Coach Calipari has successfully reloaded another roster after losing five early entrants to the NBA Draft and Nate Sestina exhausting his eligibility after his graduate transfer season. Despite only returning Keion Brooks from last year’s roster, Kentucky fans are as excited as ever for this upcoming season. The first reason for excitement and optimism is the nation’s best recruiting class headlined by 5-star wings B.J. Boston and Terrence Clarke. Along with fellow 5-star recruit Isaiah Jackson, the Wildcats landed a trio of high 4-star recruits in Devin Askew, Lance Ware, and Cam’Ron Fletcher. The other, more recent, exciting piece to the puzzle has been the addition of Wake Forest transfer Olivier Sarr. Sarr, a true 7-footer and All-ACC performer a year ago, was widely considered as the best big man in the transfer portal.
Having said all of that, there is one major addition that seems to be getting next to no attention over the last month or so. I am talking about Creighton graduate transfer and combo guard, Davion Mintz. Mintz earned a starting role in the Bluejays’ backcourt about halfway through his freshman season and never looked back, starting a total of 79 games over this 3-year career. However, a high ankle sprain just before his senior season began forced him to redshirt and he ultimately decided to enter the transfer portal after earning his degree from Creighton. Mintz will most likely be the Wildcats starting point guard when the season begins and has shown his versatility to play on and off the ball throughout his career. At 6’3” and 185 pounds, Mintz averaged 9.7 points, three rebounds, and three assists per game as a junior while connecting on 43 3-pointers at a 34.7% clip. He is a career 35% 3-point shooter with 71 makes. I will be breaking down his film below, but this is a guy that Big Blue Nation should be very, very excited about. Having a veteran presence in the backcourt to help mentor the talented newcomers will be invaluable. Also, Davion Mintz is a very good player in his own right who looks to be a double-digit scorer, a valuable perimeter shooting threat, and will handle the ball without turning it over (nearly a 2:1 career assist-to-turnover ratio).
Before the addition of Olivier Sarr there was real concern about the status of the frontcourt after Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery each entered the NBA Draft. However, losing Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, and Tyrese Maxey left the backcourt in flux just as much. Devin Askew is extremely talented, but leading an offense in the SEC when you are just supposed to be a high school senior is easier said than done. B.J. Boston and Terrence Clarke are two of the most talented wing players John Calipari has ever had in Lexington, but they still need someone to get them the ball. This is where Davion Mintz becomes so valuable.
Davion Mintz will provide immediate 3-point shooting help which will be very welcomed in Lexington after last year’s team connected on just 157 total 3’s, one of the lowest numbers in the country. During his three seasons at Creighton, Mintz was a 35% shooter from deep and his 43 makes as a junior would have been second on Kentucky’s team last season. As the film will show, Mintz has the ability to make 3’s both off the catch and off the dribble which will prove valuable as Devin Askew develops and earns more and more minutes as the lead guard. Mintz has a quick release and will not turn down shots when he has the space to get them off. In 2018-2019, Mintz’s last season before his season-ending injury last year, he attempted 124 shots from beyond the arc which is only 21 less than Immanuel Quickley. Some Kentucky fans get tired, rightfully so, of preseason hype surrounding the shooting ability of Calipari’s teams, but Davion Mintz is a proven shooter who has made 3’s at a high level in college for several years.
Scoring Off the Dribble
Along with his perimeter shooting ability, Mintz is a very capable scorer off the dribble with an aggressive streak. In his junior season, he attempted more shots than Ashton Hagans and Nick Richards did last season. He is definitely more comfortable going to his right, but he has showcased the ability to score going to the rim, finishing through contact, and also scoring on pull-up jump shots. Mintz is a very good ball-handler which allows him to break down opponents off the dribble and create some space to get his jumpers off. Though he isn’t necessarily an oversized guard by any means, Mintz seems to seek out contact as he drives to the basket and he showcases that in some of the clips above as he finishes through defenders at the rim. He isn’t an overly explosive athlete either, but still has some above the rim finishes and gets pretty good elevation on his jump shots as well. Overall, whether he spends more time playing on or off the ball, Mintz has proven to be a capable scorer at the high-major level.
Mintz’s scoring ability is certainly important and having a veteran to count on when things get tough will be a nice luxury, but if he begins the season as the point guard, his playmaking and ability to distribute will be a major key.
Despite splitting time between point guard and shooting guard, Mintz averaged three or more assists per game in both his sophomore and junior seasons at Creighton. He has a good assist-to-turnover ratio for his career which proves that he can make plays without turning the ball over as well. As you can see from the highlights above, Mintz is very good at hitting the big man in the pick-and-roll and is comfortable throwing the lob (a staple of great Kentucky point guards). While the traditional pick-and-roll generally isn’t a staple in a Calipari offense, with Mintz and Olivier Sarr being so comfortable in those settings it may be something fans can expect to see a little more of this season. While the potential alley-oop passes to Sarr may not be the most exciting, having a ball-handler you can trust to make the easy play is as valuable as anything and that is exactly what Mintz has shown over his college career thus far.
There are a lot of reasons to be excited for the 2020-2021 Kentucky Wildcats. Despite only returning 4.5 points per game from Keion Brooks, the number one ranked recruiting class and arguably the best graduate transfer in Olivier Sarr (eligibility still to be determined) has the ‘Cats as a preseason top 10 team to many. However, a seemingly forgotten and overlooked piece is Davion Mintz, who will be a major contributor in the backcourt. His versatility to play on and off the ball will allow for Devin Askew to develop at his own pace to begin the season. Additionally, his proven 3-point shooting ability will be helpful if it happens to take B.J. Boston or Terrence Clarke a few extra games to adjust to collegiate competition. Mintz should be a steadying presence in the Kentucky backcourt and, as the film should show, he is a good enough player to garner his own excitement in Big Blue Nation.