How good is Kings rookie Davion Mitchell’s defense? Luke Walton compares him to Ron Artest

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Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox said Davion Mitchell is already one of the five best on-ball defenders in the NBA today. Kings coach Luke Walton has gone a step further, looking back in time to compare his rookie guard to one of the most fearsome defenders the league has ever seen.

Mitchell’s reputation as a lockdown defender continued to grow as he took turns guarding the likes of Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and LeBron James in a 116-112 preseason victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday at Golden 1 Center. Before the game, Walton was asked if Mitchell’s point-of-attack defense reminds him of anyone.

“From when I played, it does remind me a little bit of when I used to have to play against Ron Artest/Meta World Peace,” Walton said. “… Sometimes it just felt easier to give the ball to someone else.”

Aretest, who played for the Kings from 2006-08, was a four-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection and the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year.

Mitchell primarily guarded Westbrook and Rondo, but he also held his own after switching onto James, Carmelo Anthony and even Anthony Davis. A raucous crowd gasped with anticipation as Mitchell stepped up against all comers to force hurried passes, rushed shots and turnovers, helping the Kings get the defensive stops they needed to overcome an early deficit.

“I just try to pick the ball up, pressure them and speed them up,” Mitchell said. “You see throughout the course of the game, they were sped up a little bit. That’s kind of been our calling card.”

Mitchell was asked if it was harder to guard Westbrook, a nine-time All-Star who was named MVP in 2017, or James, a 17-time All-Star who has won four MVP awards.

“They both were difficult,” Mitchell said. “LeBron James, he played at his own pace. He ran the team. Russell is downhill all night. He always puts pressure on you. We tried to do a good job of crowding the ball and I think we did a good job.”

Mitchell was named national Defensive Player of the Year while leading Baylor to its first NCAA championship last season. The Kings knew they were getting a dogged defender when they selected Mitchell with the No. 9 pick in July’s NBA Draft, but he has been even better than expected.

“When he’s locked in on the ball, it’s crazy to watch,” Fox said. “The way he’s able to stop and go, it hurts my legs watching, but he’s a great on-ball defender. He’s top five, I’d say, for on-ball defenders in the league right now. When you watch him, it’s just amazing. He does stuff on the ball that you can’t teach and that’s what’s making him great.”

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