SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Kings finally have a defensive anchor in the backcourt. Sacramento also added some beef to its frontcourt with the addition of a 7-foot shot blocker from Portugal.
Davion Mitchell, a two-way guard whose defensive skills were pivotal during Baylor’s championship run, was selected by the Kings with the ninth overall pick to improve a defense that has been among the NBA’s worst for several seasons.
Sacramento also drafted center Neemias Queta, who set the Utah State record for career blocked shots.
“They both represent exactly what we’re trying to build here,” Kings general manager Monte McNair said. “We didn’t go in targeting defense necessarily. We wanted the best players, the best talents, the best people we could get. We’re obviously excited that they ended up to be two pretty darn good defenders as well.”
Mitchell averaged 14.0 points, 5.5 assists and 2.7 rebounds while helping the Bears to their first national title in more than 50 years last season. The 22-year-old was the Naismith defensive player of the year, averaging 1.9 steals during his final season at Baylor.
“Coming into the league I can just do what I do best,” Mitchell said. “Put pressure on the ball, make their life harder, guard the best players and try to throw something at them that they’ve never seen before. Me being myself, I think we’ll be a really good defensive team coming in.”
His defense earned Mitchell the nickname “Off Night” because of his opponents’ tendency to have a poor shooting game against him.
“I hope there’s many off nights in our opponents’ future this year,” McNair said. “I love everything that Davion brings, that he stands for. The mentality that he’s going to go in and shut down the other team’s best player, which he did all throughout his college career, (is) just an incredible asset to add into the team we’re building here.”
Mitchell should make an immediate impact in Sacramento, where the Kings were one of the NBA’s worst defensive teams last season. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Mitchell possesses an aggressive and physical attitude the Kings have been missing for years.
Coach Luke Walton’s team was 28th in points allowed and 30th in defensive shooting percentage. Improving the overall defense was paramount to McNair’s offseason plans as he tries to help the Kings end their NBA record-tying 15-year playoff drought.
Mitchell adds depth to an already crowded backcourt that has point guard De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield. Haliburton was the 12th overall pick in 2020.
“Me and De’Aaron Fox are really fast guards, getting out and running, making plays for one another,” Mitchell said. “And Tyrese Haliburton’s a really good guard who can pass the ball, who loves to get out and run. I played against him for a year (in college). I know it’s going to be a really good group.”
The Kings continued to focus on defense in the second round by selecting Queta. The 22-year-old from Portugal averaged 14.9 points and 10.1 rebounds last season with the Aggies.
Qeuta is a two-time Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year who averaged 3.3 blocks as a junior at Utah State.
“I don’t understand how a 7-footer who blocks 100 shots in a year stays under the radar,” McNair said. “What’s intriguing about him and is still underrated is his offensive package, his IQ, his passing. Obviously his size will help on the glass.”
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