In, possibly their final season, and what should now be known as their “Ultimatum” year in the capitol city, the Sacramento Kings must bring excitement, flair and a winning formula back to the team before they shuttle off to Anaheim – or wherever their new destination would be – forever. While those lofty expectations should not be juxtaposed to a single first-round draft pick – let alone a No. 7 overall pick – it is still vital that the higher-ups don’t screw this one up. And, in a draft that has been declared by many not to have Derrick Rose or Blake Griffin-like talent, it would be kind of easy to.
Of what I’ve heard from experts, and buzz from within the organization (via local media reports), there seems to be a number of directions the Kings could go with the No. 7 overall pick. While it probably depends on the first six picks, Sacramento has plenty of options. I’m in love with some, not in love with others, and none of them scream “franchise changer” – however, with the right personnel moves and skill utilization, the Kings could get a possible foundation to complement the franchise players – namely, PG/SG Tyreke Evans and PF/C DeMarcus Cousins – for years to come. Here are some of the players that the Kings are taking a long look at, and how they could come in and contribute to the team:
Kawhi Leonard, SF/PF, San Diego State: Hands down, my favorite pick, if he falls to the Kings. I will admit, I am biased (I am an SDSU alum, and watched Leonard often as an Aztec), but I will also say that there is good reason I would want him in Sacramento. In his two years at SDSU, he was a double-double machine, averaging 14.1 points and 10.3 rebounds in his two-year career with the Aztecs (70 games). At 6’7″, 228 lbs, he is exactly what the Kings are looking for in a big man – excellent rebounding skills, a great motor and an offensive attack that, while still developing, could morph into a Chris Webber-like inside game. While the focus for the Kings is finding a point guard that can take the pressure off Evans, they may take Leonard should he still be on the board, and do what former first round pick Jason Thompson has not been able to do: fill a valuable void at the forward position.
Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut: This is a “safe” pick that many pundits consider the Kings making at #7 – that is, in most cases, if Leonard is off the board. It makes sense to most – while carrying a small frame (6’1″, 184 lbs), he provides the intangibles a franchise desires in a draft pick – heart, desire, determination, leadership. The key word for Walker is that he would provide a great source of leadership – as a star senior for the NCAA Champion UConn Huskies, Walker was a pillar for a team made up mostly of freshmen and sophomores. He can provide that same foundation for a young Kings team, notorious for clashing egos and seemingly immature personalities. His only drawback? He is a smaller version of what the Kings already have in Evans – a score-first, assist-second guard.
Jimmer Fredette, PG/SG, BYU: Considered one of the darlings of the 2010-2011 NCAA season, Fredette is known as a sharpshooter who can nail a jumper from virtually anywhere on the floor: 15 feet or 40 feet – it’s all the same to him. He is a wild-card on most draft boards – while averaging 28.9 points per game in his senior season at BYU, his defensive game is his biggest liability, as he didn’t defend much in college. Apparently, the Maloofs love Fredette, which could go a long way to drafting him. Going this route could also show Sacramento fans the flair they are looking for in a draftee, as Fredette is a wildly popular college player. Pitting him with Evans could provide the Kings with a potential lethal scoring backcourt – that is, if the organization believes he would be an effective PG. However, his skill set is limited, and most describe his role as a “glorified J.J. Redick” – a complementary jump-shooter who can give limited minutes on the floor, but nothing more; especially when propped up against the prospect of drafting him No. 7 overall.
Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky: While projected to go No. 3 overall to the Utah Jazz (effectively replacing the departed Deron Williams at the point), there is a small chance he could slip past the first six teams in the draft. If this happens, I have no doubt the Kings would pull the trigger on drafting him. Outside of Duke G Kyrie Irving (all but a lock at No. 1 overall), Knight is the closest thing to a pure point guard the Kings are going to find. In his only season with the Wildcats, he averaged 17.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 38 games. Knight would move Evans to the 2-guard (his natural position), and provide a potentially harmonious backcourt – at least, more harmonious than a potential backcourt of Walker and Evans.
Jan Vesely, SF/PF, Czech Republic: Vesely would serve as a valuable big man, if he is available for Sacramento in the draft. Drawing comparisons to Andrei Kirilenko, Vesely possesses an all-around game that allows him to attack the rim, as well as shoot from long-range. His lack of experience at age 21 is concerning, though it isn’t out of this realm that Petrie would bank on another medium-framed shooter from Europe. After all, his first European prospect – veteran sharpshooter (and recently-crown NBA champion) Peja Stojakovic – didn’t turn out so bad. If Walker and Leonard are both off the board, one can only hope Vesely will still be there.
Enes Kanter, C, Turkey: Kanter is another European big man that is hard to pin down, projection-wise. Some have him going as early as No. 2, and as late as No. 8. In that case, it isn’t out of this world to think Kanter would be there for the Kings. If they like his size (6’11″, 260 lbs), his shooting range (out to the three-point line, according to scouts), and the fact that Kentucky liked him so much they allowed him to attend the school even when he was ruled ineligible to play by the NCAA – they would no doubt pull the trigger to take him. This would give them an overpowering frontcourt, with two big men (Kanter and DeMarcus Cousins) scouting the paint.
Marcus Morris, PF, Kansas: As one of the potent Morris twins that made up the Kansas Jayhawk frontcourt each of the last two years, Marcus Morris’ big game experience would serve well for a struggling team like the Kings. Though he would be a bit of a reach (some boards have him outside the top-10), what with his “tweener” status on the court and a lack of explosiveness, Morris is still a solid scorer and rebounder, averaging 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in a competitive Big-12.
Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas: Thompson is much like Morris in terms of his value as a prospect – his pedigree in the Big 12 and his physical attributes help him; his “tweener” status and lack of excelling in any one aspect of the game hurt him. In addition, it can be said that he is still developing his game, and left Texas too soon – another year or two of seasoning in Rick Barnes’ system may have potentially turned him into a possible top-5 pick – and the Longhorns into real March Madness contenders. In any case, the Kings taking Thompson would also be a bit of a reach, as he has been projected in the early-to-mid teens.
With all that said, the Kings have (potentially) one more shot at this, so they better make it count. After all, with their stay in Cowbell Kingdom at stake, the Maloofs and the Kings organization cannot afford to spend a top-10 pick on the next Quincy Douby.
To the entire Kings front office: Good luck, and Godspeed.