Welcome to "One Play!" Throughout the 2021-22 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff will break down certain possessions from certain games and peel back the curtains to reveal its bigger meaning.
Today, Sacramento Kings rookie Davion Mitchell takes the spotlight.
Context: Davion Mitchell put himself on notice in Summer League.
The No. 9 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Mitchell played a leading role in Sacramento's championship run. His numbers don't exactly jump off the page - 10.8 points, 5.8 assists and 1.4 rebounds on .423/.471/.286 shooting splits over five games - but he shared Most Valuable Player honours with Cam Thomas of the Brooklyn Nets and earned an All-Summer League First Team selection.
What Mitchell did defensively played a big part in him earning that award.
While Mitchell locked opponents up all Summer League long, there was one defensive sequence in particular from Sacramento's win over the Boston Celtics from the finals that got quite a bit of attention.
You know what that means - to the film room!
Breakdown: Payton Pritchard brings the ball up the court for the Celtics and is met by Mitchell as soon as he crosses halfcourt.
Celtics big man Sam Hauser makes his way towards Pritchard to set a screen. The problem? Pritchard attacks a little early and Hauser doesn't really set a screen, so it doesn't go anywhere.
Hauser proceeds to pop to the 3-point line and Pritchard feeds him the ball.
Pritchard gets the ball back from Hauser with 11 seconds remaining on the shot clock.
Once again, Mitchell extends himself well beyond the 3-point line to not give Pritchard any breathing room.
Pritchard tries to blow by Mitchell, but Mitchell is able to move his feet quick enough to keep Pritchard on his hip.
Pritchard then tries to lose Mitchell with a behind-the-back dribble, but Mitchell does, well, this:
Not being able to create any separation between himself and Mitchell, Pritchard dribbles the ball back out to the 3-point line to reset.
With six seconds remaining on the shot clock, Pritchard calls for another screen, this time with Zach Auguste.
Mitchell fights over the screen and receives some help from Emmanuel Terry, who leaves Auguste on the roll to double Pritchard.
All Pritchard can do is kick the ball to Aaron Nesmith with the shot clock winding down, resulting in a shot clock violation.
Why it matters: A couple of reasons.
One, Mitchell had a hand in the Kings limiting Pritchard to six points on 3-for-9 shooting from the field in the final. Pritchard isn't a household name, but he was having a dominant Summer League prior to the finals, averaging 20.3 points per game on 51.4 percent shooting to earn a spot on the All-Summer League First Team. (He also lit up some Pro-Am games, but we don't have to talk about that).
Quite simply, Mitchell's defence on Pritchard was one of the main reasons the Kings were able to defeat the Celtics to earn the franchise's second Summer League championship.
Two, it goes to show how disruptive of a defender Mitchell has the potential to be.
The Kings selecting Mitchell with the No. 9 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft received mixed reviews because guard wasn't and isn't necessarily a position of need for them. It's why NBA.com's draft expert Kyle Irving gave the Kings a C- grade in his post-draft team-by-team analysis.
"The grade doesn't go against Mitchell as a prospect, but against the Kings for neglecting to fill a need with their top-10 pick," Irving wrote. "With De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton as a clear backcourt of the future, selecting Mitchell seems like a curious choice. He's a winner, he might be the best on-ball defender in this class and his intensity is contagious - something Sacramento's culture could certainly use. But it felt like there were forwards or bigs available that would have made more sense."
It will be interesting to see how things play out next season and beyond, but there's no doubt the Kings could use some firepower on the defensive end. Need you be reminded, opponents scored at a rate of 116.5 points per 100 possessions against the Kings last season, giving them the worst defensive rating in the league. Mitchell might not be able to turn them into a respectable defensive team all by himself, but there is a big need for his tenacity.
Additionally, the Kings are optimistic that Mitchell will be able to play alongside Fox and Haliburton, despite the fact that he's only listed at 6-foot-1 with a 6-foot-4 wingspan.
"But for the Kings' purposes, sources say it was his defense of 6-8 No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham last season when Baylor faced Oklahoma State that convinced them he could guard bigger talents," The Athletic's Sam Amick reported. "And make no mistake, that kind of defense was nowhere to be found in a Kings game last season when they had the league's worst unit on that end."
It's obviously one thing shutting Payton Pritchard down in a Summer League game and another having to guard up in the regular season when the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks or Golden State Warriors are in town, but it sure looks like Mitchell could follow in the footsteps of Luguentz Dort and Matisse Thybulle by quickly establishing himself as a defensive stopper.
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