If you don’t play defense, Davion Mitchell will steal your minutes.
That is the message that De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Delon Wright, Terence Davis and Jahmi’us Ramsey should be waking up to this morning after the Kings took the defensive juggernaut with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
At least one Kings player has firsthand knowledge of the impact Mitchell can have on the court.
“I played against Davion twice in college my sophomore year [in college], so I know exactly what he brings to the table,” Haliburton told NBA TV's Jared Greenberg. “I’m really excited. I’m ready to have another guy come in here with a lot of energy and be willing to dig in defensively. He can really, really guard. He wants to guard all night.”
According to Haliburton, what stands out about Mitchell when you’re playing against him is that he has a short memory and he doesn’t stop playing.
“I think to be a good defender, you’ve got to let things brush off of you, you’re going to get scored on, things happen,” Haliburton said. “But I think he does a really good job of -- he doesn’t care, you’ve got to score on him again. He does a really good job of that. He guarded me full court for two games.”
In the first meeting between the two guards, Mitchell helped hold Haliburton to six points on 2-for-12 shooting over 40 minutes of play. Haliburton still managed to dish out nine assists, grab eight rebounds and pick up three steals, but his Cyclones lost 68-55.
In the second matchup, Haliburton had more personal success, but the outcome was the same, a 67-53 Baylor victory. Haliburton finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists in 40 minutes. He shot just 4-of-11 from the field, including 0-for-3 from long range, but he went to the free throw line a lot, where he went 9-for-9.
General manager Monte McNair has plenty of work in front of him to balance the roster and coach Luke Walton is going to have to figure out how to manage rotations, but the Kings found themselves a winner and a player that can help change the culture of their program.