Kings

Inside Davion's trial by fire in first NBA week with Kings

Kings

Davion Mitchell's defense was his calling card entering the 2021 NBA Draft, and the Kings rookie underwent a true trial by fire with his first three games as a professional.

Mitchell was lauded for his work defending Damian Lillard and Donovan Mitchell in the Kings' first two games, but drew arguably the NBA's most difficult assignment in Game 3 with Steph Curry and the Warriors.

Let's examine how Mitchell performed through the first week of his NBA career.

Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers were the opponent for Mitchell's first NBA regular-season game.

Per NBA.com's matchup data, Mitchell was on Lillard for three minutes and 53 seconds of game action. In that time, Lillard was 1-7 from the field with Mitchell on him.

One of the most dangerous individual offensive players in the league, this is about as strong of a start as the Kings could have asked for from Mitchell. Staying in front of the star guard on this play set up a terrific block from Richaun Holmes.

On another play, Lillard fails to get past Mitchell driving into the lane and misses the floater.

Lillard finished 8-24 overall from the field. After the Kings' victory, Mitchell said he watched Lillard throughout college and even spoke to the All-NBA guard after his Baylor Bears won the national championship.

Mitchell also held Blazers shooting guard C.J. McCollum, who himself can heat up with the best of the NBA's shooters, to 2-4 shooting and forced one turnover in two minutes and 26 seconds on him.

 

After making good on his amazing "Off Night" nickname against Lillard, Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz came into Sacramento for the Kings' home opener.

Mitchell and the Jazz star have been friends for some time, with Davion saying he wore No. 45 in college in part because of Donovan.

In four minutes and 27 seconds defending him, the younger Mitchell held "Spida" to 2-6 shooting and forced the two-time NBA All-Star into two turnovers. Overall, Mitchell was 9-25 from the field and turned the ball over five times.

The most memorable highlight came in the second quarter, when Mitchell stripped the Jazz guard and initiated a fastbreak that led to a Terence Davis layup.

In another sequence, Davion's relentless pressure on Donovan induced a shot clock violation for Utah's offense.

RELATED: What killed Kings in frustrating home loss to Warriors

Kings coach Luke Walton praised the rookie for his hustle on the defensive end.

"The guys he's guarding, it's nearly impossible to guard any of these top talented players, especially your first time in the league," Walton told reporters after the game. "He did a great job tonight. I know offensively he was only 1-of-8, but those are good shots for him. He's proven by the way he's worked and some of the games he's already had for us, he's going to be a really good offensive player too. I love that he's continuing to take those shots, even down the stretch, the last [3-pointer] he missed, I want him taking those. So I thought Davion was really impressive tonight in the way that he just always seems to be in the right place and help make a play for our team when we need it." 

Finally came Mitchell's most difficult test to date. Curry won the NBA scoring title last season, and remains the league's most difficult player to stay with given his non-stop motion within the Warriors' offense.

There was some good and some bad in Sunday night's game. Mitchell had his first welcome to the NBA moment on the defensive end, as Curry used his elite crossover to dance past Davion and finish with a pretty floater at the rim.

However, there also was this play in which Mitchell stayed in front of Curry without fouling and forced a bad miss on a 3-pointer.

Mitchell also showed his ability to bother players under the rim, stopping what should have been an easy bucket in the paint for several Warriors, including former Kings forward Nemanja Bjelica.

In three minutes and 41 seconds against Steph, Mitchell held the two-time NBA MVP to 3-5 from the field and 1-2 from behind the 3-point line. Curry certainly had an off night for his elevated expectations, shooting 9-23 from the field and 4-15 from the 3-point line.

Curry praised Mitchell's offense more than his ability on the defensive end after the game, but believes the rookie has all the tools to be a shutdown player.

 

"All that hype about his defense, the man was an offensive assassin tonight," Curry told reporters after the win. "I wasn't sure he had that in that tank. But he has, again, a knack for on-ball presence and, obviously, the way we play, you've got to do both, so I'm sure he felt a little bit of that. But, just the confidence of a guy coming in -- it's his third game in the league -- he has a lot of room to grow, but you can tell he has all the tools in the kit to be a defensive stopper. Just a pest out there, in the best of ways."

Going against three of the top 11 scorers in the NBA from last season gave Mitchell a great taste of what life is like in the league on a nightly basis, especially in the fiercely competitive Western Conference.

It doesn't get much easier for Mitchell in his next game, as the Kings will take on Devin Booker, Chris Paul and the reigning conference champion Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.

There are plenty of areas for improvement, but Mitchell backed up his reputation through his first week.

Expect plenty of "Off Nights" this season in the state capital.