Although he might be rising too fast for the New York Knicks, let’s take a look at Baylor point guard Davion Mitchell.
Davion Mitchell went from a nobody on NBA Draft boards to an absolute lottery lock within the span of a few months. He tore up the competition in the NCAA Tournament and immediately began flying up into the mainstream of NBA Draft chatter. In fact, he might be a reach for the New York Knicks even if they trade up into the lottery.
Mitchell’s defense is his calling card, but his overall improvement on offense has helped spur his recent rise. The 22-year-old took home three national Defensive Player of the Year awards during his junior season in college. He’s as good as it gets when it comes to defending the perimeter.
This is the No. 1 reason for Mitchell’s rise into the lottery. We will get to his offensive improvements in a moment, but defense is Davion Mitchell’s middle name (for the record, it’s not his actual middle name).
Mitchell, 22, is a perfect blend between the old and new school. He is the best one-on-one perimeter defender in the draft. He mixes quickness, strength, and high-level defensive IQ to make life hell for opposing ballhandlers. His instincts at the point of attack are second to none.
While he might not be the longest defender (measured 6-foot-5 wingspan), he has more than enough length to hassle opposing point guards. Even better, his strength and overall defensive acumen are two reasons why he should have no trouble switching onto bigger guards and wings.
His ability to defend one-on-one or in a switch-heavy scheme makes him the perfect perimeter defender for today’s NBA. His defense would play in any era of The Association.
Perimeter defenders are rarely the defensive lynchpin on NBA teams, but Mitchell can still be a key cog on an elite defense. He’s more than a pest out there on defense. He’s a full-on nuisance.
Three-and-D players are having their moment in the zeitgeist of the NBA right now. Mitchell checks out as a potential three-and-D guard at the next level. Although the emphasis should be on his defense, his offensive improvements during his junior season at Baylor were eye-opening.
Between his sophomore and junior seasons, he upped his three-point attempts per game from 3.5 to 4.7 while simultaneously boosting his three-point percentage from 32.4% to 44.7%. That uptick in volume and efficiency bodes well for Mitchell at the next level.
When his shot is falling, the rest of his offense is given a breath of fresh air. Mitchell’s lightning-fast first step leaves defenders in his wake on closeouts. His speed and quickness going to his left make him more than a catch-and-shoot threat.
Although he can knock down shots and attack closeouts, Mitchell’s offensive bag isn’t all that deep. He was able to outmuscle college defenders and score over college rim protectors, but it won’t be that easy in the pros.
Due to his lack of shot creation, it’s unlikely that Mitchell will turn into a top-three offensive option in the NBA. His lack of feel in the pick-and-roll could put a ceiling on his offense.
Of course, if he’s in an offense that emphasizes ball movement and cutting, his lack of shot creation won’t be a massive issue, but he has clear limitations on the offensive end.
Age is an overblown narrative when it comes to the NBA Draft, but it’s at least worth acknowledging here. Plenty of 22 and 23-year-old prospects come into the NBA and make an immediate impact.
However, the drawback to these “older” prospects is that they might not have the ridiculous upside of younger guys.
Mitchell made a significant and unexpected leap from his sophomore to junior year at Baylor. He went from being a great defender to a great player. Does he have another leap like that coming or is this it for the soon-to-be 23-year-old?
Fit With The Knicks
Remember watching Trae Young slice and dice any defender Tom Thibodeau threw at him in the playoffs? The Knicks had to resort to putting Reggie Bullock — their best wing defender — on Young for long stretches of that series.
Mitchell’s point of attack defense would have been crucial against a player like that in the playoffs. The Knicks, like every team in the NBA, would love to have an elite defender who can knock down shots.
We also know he’s not scared of the big moment. Mitchell went for 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists in Baylor’s drubbing of previously undefeated Gonzaga in the National Championship Game.
Star Burning Too Bright
Unfortunately for Knicks fans who love Mitchell’s game, his star is shining too bright for New York. The Baylor product is likely going to be a top-10 pick and he could go as high as six or seven. It would take significant draft capital for the Knicks to move up in the draft for Mitchell.
The only realistic scenario for Mitchell to fall to the Knicks is if he unexpectedly drops out of the top-10 and the Knicks move up into the late lottery to snag him.