June 18, 2018, 9:03 pm
With the draft just days away, Kings fans have been looking hard for clues to see what the team may be looking to do with the second overall pick. Most reports indicate that the team has settled on a top three – Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III and Michael Porter Jr. Any of those three would have the potential to be a cornerstone talent for the Kings, but given the importance of the pick, it’s natural for fans to try and figure out who the eventual selection will be.
Aside from reports, draft history may be the best tool to determine what Vlade Divac, and the rest of the front office, may be looking to do. Divac has just three drafts under his belt as an executive, but his seven first round selections provide plenty of data points to sort through when trying to determine what his philosophy might be.
Certain trends jump off the page with Divac. The selection of Harry Giles and Skal Labissiere show that he’s willing to look past collegiate struggles to bet on potential later in the first round, and players like Willie Cauley-Stein and De’Aaron Fox show that he may be more comfortable taking a chance on players that are high-level athletes.
Those seven selections do have some similarities that may provide clues, but the fact that he was able to make seven selections in three years is evidence of his biggest trend to date – a high level of comfort with trading back.
With the second overall pick in a draft loaded with talent at the top, the Kings may find themselves in a position to trade back and acquire quite a few valuable assets. Discussing the merits of trading back would require knowledge of the types of deals being offered, so it’s impossible to say whether or not this would be a good route to go for the Kings. A scenario similar to the last year’s trade between the Sixers and Celtics would be ideal, but offers that good aren’t always available, and even then it’s important to have some level of confidence that you can still take a player that’s high on your wish list.
The 37th pick is an entirely different story. After trading back two seasons in a row, the Kings have a wealth of young talent all over their roster. Generally speaking, that’s an enviable position to be in for a young team. The issue is that very few of these players are close to being finished products, and a lack of available minutes can make it difficult to evaluate them. With the player the Kings select second and Harry Giles coming into the fold next season, that problem is only going to get worse.
Trading away players that are still unfinished products can be difficult. No team wants to be on the wrong end of a lopsided trade of a raw young talent, but the team may not have a better option. Willie Cauley-Stein will be up for an extension this summer, and the team will be in a similar situation with Skal Labissiere, Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic after next season.
The Kings do have at least some idea of what those players will end up looking like, but they probably don’t have enough information to feel comfortable giving out extensions to most of them. These players are still one or two years away from being free agents, but the team may still have trouble finding minutes for all of them. Handing out bad extensions is a great way to cap your team’s ceiling during a rebuild, and letting go of players in free agency can send your team right back to where they started.
For that reason, the best choice may be to package some of their young talent with the second round selection to move up.
As mentioned above, the decision to move up or down should be made primarily based on the opportunities available. Overpaying to move up wouldn’t be wise, even with the team needing to free up minutes, but being aggressive when looking for offers is the right move. Plenty of teams in the first round need to add depth, so trading back with Sacramento may be mutually beneficial. And for the Kings, the ability to consolidate a few decent assets to free up minutes and add a higher-level prospect could help simplify the rebuilding process.
Parting with young players that are so far from being finished products can be tough, but the team is going to need to make tough decisions on all of their young players over the next few summers. There may not be an offer worth taking the night of the draft, but the Kings would be wise to take a hard look at the options on the table.