Davion Mitchell, AKA ‘Off Night’, Has Already Locked up Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, and Donovan Mitchell in His First Week as a Pro

“With the ninth overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings select future Defensive Player of the Year Davion Mitchell, Baylor University.”

OK, perhaps commissioner Adam Silver didn’t exactly say that at the podium. But he might as well have, as Sacramento’s scrappy guard has quickly earned a reputation as a lockdown defender. Don’t believe me? Just ask Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, and Donovan Mitchell, three All-Star guards who had the displeasure of matching up against the tenacious rookie.

Davion Mitchell was an elite defender at Baylor

As a star guard for the National Champion Bears, Mitchell averaged 14.0 points and 5.5 assists, earning All-Big 12 honors. But the 6-foot guard was also Big 12 All-Defense and the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.

The Ringer‘s Kevin O’Connor published a scouting report on Mitchell, citing both on-ball and off-ball defense as a major strength.

“Excellent defender who sets the tone with his intensity, focus, and hustle. He’ll sprint for chase-down blocks, take charges, and dive for loose balls,” O’Connor wrote. “High-IQ off-ball defender who is always in the right position, makes smart rotations, and closes out quickly on shooters.”

With glowing reviews on his defensive ability, the Kings took Mitchell ninth overall. Although Sacramento selected Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton last year, the expectation was for Mitchell to join the guard rotation immediately and provide defense the franchise sorely lacked. In 2020-21, Sacramento’s 117.2 defensive rating was the worst in the NBA.

Mitchell has made life difficult for a few perennial All-Stars

Even if they were elite defenders in college, it’s easy for rookies to become overwhelmed in their first few games. Especially when those games are against All-Stars like Lillard, Mitchell, and Curry. But the Kings rookie has earned the nickname “Off Night” for a reason, holding some of the game’s best scorers in check.

Mitchell came off of the bench against the Portland Trail Blazers in his career debut. That led to some opportunities guarding Lillard, a superstar averaging nearly 25 points per game over his career. By the time the night ended, Lillard sat at 20 points, shooting 8-for-24 from the field and 0-for-9 from three. According to NBA.com, Lillard only managed to score four of those points against Mitchell, who saw nearly 24 minutes of action.

After Sacramento’s victory over Portland, Davion and company hosted the other Mitchell (Donovan) and the Utah Jazz. While Utah won by a comfortable margin, Spida scored just six of his 27 points with the rookie shadowing him. For that matchup, Kings head coach Luke Walton gave Mitchell over 31 minutes off of the bench.

Finally, two days after the Utah loss, the Kings hosted the Golden State Warriors. Curry, who the previous game dropped 45 points, was held to 27 points on 39.1% shooting and a 26.7% clip from three. Mitchell, who this time saw 32 minutes, had a career-high 22 points of his own while also allowing just eight points to Steph.

Davion Mitchell is earning respect around the league

Mitchell jumped on many players’ radar after being named Summer League MVP. But thanks to a relentless defensive intensity, he is earning enormous praise from teammates and opponents alike.

“It really starts with Davion on the defensive end,” Donovan Mitchell told The Sacramento Bee. “I think it’s one of those things where, you know, first off, he is as advertised. He’s physical. He’s quick. He does a lot of solid things defensively that disrupted not only myself but a lot of us. He set the tone defensively. … Everybody calls him ‘Off Night’ and they feed off of that.”

“Just the confidence of a guy coming into his third game in the league,” Curry added after Golden State’s victory last Sunday. “You could definitely tell he has all the tools in the kit to be a defensive stopper.”

If those praises weren’t high enough, Sacramento’s Haliburton has already claimed Mitchell is one of the best on-ball defenders in the league. Meanwhile, Buddy Hield believes he is the best.

“I think he’s the best on-ball defender in the league,” Hield explained to The Sac Bee. “The way he hawks the ball is different. His lateral movement. The way he closes out is different. It’s just a special gift he has, a special knack he has. He’s always on time. He’s aggressive and I think he sets the tone for this team.”

Five games into his NBA career, “Off Night” might be one of the best defenders in the sport. And his defense could be the missing piece the Sacramento Kings have needed to finally right the ship.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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