Davion Mitchell could be backup point guard Raptors have long sought

Mitchell hasn’t met expectations since being selected in the lottery following an NCAA championship with Baylor, but he has a reputation as an elite defender

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It wasn’t the splashiest of moves, but when the Raptors acquired Davion Mitchell from the Sacramento Kings late last month, the team might have bought low on a potential rotation piece.

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Sacramento needed to dump salary in order to make a later splash (ironically, the team’s marquee addition eventually became Raptors legend DeMar DeRozan), so basically gave away its former No. 9 overall draft pick. Since Kyle Lowry and then Fred VanVleet left town, Toronto has not had any kind of depth at point guard. The Raptors lacked a viable backup point guard for three straight seasons, but Mitchell is a solid bet on the answer there behind starter Immanuel Quickley. Mitchell hasn’t met expectations since being selected in the lottery following an NCAA championship with Baylor, but he has a reputation as an elite defender (one of his nicknames is “off night,” since opponents have been known to have tough offensive games when he’s matched up on them) and the Raptors desperately need good point of attack defenders.

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He held superstar Damian Lillard to 1-for-14 shooting three seasons ago, Russell Westbrook to 1-for-11 that year, Jalen Brunson 2-for-10, Tyrese Haliburton went 1-for-6 two years ago, VanVleet 2-for-9 and James Harden 0-for-7 last season, per NBA.com stats. He’s also durable, playing an average of 76 games over his first three seasons.

And while Mitchell’s reputation as an offensive player has generally been simply not good enough, which has helped lead to his minutes decreasing in Sacramento from 27.7 a game as a rookie to 18.1 and then 15.3, he has shown flashes.

Like 11 assists in Baylor’s blowout win over Houston to get to the NCAA championship game and his 16 helpers in the two Final Four games, the most by any player since 2005. He also shot a career-best 36% on three-point attempts last season (42% in 28 games following the all-star break), including a sizzling 46% on corner three-point attempts.

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The Raptors had kept tabs on Mitchell heading into his draft year (the team went into the lottery that year in seventh and moved up to grab Scottie Barnes fourth overall) and obviously have seen enough since to take a chance.

“They’ve always respected his work ethic and his defensive ability,” Baylor coach Scott Drew told Postmedia in a recent phone interview.

And Drew believes Mitchell has learned how to control his desire to live in the gym, how to work smarter in order to get through a long NBA season in top form.

“Now he knows when to work and how hard to work, but it’s hard when you’re addicted to it and and it’s a passion, and it’s what you love doing versus what you have to do or a hobby,” Drew said. “And I mean Davion, if you gave him a choice in Toronto, you can have a 10 million [dollar] home, or you can have a gym and sleep on the floor, he would take the gym and sleep on the floor every day.”

Sounds like a potential fan favourite in the making.

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