June 5, 2018, 1:18 pm
On July 21, the Kings will find themselves in as prime of a draft position as they’ve been in in recent memory.
At the Draft Lottery they jumped from a projected seventh pick to the No. 2 spot in the upcoming draft and it opened up a window of opportunity, while it also left fans hoping that the team cashes in on their fortuitous climb.
Enter Vlade Divac: the man who’s done enough wheeling and dealing in recent NBA drafts to make Ric Flair proud. He has a sureshot opportunity to snag a team-changing player if he makes the right choice.
Luka Doncic is the name that many envision Adam Silver announcing when that time comes in a couple weeks. He’s a tall, point-forward style player that has proven himself overseas. But — and it’s a big but — it leaves to wonder if his play will translate.
Some think it would, but with little tape that he has out there, some see defensive and athletic limitations. Others see the basketball IQ of someone way older than 19 and a skill set that can compete in basketball’s highest level of play.
Then, there’s Deandre Ayton, a monster of a man from Arizona who could be the No. 1 pick if the Phoenix Suns so choose. Ayton has a dominating prowess in the post, but can also stretch his defender with his outside shot. He can work off the dribble or catch a lob with the best of them.
Another option for Sacramento is Marvin Bagley III. Bagley was a standout at Duke and, though not 7-foot 1 like Ayton, has some size himself at 6-foot 11. He also showed the ability to take over games, like the previously mentioned prospects.
So, with talent like that, there’s no way the Kings give up their pick… right? Well, Divac has proven in back-to-back drafts that he’s willing to part with a pick — if, of course, he’s able to receive adequate compensation.
Two years ago, Divac and the Kings selected local kid Marquese Chriss and fans around Sacramento cheered. Only he would never play a game for the Kings and was gone minutes later. He was traded to the Suns for the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic and the 13th and 28th pick in that year’s draft.
Last season, the Kings once again traded down and selected Zach Collins for the Portland Trail Blazers, receiving the 15th and 20th picks in the draft as well.
This season, though, the Kings may not look to deal for just picks. The Kings need more veterans on a roster that is filled with players under-25.
With Vince Carter being a free agent, Zach Randolph receiving minimal playing time down the stretch and the Kings sending George Hill away mid-season, the three veteran additions Sacramento added last offseason could all be gone by the time next season rolls around.
So, what could the team do? They could trade down to receive some veteran help, while also getting themselves in prime position for a couple of talented rookies (possibly this year and in the future) as well.
The first player they could trade down for is Michael Porter Jr.
Porter was once looked at as the top player in the upcoming draft; out of high school, he was highly renowned. However a back injury hampered his collegiate career and he played just 53 minutes all season. Porter told reporters he feels he’s the best player in the draft, and that he could prove to be if he’s healthy and can return to his dominance he showed in high school.
Many mock drafts have him winding up in Orlando with the Magic. However, the Kings could attempt to snag someone like Nikola Vucevic from the Magic while sending their pick for Orlando’s sixth. HoopsHype mentioned Vucevic’s name last season as a possible player on the move.
Or the Kings could look to a big like Mo Bamba, who is a little more of a project but could have defensive upside to the moon and back if he can establish himself as an interior force; not to mention if he can add some weight to his slim frame.
Bamba is projected to go anywhere between fourth and seventh at this stage. The Kings could swap picks with a team like the Mavericks in the five spot and snag Mo Bamba, and they could also have the opportunity to get a player like Wesley Matthews in the deal. His contract is large and he’s already 31 years old, but he could temporarily fill the small forward void the Kings have. After a down year with the Mavs, though, the jury is out as to whether Matthews can be a competent player in the league again.
It’s important to remember that just like in everything else, there are winners and losers, and it’s very easy to land on either side of that win-loss column.
Just last season the Boston Celtics showed just how well trading down can go when they swapped their No. 1 overall pick for the Philadelphia 76ers third pick. The Celtics got Jayson Tatum and a future first rounder from Philly and the Sixers got Markelle Fultz in the deal.
On the other end of the spectrum, last season the Nuggets traded down from the 13th pick in the draft and missed out on Donovan MItchell. They received the 24th pick and a two-year veteran at the time in Trey Lyles during that swap.
The Kings know there are needs for a team that hasn’t touched 40 wins in 10 years and they have built a roster that’s loaded with potential. That potential, however, hasn’t translated into wins for the team with the longest playoff drought in the NBA. There’s plenty of options for the Kings and everything should be on the table for Sacramento.