Case for and against Knicks picking Davion Mitchell in 2021 NBA Draft

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Davion Mitchell treated image
Davion Mitchell treated image

While it’s unclear where the Knicks truly may end up picking in the 2021 NBA draft with two first-round and two second-round selections to juggle, they’re set up to take advantage of this latest crop of talent coming in.

Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of potential draft options for the Knicks, starting with Baylor's Davion Mitchell.

The case for drafting Mitchell

Mitchell is arguably the most NBA-ready and best defensive prospect in this draft, two factors that could lead the Knicks to value him extremely highly. In terms of cogs to insert into an already-competitive Tom Thibodeau-led team, there may not be a better one than Mitchell. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound guard turned heads when he helped lead his Baylor team to a national championship, and there’s reason to believe he could accomplish the same at the next level.

Mitchell’s on-ball defense is ready for professional competition. His athleticism translates well to the defensive end, where he slides laterally with great quickness and can cover distance across the floor when helping. His 6-foot-5 wingspan and wide base helps confound opposing guards, even when they tower over him, such as with Cade Cunningham, the likely first overall pick who struggled against Mitchell in the NCAA Tournament.

Of course, that’s only one side of the ball. Mitchell also has solid guard skills, namely a shifty and explosive handle that, combined with his speed, helps him break down defenses well. From there, he can finish inside or shoot with efficiency and in creative ways. He already has the step-back in his bag, even with multiple variations and spots on the floor, and once he’s in the paint his terrific athleticism allows him to finish around or through defenders.

Dynamite athleticism, defense and shooting out of the point guard position checks all the boxes for the Knicks. Should Mitchell slide to where the Knicks can trade their 19 and 21 picks to nab him, or even secure him with one of those, would be a huge win.

Baylor Bears guard Davion Mitchell (45) celebrates after sinking a buzzer beater three-pointer at the end of the first half against Houston during the semifinals of the Final Four of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Saturday, April 3, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.
Baylor Bears guard Davion Mitchell (45) celebrates after sinking a buzzer beater three-pointer at the end of the first half against Houston during the semifinals of the Final Four of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Saturday, April 3, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.

The case against drafting Mitchell

There is a reason Mitchell is capable of sliding into New York’s range. He’s not built like your typical high-level prospect. His body type - a la Kyle Lowry or Collin Sexton - is pretty average and doesn’t often produce All-Stars. Though his athleticism and efficiency should make up for it, they are relatively new.

Mitchell was a quick riser to this point, with a much less impressive 2019-20 season with Baylor following a transfer year. He didn’t become a lottery favorite until his March Madness run, which often doesn’t bode well. Hope for continual rapid improvement is fine, but he’s also going to be 23 years old when he suits up for his first NBA game -- another red flag.

There are other concerns. His playmaking and traditional point guard IQ are in early development. His free-throw shooting is abysmal and on the wrong trajectory. He shot 67.7% from the charity stripe as a freshman, then dropped to 66.3% his first year at Baylor before declining again to 64.1 percent this year. He’s also not getting these freebies much for an athletic attacker, which will need to change in the league.

Mitchell may be a favorite of this draft class, but the Knicks should consider all factors before taking a shot on him. Another young secondary playmaker in the vein of Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose could be too much of the same thing. And should there be a prospect on the board with a higher ceiling but lower floor, they might be a better risk to take than another “NBA-ready” prospect who likely won’t be able to contribute to a playoff team right away anyway.