Davion Mitchell is a bit of an unusual rookie. Usually when teams are drafting in the lottery, the hope is to find a player at a position of need, or to draft someone young who can be molded into something down the road.
Sacramento opted to go in neither of those directions with Mitchell. Their guards are already impressive — De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton are among the NBA’s most promising backcourts, while Buddy Hield is among the best shooters in the game. Mitchell’s also old for a rookie, as the former Baylor standout is 23, about 9.5 months younger than Fox.
This is also what makes him such an interesting fit on the roster of a team that largely decided to run it back after going 31-41. Unlike many rookies who get time to figure out what they are as a player, Mitchell is pretty clearly defined. He is, from day one, among the most tenacious on-ball defenders among guards in the league. There are obvious concerns about whether he can co-exist alongside Fox and Haliburton — it’s three guards that run 6’1, 6’3, and 6’5 — but if he can take on the opposing team’s best perimeter player and not get shot over every single night, that’ll be a huge boost.
Also huge: Can Mitchell shoot? It is very, very easy to point to his 44.7 percent on 4.7 attempts from three per game in his final year at Baylor and answer yes, but that jump seemingly came out of nowhere (he was a 31.2 percent shooter his first two years of college) and has never been an especially strong free throw shooter, connecting on 65.7 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe at the collegiate level.
He is not going to be the primary ball-handler much of the time, and when he’s out there with both Fox and Haliburton, he’s not going to be the secondary ball-handler all that often, either. While he is able to create for others — he ranked 111th in college basketball in assist rate last season and was a snug fit playing alongside another guard in Jared Butler — Mitchell has room to grow in that regard, plus his two backcourt mates are just flat out better at that. His ability to hit shots, if he can make that happen, is going to be huge.
For a team with a playoff drought as long as the one possessed by the Kings, adding a ready-made rookie who could, theoretically, step in and help them win games from the jump is good. The question is whether or not Mitchell will be able to do that enough to get them into a spot where Sacramento is competing for the play-in, or if he is, you know, a rookie whose ups and downs are just part of their learning process.