The last piece of the Kentucky Wildcats’ roster puzzle ended up being the return of Davion Mintz when he announced he would exercise his final/extra year of eligibility on July 1st.
In a season to forget, Mintz became the catalyst for everything that actually did go Kentucky’s way last season and became a fan favorite seemingly overnight.
Mintz progressed into the role of Kentucky’s best player last season and, some nights, it wasn’t particularly close. At 11.5 points per game, he tied with Brandon Boston Jr. as the team's leading scorer by average and led the team in total points scored by one.
The difference was the efficiency. Mintz was the most efficient guard with a 39.7% field goal percentage and was the backcourts second-best 3-point shooter behind Dontaie Allen at 37.8% from deep, but Mintz had 70 more attempts.
With his combination of basketball IQ and athleticism, Mintz is a solid finisher around the basket, and he proved to be a big finisher above the rim too when he had the opportunity.
Not only was he Kentucky’s best scorer, but he was also their best option at point guard on a team that badly needed a go-to ball handler. He led the team with 77 assists for an average of three per game. It’s hard to say how much point guard he’ll play with all the new options in the backcourt this season, but it’s good to have the extra playmaker in your back pocket so the flexibility and option is there.
All that on top of the fact that he was Kentucky’s most tenacious perimeter defender, and it’s not hard to see why, based on the numbers and eye test, Mintz was the go-to guy as the Wildcat’s season descended.
Player Comparison: Quade Green
Green didn’t have the athleticism, defensive fight, or experience Mintz brings to the table, but if you watch the tape, there’s a lot of similarity in the offensive game. Although he was 3 inches shorter than Davion, Green was just as efficient of a scorer and ball handler as Mintz is in a role that Davion is more likely to play this season as a leading cast member rather than the star of the show.
Green had a good feel for the game with 91 assists and a quality jump shot and layup package with percentages of 45.1% from the field and 37.6% from three, which are all in the ballpark of where Mintz was last season.
Can Davion Mintz replicate his output from last season? He’s no longer the top option with all the extra help Kentucky added and returned, which will likely come as a relief for a player who left it all out there last season, but can he still be as efficient?
There’s a reason his decision to return to Lexington was such a momentum shift. The Wildcats were going to be good if he had decided to go pro, but his experience both in college and at Kentucky as well as the skill set he provides takes this team from really good to potentially great.