Davion Mitchell was a pleasant surprise during his final season at Baylor. Mitchell was always known as a good defender, but he also became a better-than-40% shooter from deep his junior year. Mitchell was the leader and catalyst of a Bears’ team that won the 2021 NCAA National Championship. That run put him on the NBA draft map and in contention to be a lottery selection. The Sacramento Kings grabbed Mitchell with the ninth overall pick, but he was thrown into a tough situation. The Kings have been a mess as an organization for the last 15 years.
Sacramento also has a glut of guards on its roster already. De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, and Buddy Hield have already entrenched themselves into the Kings’ rotation. But Mitchell gives the franchise something none of those players have — a lockdown perimeter defender. His style of play isn’t much different than Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday, who ended up being the missing piece for the Bucks in their championship run.
Mitchell became a top-10 NBA draft pick after his junior year at Baylor
Beginning his career at Auburn before transferring to Waco, Mitchell’s first action with the Bears came during the 2019-20 season. His stats that year were nothing to write home about. He averaged 9.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 3.8 assists with shooting splits of 46.7/32.4/66.3. He did, however, show off his defensive promise with a defensive box plus/minus of 4.0. BPM uses a game’s box score to estimate a player’s contribution to the team when that player is on the court. In this case, Mitchell’s DBPM means Baylor gave up four fewer points when he was on the court versus off it.
His final season was just as good defensively, but his offensive game also rounded into form. Mitchell averaged 14.0 points per game in 2020-21 and shot 51.1% from the field and 44.7% from three. His assists also jumped to 5.5 per game, showing an uptick in his playmaking ability as well.
Davion Mitchell’s summer league performance showed his defense can translate to the NBA
Mitchell led the Sacramento Kings’ summer league team to a championship in Las Vegas. He impressed enough to be named the Summer League MVP. In the title game against the Boston Celtics, Sacramento was led in the scoring column by Louis King, but Mitchell found other ways to contribute. As the team’s best perimeter defender, Mitchell was tasked with guarding Boston’s best guards in Carsen Edwards and Peyton Pritchard. Combined, the two Celtics scored 21 points and turned the ball over nine times.
Mitchell’s two biggest strengths heading into the draft showed up in summer league. He consistently guarded the opposition’s best backcourt player and shot 47.1% from deep on 3.4 attempts.
Mitchell has the ability to give the Sacramento Kings a legitimate perimeter stopper
Fox is a lightning-quick guard who can get to the rim and facilitate. Haliburton is a high-IQ offensive player with defensive versatility, but he lacks top-end athleticism. So far in his career, Hield has shown he’s not much more than a three-point shooter.
At only 6-foot-2 with a 6-4 wingspan, Mitchell’s defense could have a ceiling when he gets switched onto taller, longer wings. But what he may lack in size, he makes up for with pure effort. He has the quickness, athleticism, and mentality to stick with just about any point guard in the NBA. Pick-and-rolls have become such an important part of the league’s offenses, but Mitchell has the ability to blow them up on a regular basis.
Having a player like that as your first line of defense is now a necessity in the NBA. Holiday proved that with Milwaukee during last year’s playoffs. A dominant perimeter defender is crucial for a title-winning team, and Mitchell gives the Kings one as they attempt to find relevancy again.