With what may be the Sacramento Kings’ final NBA Draft in the books, it was hard to say how they ended up.
Leading up to the draft, many experts were going back and forth as to who the Kings, who had the seventh overall pick, would take. The projections were all over the board: from San Diego State SF Kawhi Leonard, to Czech SF Jan Vesely, to UConn PG Kemba Walker, to Colorado PG Alec Burks. With an unpredictable draft that included two lottery picks each by the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Utah Jazz, the possibilities were seemingly endless.
Pundits were also curious as to the dynamic of the Kings’ mired front office, and how that would effect the pick. There were reports of divisiveness between the owners, the GM and the coaching staff in terms of who they would select. The Maloofs had a keen focus on all-world PG Jimmer Fredette, while the coaching staff had their eyes on guys like Burks and Leonard. With their defensive game in complete disarray, some experts were leaning towards Leonard as the Kings’ pick, mere hours before the draft.
And then, came the trade.
In a last-minute, three-team deal that involved Sacramento, the Charlotte Bobcats and the Milwaukee Bucks, the Kings’ seventh pick was dealt to Charlotte, while resident PG Beno Udrih went north to Milwaukee, opening the door to a PG to come in from the draft and start right away. In return, the Kings received Milwaukee’s 10th pick and SF John Salmons, in a return stint since leaving Sacramento in 2009.
While moving down three spots wasn’t the worst thing in the world for a Kings team in need of defensive help (which they believed they got from Salmons), it was a most perplexing trade for the Kings, as they seemed to have gotten the short end of the deal. At least, that was what ESPN.com’s John Hollinger thought. At the very least, the Kings could still grab a solid pick at 10 overall.
Then, by most accounts, the Kings got exactly what they wanted. By moving down, they took little risk in grabbing who they wanted all along, and who many experts believed they would, and should take: Jimmer Fredette. The Kings front office, as well as much of the Kings’ fan populace, rejoiced.
In grabbing Fredette, the Kings attained the nation’s top scorer (28.9 ppg), and, in being paired with 2009 ROY Tyreke Evans, was projected to create one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league. His ridiculous shooting range, incredible shooting touch and intelligence on the court apparently made him irresistible to the Kings organization. Not to mention his grounded influence and humble background – both of which would serve as great asset to a team with chemistry and attitude problems. Coupled with their second-round pick – UCLA forward Tyler Honeycutt – the Kings looked to be on the right track for improving the team, and giving Sacramento good reason to reach a new stadium deal before the clock strikes midnight. Despite the earlier trade, many considered them big winners in this year’s draft.
Not. So. Fast.
The fact is, I believe the Kings’ front office royally screwed up almost every move they made yesterday. I’m sure that many Kings fans would beg the differ, but, please, bear with me, and let me count the ways:
1. The draft-day trade was actually kind of pointless. While it has been reamed to death by pundits and sports fans alike, it still fails to bring to light the triviality of it. While the trade brought back John Salmons, inherently addressing a need at the forward position, it also brought Salmons’ salary, which, by most accounts, was actually more than the outgoing Beno Udrih’s. Furthermore, Salmons is older, less effective than he was in Sacramento the first time around, and is essentially a shooting guard – he is listed as a SG/SF. So, ultimately, what was the point in bringing him back, when there probably would have been better options opening up in free agency (that is, when – or if – a new CBA is hammered out), or, better yet, in the draft? Which brings me to my next point…
2. The draft-day trade essentially narrowed their options. Remember, while they got back John Salmons, they got rid of their only natural PG, Beno Udrih. With guys like Texas F Tristan Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, the Morris twins of Kansas and Jan Vesely as legitimate options leading up to draft day, the trade actually shut the door on pretty much all of them. It was the ultimate signal that the Kings were targeting a PG, and a PG only. At that point, they had little choice. That would explain why, when Leonard was literally staring them right in the face at the 10 spot, the Kings could do nothing but blankly stare back, and pass on him.
Then, there was the fact that they traded back. At that point, it was somewhat obvious that they were zeroed in on Fredette. By all accounts, no one before them would take Fredette with such a high pick – the closest other team that desired his skill set was the Utah Jazz at 12 – but, they just assumed that there would be no one else worth taking at 7; not even Walker. But, had they stood pat and stayed at the 7, look who would have been there for them:
While hindsight is 20/20, don’t tell me that the Maloofs and Geoff Petrie weren’t, at least, kicking themselves a little bit for leaving a pure PG talent like Brandon Knight for the Detroit Pistons to snatch. At the 8 spot.
3. Nothing against Jimmer Fredette, but … no. Just … no. I feel like I’m on an island when it comes to this opinion, what with Kings nation and pundits pretty much everywhere lauding the pick by the Kings. The fact of the matter is, despite all of the prospects of a dynamic scoring backcourt consisting of Tyreke and The Jimmer (which, by the way, kind of sounds like a ’70s buddy cop show), I could not disagree more with the pick. Not because I don’t like the Jimmer – I do (despite his regular season ownage of San Diego State last year). I just don’t like him on the Kings.
If the strategy was to draft in order for the Kings to best succeed on the court, I would say they did the exact opposite of that with this pick. The truth is, the Kings were on the bottom, in terms of defense – they ranked 25th in points allowed (104.7) last season. God knows they could use more defensive-minded players. By drafting a high-scoring guard who never played defense in college, I would say that that’s, at least, a little troubling.
Then there is the idea that a backcourt of Evans and Fredette would be a good thing. I tend to think that, with two guards who love to shoot and always need the ball in their hands, that might be a problem, don’t you think? (Apparently, the Kings coaching staff seemed to think so.) I’ll admit, this glowing recommendation by ESPN’s Rick Reilly didn’t ease any of my doubts about Fredette’s prospects. Not to mention that, despite shipping out Udrih, the Kings still have coveted guard Marcus Thornton – another backcourt player who loves to shoot. Coupled with a frontcourt player in DeMarcus Cousins who also wants to score as much as possible, it is an offensive recipe for disaster. With all that said, why did the Kings make this pick? Well, it’s simple, and that leads me to my final point…
4. This is all a PR move by the Maloofs. And one that could easily blow up in their face. Look, let’s face it – one of the reasons the Maloofs wanted to move to Anaheim in the first place was because the Kings’ support looked to be waning in Sacramento. And, like I said before, the Kings needed to make a splash in the draft, by generating a lot of good PR for the fans’ sake. So, in terms of that, the move to take the Jimmer was really a no-brainer: get the most polarizing, potential-filled, offensively-explosive player in the country, no questions asked. He will surely put butts in the seats, as people from miles around would pay good money to watch Fredette throw up 35- to 40-foot jump shots nightly. He was a wonder to watch in Provo, and he just might do the same at the venue formerly known as ARCO Arena.
He’s a revenue-generator, and a fan favorite. Despite what I may think, everyone LOVES the prospect of the Jimmer landing in Sac-town. Believe me, I get it. Personally, I think that this is an effective move, in the short-term. But what if the criticisms launched about Fredette for the past month-and-a-half are right?
What if he really is a glorified JJ Redick? What if he can’t play a lick of defense, relegating him to a sparkplug bench player? What if he can’t effectively play the PG position in the NBA? What if he puts up too many shots, much to the chagrin of, say, Tyreke? Remember the last time the Kings had a problem with two marquee players who always needed the ball in their hands?
All I’m saying is, with guys like Leonard, Chris Singleton and the Morris twins still on the board, the Kings could have focused more on a post presence that can come in and provide more defense to a team with a surplus of offense. None of those players would have necessarily been sexy picks (which I thought was a problem in drafts past), but at least they would have provided the team with more tools to win games. And, hey – I thought that was the point of having a sports franchise.
I’ll admit – in two or three years, I could be dead wrong about the Jimmer pick. Fredette and Evans could turn out to be the most dynamic backcourt in the NBA – he has a good enough defensive game and all the offensive skills he brought from BYU, and could be named Rookie of the Year. He could help the Kings stay in Sacramento, possibly leading them to the playoffs in a newly-built downtown stadium.
But, right now, in the words of Erin Hannon from “The Office”: