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McNair explains why Kings went off-script with Mitchell pick

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Something new. Something different. Something the Kings don’t have.

That was the approach Kings general manager Monte McNair took into Thursday night’s NBA Draft. In a surprise move, McNair, who is just over nine months on the job and already completed two drafts with Sacramento, selected point guard Davion Mitchell out of Baylor.

“Davion has been on our radar for a long time,” McNair said. “Certainly at No. 9, you never know what’s going to happen ahead, but he was on the board and we were super excited to call his name.” 

Mitchell was certainly worthy of a top 10 selection. He was actually a player that for much of the draft process looked like he would go well above where the Kings were slated at No. 9.

The question is how he fits in with a crowded backcourt that includes De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Delon Wright and restricted free agent Terence Davis.

At the end of the day, McNair didn’t seem concerned about how to balance his roster, only that he got a player that he believed was one a very good player and a winner.

“Best player available and Davion just won a national championship in a three-guard lineup,” McNair said. “One of the best winners, competitors, one of the toughest players, obviously an incredible defender and then on the offensive end, the ability to shoot off the catch, off the dribble, attack the basket, create for others.”

Mitchell was a star in the NCAA tournament. Starting alongside guards Jared Butler and MaCio Teague, Mitchell defended the toughest cover all the way through the championship game against Gonzaga.

 

There is a possibility that he sees plenty of time with Fox and Haliburton together on the court in a three-guard set and he would like to be asked to play a similar role that he played at Baylor as a defensive stopper on one end and 3-point marksmen on the other end.

While the numbers are solid, Mitchell’s impact on a game goes beyond standard statistics. He is fearless and always seems up for a big challenge.

“That's just kind of been my calling card,” Mitchell said following the draft. “I just love to win and I just really just do what it takes to win, and that's defense. Defense wins championships. So, bringing that to the Kings will definitely help their organization just because I can be a dawg on the floor, offense and defense.”

That “dawg” mentality is what the Kings were searching for. They need a player that is willing to mix it up on occasion and not back from a challenge. They need a personality that demands that his teammates play defense and holds them accountable when they don’t. 

“We certainly see the incredible toughness, the defensive mindset, the will to go do whatever he has to do to win that night, and we certainly want and need more of that here,” McNair said. 

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Mitchell didn’t work out for the Kings during the pre-draft buildup, but he did sit down with the team at the NBA Combine in Chicago. Clearly, he made an impact in that meeting, but he had already made an impression with the Kings during his time at the NCAA level.

There was plenty of tape to watch on the 6-foot-1 guard. He’s a seasoned player that turns 23-years-old before the start of the season. Surprisingly, he’s six months older than Marvin Bagley, who is entering his fourth NBA season and he’s nearly a year and half older than Haliburton.

“With age comes leadership and pedigree for him,” McNair said. “A younger prospect has more time to develop, but Davion’s already there, playing at an extremely high level.”

Regardless of what complications adding Mitchell to the roster created, McNair seemed very pleased with the outcome of the draft. He has plenty of work in front of him to rebalance the roster, but Mitchell seems like a player that is worth taking a risk on. 

McNair wouldn’t commit to Mitchell playing in either the California Classic or Summer League, which all starts next week. It’s a whirlwind for everyone involved, but hopefully, there is an opportunity for him to suit up and give the fans something to get excited about building up to the 2021-22 season.