mean he won’t see minutes in crunch time, he will certainly be on the court in a late-game situation when we need someone to guard a player like Steph Curry or Damian Lillard. But having him as the leader of the second group will be beneficial.
Mike Brown talks about what he’s seen defensively from Davion Mitchell in camp.— Deuce Mason (@DeuceMason) September 28, 2022
“He’s got that dog in him.” pic.twitter.com/cm4G7PoVud
In every interview, his teammates and coaches always speak on his work ethic and winning mentality. Every guy in the league has talent, but the mental gifts that Mitchell has in his bag are invaluable. With the bench having been a massive issue in Sacramento for quite some time, it refreshing to know they now have players good enough to start on some teams in that second unit. Everyone in Sacramento already knows how good Mitchell can be, and even though this is only his second year, now is the time for him to become the guy everyone hopes he will one day be.