He has yet to make his Kings' regular season debut, but rookie guard Davion Mitchell already is drawing lofty comparisons.
The 23-year-old finished up his first training camp and preseason with Sacramento, impressing many along the way. One of which, was his coach Luke Walton, who likened him to a former Kings' defensive star.
“From when I played, it does remind me a little bit of when I used to have to play against (Ron Artest/Meta World Peace),” Walton said prior to Thursday's preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers. "Sometimes it just felt easier to give the ball to someone else.”
Ron Artest, soon to be known as Metta World Peace, played for Sacramento for three seasons. The four-time All-Defensive player and 2003-04 Defensive Player of the Year had a reputation as one of the more physical players in the league.
Mitchell impressed on defense in Sacramento's preseason finale against LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo. Not exactly a walk-in-the-park for the rookie.
“I just try to pick the ball up, pressure them and speed them up,” Mitchell said. “You see throughout the course of the game, they were sped up a little bit. That’s kind of been our calling card.”
Between James and Westbrook, Mitchell was matched up with two of the biggest stars in the game, and came away pleased with his, and the defense's performance.
“They both were difficult,” Mitchell added. “LeBron James, he played at his own pace. He ran the team. Russell is downhill all night. He always puts pressure on you. We tried to do a good job of crowding the ball and I think we did a good job.”
Mitchell has earned the highest praise from his teammates, who already believe he's one of the best on-ball defenders in the league.
“When he’s locked in on the ball, it’s crazy to watch,” Kings guard De'Aaron Fox said. “The way he’s able to stop and go, it hurts my legs watching, but he’s a great on-ball defender. He’s top five, I’d say, for on-ball defenders in the league right now. When you watch him, it’s just amazing. He does stuff on the ball that you can’t teach and that’s what’s making him great.”
Mitchell and his defensive prowess will debut against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday at 7 p.m. PST.