Few draft boards had Davion Mitchell going to the Kings at the nine spot, but when he was still available, McNair was quick to draft the reigning college defensive player of the year.
Even with supposedly “better fits” such as Moses Moody, Jalen Johnson, and others still on the board, McNair stuck with his guns and not only drafted the best player available, but an asset he thought could help take this team to the next level.
Coming out of the draft, even if you were unfamiliar with Mitchell, there was one thing that was certain: the kid can play defense as is apparent with his moniker “Off-Night.”
Going into Summer League, Mitchell got his first chance to display his talents at the professional level during the California Classic. Mitchell promptly debuted with 23 points on 50% shooting while also displaying his lockdown defense.
Two games later against the Charlotte Hornets, Mitchell really got to showcase his defense against 11th overall pick James Bouknight. The Kings’ first-rounder did not back down from the challenge, making Bouknight’s and the rest of the Hornets’ night as difficult as possible.
Davion Mitchell put on a defensive clinic in Vegas against James Bouknight and the Charlotte Hornets yesterday. Just an absolutely relentless defender with both perfect technique on the ball and a non-stop motor. Incredible strength, balance and ability to stop and start. pic.twitter.com/crYdi58DI4
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) August 10, 2021
Mitchell’s defense was contagious as the rest of the team followed suit and played with a similar flavor of tenacity on the defensive side of the ball.
Throughout the games in Vegas, nobody could muster more than 75 points on Sacramento as the Kings led all teams with 14 steals a game.
On the back of Mitchell’s leadership, the Kings found themselves in the championship game against the Boston Celtics.
With all the hype surrounding Payton Pritchard following his 92 and 57 point performances at the Portland Pro Am, Mitchell’s toughest challenge was coming at the biggest moment in the tournament.
Pritchard came into the championship game averaging 20.3 points on 51.4% shooting and 57.7% from deep. However, when the title game concluded, Pritchard came nowhere near his averages, scoring just 6 points on 33% shooting with 6 turnovers.
Again, Mitchell didn’t back away from the challenge and put the clamps on Pritchard.
Payton Pritchard coming into the Summer League Final:
— 20.3 PPG
— 51.4 FG%
— 57.7 3P% on 8.7 attempts
— 1.3 TOV
Payton Pritchard guarded by Davion Mitchell in the Summer League Final:
— 4 PTS
— 2-6 FG
— 0-4 3P
— 4 TOV
Off night. pic.twitter.com/DCaye0daPQ
— StatMuse (@statmuse) August 18, 2021
In fact, when it was all said and done, the Kings forced 28 turnovers while only committing 7 themselves. On top of that, they held a Boston team that was averaging 100 points a game coming into the championship game to a mere 67 points.
Mitchell’s dominating run in the Summer League earned him All-Summer League first team honors as well as co-MVP honors with Cam Thomas.
Although Mitchell didn’t have eye popping numbers like Thomas’ 27 points a contest, Mitchell’s MVP award illustrates how integral he was to the Kings’ Summer League Title run.
Even though Mitchell’s professional accolades so far have happened in Summer League, they provide Kings fans with many reasons to be optimistic about McNair’s choice at the nine spot.
The Baylor product’s defensive ability will help right away on a Kings team that posted one of the worst defensive ratings ever last season.
With talks of Sacramento looking to run three-guard lineups consisting of Fox, Haliburton, and Mitchell, fans should feel confident that Davion will be able to guard the one through three positions quite effectively after what he exhibited with his on-ball defense during Summer League.
This should not only help win games, but change the franchise’s culture. Mitchell is said to be a workhorse, practically residing in the gym to perfect his craft which, so far, has only led to success on the court. That’s exactly the kind of mentality that needs to permeate within the Kings’ locker room.
Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell getting some work in this morning here at @impactbball.
The Sacramento Kings’ young backcourt duo is already pushing each other and developing early chemistry. pic.twitter.com/jgvFx5bvBO
— Jon Chepkevich (@JonChep) August 11, 2021
Although there may have been questions raised when Mitchell was drafted less than a month ago, any worries or doubts have quickly faded alongside what he accomplished in seven games during the Summer League.
He will still have something to prove against real NBA-level talent, but nevertheless, expect Mitchell to transition from Summer League to the regular season smoothly.
Even though he is a guard amongst many guards, he will fit well with the team, and moreover, the young core. Mitchell is gritty, tough, and willing do what it takes to win games. Hopefully his work ethic and mentality can rub off on others to take this team to the next level.