The Milwaukee Bucks appear to be a team that will make its title chase on the foundation of an incendiary offense, thanks in no small part to Damian Lillard’s brand of shot-making. Unlike Bucks squads in the recent past, however, this season’s team has often lagged in the defense department. After highlighting potential trades featuring Kris Dunn, Matisse Thybulle, and Quentin Grimes, we now look at the Sacramento Kings’ Davion Mitchell as a potential salve to the issue of leaky lockdowns.
Davion Mitchell, 6’2”, 205 lb., point guard
Season averages: 3.5 PPG, 0.9 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.2 SPG, 0.1 BPG, .366/.246/.733
The Kings’ selection of Mitchell at no. 9 overall in the 2021 NBA Draft was an odd proposition from the start, given how the team’s backcourt tandem of De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton showed promise throughout the 2020–2021 season. The rest of the story is well-known by now: Fox earned his first All-Star nod last season as the Kings retooled through the Domantas Sabonis trade as Haliburton ascended to stardom in his own right with the Indiana Pacers.
In each of his seasons as a pro, though, Mitchell has now seen his playing time decline, peaking during his rookie season (27.7 MPG) before faltering as a sophomore (18.1) and now bottoming out (12.1) as he has seemingly been eclipsed by the undrafted Keon Ellis (12.2) for time as the backup PG. This partially explains the dip in Mitchell’s counting stats halfway through the current season. Extrapolated to per 36 minutes, his numbers are as follows: 10.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 5.2 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.2 BPG.
Given this still relatively marginal production, the Kings’ front office has made no secret of Mitchell being on the trading block, as he was reportedly part of the proposed package Sacramento would have sent to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Pascal Siakam before the Raps opted to ship Siakam to the Pacers.
Having broken their sixteen-season playoff drought last year, the Kings are likely to stay in the playoff mix this season and are presumably hoping to climb out of play-in territory by April, meaning they’ll be looking for a return in production or immediate draft picks in any transaction they complete. Packaging MarJon Beauchamp and Robin Lopez for $4.6 million in outgoing salary would allow the Bucks to acquire Mitchell and his $5 million salary while absorbing the salary cap-negligible difference.
Several details could make such a proposition attractive to the Kings. In the immediate term, it would allow them to shore up their center rotation as Alex Len and offseason acquisition JaVale McGee have proved mostly ineffective in their minutes spelling Sabonis while Trey Lyles has seen 18 percent of his playing time as a small-ball center, per basketball-reference.com. While Lopez would not necessarily improve the team’s defensive effectiveness, he could provide secondary or tertiary scoring in units without Sabonis on the floor.
Of course, the more attractive piece of the deal for the Kings would be Beauchamp, who could bolster a wing rotation that has seen former Golden State Warrior Juan Toscano-Anderson log time in 10 games this season. With two years (his last year is a team option) left on Beauchamp’s deal and Lopez on a one-year contract, the Kings would be taking back gross salary of $12,144,102—less than $1 million over the $11,514,717 owed to Mitchell through the end of next season. Additionally, Beauchamp is still just 23 years old, two years younger than Mitchell.
If Harrison Barnes and/or Kevin Huerter are also moved in the near future, minutes could be plentiful if head coach Mike Brown wanted to see what Beauchamp would look like in regular starter’s minutes before the front office decides on his 2024–2025 destiny in the summer—although one potential sticking point could exist if the Kings prefer to use Mitchell and his relatively cheap contract as a sweetener in a deal to move a package Barnes and Huerter to relieve the team of their salaries rather than trade Mitchell individually.
This proposed trade would necessitate another move by Bucks general manager Jon Horst to solidify the backup center position, which could be in the cards independent of whether or not such a deal goes down between Milwaukee and Sacramento. Though Robin Lopez is essentially a non-factor for the Bucks, trading Beauchamp could provide more opportunities for Andre Jackson Jr. and Chris Livingston, who have both flashed intriguing potential on the wing thus far during their rookie seasons.
The same issues keeping Mitchell from getting more playing time in Sacramento would still exist in Milwaukee. He’s not a particularly efficient shooter, especially from behind the three-point arc where the Bucks would welcome it the most. Furthermore, Mitchell has drawn only sixteen shooting fouls and completed just one and-one on his 112 field goal attempts so far this season.
This would seem to imply a bit of a reluctance to take contact, which could be due to his relatively undersized stature compared to modern guards. In terms of versatility, the Kings originally hoped Mitchell could switch between backcourt assignments on defense. That, however, has not yet panned out. Per Basketball-Reference, Mitchell played 33 percent of his minutes at shooting guard during his rookie season, a number that has tapered down to just 7 percent this season as he has largely been relegated to playing only at the point.
Still, Mitchell could be a prime change-of-scenery candidate. He’s a willing passer, assisting on 18.4 percent of his teammates’ field goals. With Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Cam Payne ahead in the pecking order of initiators, that figure could rise if Mitchell donned a Bucks jersey.
With a defined, consistent role and a title being a more realistic goal in Milwaukee than in Sacramento, Mitchell could bloom into a reliable role player. He still has the right merits and accolades in his background that made him the no. 9 overall pick in the 2021 draft. He was the leader of Baylor University’s 2021 NCAA championship team while winning both the NABC and Naismith Defensive Player of the Year awards as well as third-team All-American honors in the same campaign, not to mention plenty of conference awards and recognitions from his time in the Big 12.
As ever, his youth matters. The Bucks currently sport the NBA’s oldest roster with an average player age of just over 28 years old. There has been plenty of talk about an aging core, but it’s important to note that with that age comes experience and a hardheadedness earned from the top of the roster down. Given his defense-first attitude, Mitchell could latch onto this mentality and prove to be a useful addition to the team in Milwaukee while a trade for him would open up a roster spot for another acquisition, be it via trade or the buyout market.
We’ll be back later this week with more Bucks trade candidates, but until then, let us know what you think of this trade. Is it too much/not enough to give up? Does Mitchell not interest you at all?