You were warned. Davion Mitchell is an elite defender. The type of defender that the Kings haven’t had since maybe Ron Artest.
On Monday night in Las Vegas, the 22-year-old rookie showed off against fellow 2021 lottery pick James Bouknight. The player known as “Off-Night” lived up to his moniker, completely taking Bouknight out of his game.
It’s not often that you see something like that from a rookie, but Mitchell played his aggressive style from the opening tip. He was dominant and you could feel his teammates feeding off of the energy and taking their own defense to the next level.
“That’s his bread and butter, the way he attacks the game, the way he defends it,” Summer League head coach Bobby Jackson said following the Kings’ 80-70 victory over the Charlotte Hornets. “He’s a really really great on-ball defender. He has to get better off the ball and we’ve talked about it. But he sets the tone at the top of the key offensively and defensively for us.”
Mitchell said that he did film study on Bouknight on Sunday and was prepared to face the high-scoring guard out of UConn.
“James Bouknight is a really good player,” Mitchell said. “He’s really good in space. So I just tried to take away his space and my teammates did a really good job of helping me, talking, being there for me. They helped me when he beat me, so just credit to my teammates.”
Mitchell is being modest. He often picked up the defensive intensity in the backcourt and he helped slow the Hornets’ offense to a crawl.
“He is amazing on defense,” Chimezie Metu said. “I heard about him and stuff last year, but like, seeing him up close, it’s pretty insane. It gets boring sometimes just standing there and just watching him handle whoever is dribbling. But man, he’s great, he’s great.”
Using their suffocating defense, the Kings held Charlotte to just 39.7 percent shooting and forced 25 turnovers. Chimezie Metu and Louis King each had four steals as Mitchell’s ball pressure led to errant passes.
Overall, the Kings had 16 steals, including at least one swipe from eight different players.
On the offensive end, Mitchell was under control and acting as a floor general. After struggling to pick up assists during the California Classic last week, Mitchell hit his teammates in rhythm for open looks and they responded by knocking down shots.
In just his third Summer League game, Mitchell finished with a modest 10 points, but he dished out nine assists and didn't commit a turnover in 28 minutes of action.
“That was my job today, just to get my teammates good looks,” Mitchell said. “I can get to the paint anytime I want, so finding them was really good for us today.”
It’s early, but the Kings clearly found a player with incredible potential, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Mitchell is as advertised, and there’s a chance he earned major rotational minutes early in his career just on his ability to wreak havoc on the defensive end.
Mitchell wasn't the only Kings player to have a solid night. Jahmi'us Ramsey shook off a rough start to finish with 22 points. Metu added 16 points, four rebounds and four assists to go with all of his steals and rookie big man Neemias Queta picked up his first start and finished with nine points, six rebounds and a block.
The Kings are now 1-0 in Las Vegas heading into Tuesday's back-to-back against the Washington Wizards.