Four Takeaways: Promising flashes of improvement from Davion Mitchell and Keegan Murray

Oct 19, 2023, 1:36 PM | Updated: 3:01 pm

Davion Mitchell #15 of the Sacramento Kings drives on Dario Saric #20 of the Golden State Warriors ...

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 15: Davion Mitchell #15 of the Sacramento Kings drives on Dario Saric #20 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half of an NBA game at Golden 1 Center on October 15, 2023 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

On Wednesday night, in their second consecutive preseason matchup against the Golden State Warriors, the Sacramento Kings fell 116-115 at Chase Center. Davion Mitchell and Colby Jones had promising two-way impacts, coach Mike Brown’s rotations were closer to what we can expect in the regular season, and Stephen Curry is still Stephen Curry.

Heading into the game, Chris Duarte (left knee) was unavailable for Sacramento, and Trey Lyles (left calf) was a late scratch after he was seen warming up in pregame. Meanwhile, Golden State was without Kevon Looney (illness), Draymond Green (left ankle), and Rodney McGruder (concussion protocol). Brown shared at practice the day prior that they planned to start Kevin Huerter, no matter Duarte’s availability.

It was probably the Kings’ best showing through four preseason games, but they still could not come out on top in the final tally. Here are my takeaways.

1. A more typical rotation

Before the game, Coach Brown said his rotation would look more like a regular season game with staggering of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, but he did not expect to play the starters much in the final quarter. That changed as the game went on. Fox (32), Sabonis (34), Keegan Murray (36), and Harrison Barnes (33) all played upwards of 30 minutes and a large majority of the fourth.

“[Golden State] started going on a run, and our guys needed to be in that situation,” Brown explained postgame. “If we were getting beat pretty bad or we were winning pretty bad, then I probably would have made the change. But Golden State was going on a run, and I wanted to see how our guys responded to that run.”

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As seen for most of last season, Fox subbed out around the six-minute mark before returning when Sabonis headed to the bench. Davion Mitchell and Malik Monk were the first two players off the bench in their 10-man rotation. Veteran JaVale McGee and two rookies, Jones and Sasha Vezenkov, also logged double-digit minutes. If Duarte and Lyles were available, their minutes may have been reduced or non-existent.

Vezenkov must continue to develop defensively and find ways to survive if he wants to see increased minutes. Meanwhile, Jones has been proving he belongs in the NBA and potentially Sacramento’s rotation sooner than later.

2. Colby Jones continues to impress

Throughout the past week, Brown has been very complimentary of their rookie out from Xavier and his well-rounded game. He previously described Jones as “quick, but not hurried,’ and that poise has been apparent throughout the preseason. He ended Tuesday night’s game with 10 points, two assists, and one steal on 4/8 from the field and 2/5 on threes.

“I think Colby’s been really good for us,” Fox said. “He’s not the tallest, but he’s a strong and solid-built guy. So, he’s able to play multiple positions, he’s able to bring the ball up, play make for us, he’s making shots, he’s defending, he’s guarding guys like [Jonathan] Kuminga and [Andrew Wiggins]. So, he’s doing a lot for us, and he’s learning, and I think he’s just going to continue to get better for us.”

The 21-year-old has gotten to play a similar role to what he’d grown accustomed to in college, finding ways to provide a little bit of everything. His shot from distance was going down, maintained their offensive flow, initiated when need be, and hounded ball-handlers with his physicality defending the pick-and-roll. Similarly to Duarte’s early performance, Jones has been doing everything the Kings’ coaching staff has requested.

It presents an interesting question. When fully healthy, should Jones be part of Sacramento’s rotation? It’s an uphill battle for the rookie behind Fox, Mitchell, Huerter, Monk, and Duarte, but Coach Brown often looks in varying directions for a mid-game spark. If he continues playing as he has, the coaching staff could face tough rotational decisions. For Sacramento, that’s a good problem to have.

3. Davion Mitchell shows off his improved jumper

Davion Mitchell highly emphasized improving his long-range shot this offseason and spent time working with Stephen Curry and his shooting coach, Brandon Payne. Mitchell averaged less than one made triple per game last season but converted 4/6 from deep on Tuesday night, including his first three attempts. That marks just the sixth time in his career that the Baylor alum has tallied four or more made threes in one game.

“I’ve been with [Mitchell] in the summer a lot,” Murray said. “He’s been in Sacramento a lot, and just seeing how hard he’s been working at it, just to see that pay off early on in the preseason, shows his work ethic in the offseason. I’m excited to see what he does this year from the three-point line, and that just helps our offense a lot more.”

The third-year guard has attempted five or more threes in all but one of their four preseason showings. His current conversion rate sits at 7/17 (41 percent), and that production level could open up added opportunity heading into the regular season. It allows him to play alongside Fox and take some of the defensive pressure off him while potentially maintaining their elite offense.

Davion Mitchell is known as a workhorse whose work ethic is often mentioned with the top of the league. His slogan ‘Trust Your Work’ seems justified early on.

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Coaches want me to take the shots, my teammates want me to take the shots, so I just take it,” Mitchell said. “It just shows that the work is eventually going to show. It showed a little bit tonight, but, like you said before, I worked hard this offseason, and I’m just happy that it’s showing.”

It’s an encouraging sign for Davion Mitchell in this season’s infancy, but consistency is vital in shooting. Hopefully, he can prove that his altered shot and subsequent improved rate are here to stay.

4. Keegan Murray continues to be aggressive

Murray felt he settled in their previous home matchup against the Warriors, but he made the proper adjustments heading into Wednesday night. He ended the game with 24 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and two steals on 10/18 from the field, including 3/9 from three. His in-between game and finishing at the basket continue to progress, partially due to the offseason work he put in with Fox, one of the best finishers in the league.

“That’s a lot of the stuff that we worked on this summer,” Fox said. “Like I’ve talked about, he’s getting more comfortable, and obviously, those are tough shots. At times, you miss those shots, but he had it going for us tonight, and I feel like we need to put him in more positions to continue to do that for us.”

Fox wants to see that level of aggressiveness from the second-year forward on most nights. “We want him to play like that even if shots aren’t going in,” he continued. “We want him to be aggressive.”

He’s been attacking closeouts with the intent of finishing, posting up mismatches, and bringing the ball down the court after securing a board. There are high expectations for Murray’s second-year jump, and the early returns are promising. Murray is looking increasingly like a three-level scorer with each passing game.

Next Game

One preseason game remains as the Kings speed toward next week’s season opener.

Sacramento will run through a dress rehearsal on Thursday night at Golden 1 Center when they face the Utah Jazz–the team they will face in next Wednesday’s season opener.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Jazz coverage, beginning at 5:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 7:00 PM PST tip-off from downtown Sacramento.

Sacramento Kings 2023-24 Preseason Schedule

  • Thursday, October 19th – Sacramento Kings vs. Utah Jazz – 7 PM PST

Sacramento Kings 2023-24 Regular Season Schedule

  • Tuesday, October 24th – NBA regular season begins
  • Wednesday, October 25th – Sacramento Kings @ Utah Jazz – 6 PM PST (Season Opener)
  • Friday, October 27th – Sacramento Kings vs. Golden State Warriors – 7 PM PST (Home Opener)
  • Sunday, October 29th – Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers – 6 PM PST
  • Wednesday, November 1st – Sacramento Kings @ Golden State Warriors – 7 PM PST

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