From now until the NBA Draft on June 26, we'll be looking at the options of the teams picking based on their likely menu of choices, draft or trade. We continue today with the Sacramento Kings, who could do any number of things. The Kings could trade up, down, or out of the draft entirely. They want to win now. Can they make that happen with the No. 8 pick?
We'll take Embiid, Parker, Wiggins off the board. I can't see Dante Exum slipping past this spot. It just doesn't seem likely. So those four are gone.
Draft Noah Vonleh: I've long advocated for this pick. It's what I call "the sugar to DeMarcus Cousins' spice." Vonleh has a sweet and graceful game, with incredible length and perimeter shooting ability. He and Cousins could be absolutely monstrous defensively in the next three years or so, and if Vonleh develops a mid-range jumper, he can space the floor to help Cousins inside. Vonleh's versatility could help the Kings in a number of sets as well.
Drafting Vonleh also means that the very underrated Jason Thompson can be used as trade bait. A speculative trade could see something like Thompson being sent to Charlotte in exchange for a pick or Gerald Henderson, with the Hornets still able to select a wing at No. 9.
The issue with drafting Vonleh is that the Kings very much want to build a fastbreak team and while Vonleh's athletic, he's not exactly a burst of lightning. They have some options for flat-out speed at No. 8.
Draft Julius Randle: Randle's looking more and more likely to be available on account of a foot injury that surfaced this week which will reportedly keep him out two months. There's an argument to be made that Randle and Cousins are redundant, if the foot injury's not a concern. But Randle can handle the ball from the drive and with development, could be great at the elbow. The two would bully inside and Cousins' wingspan makes up for Randle's. It would pair two very good post scorers and the Kentucky connection could build some chemistry for a guy in Cousins who's um, difficult to connect with at time.
But the Kings have needs elsewhere, and while Randle can be a beast in transition, he's not lightning fast. They may have to look elsewhere as they continue trying to build.
Draft Aaron Gordon: This is certainly interesting. Gordon is physically a lot like Rudy Gay, who the Kings reportedly desperately want to keep. Gay is 6-8, Gordon 6-8.75. But Gay has a significantly longer wingspan, over three inches longer according to combine measurements. Yet Gay typically plays small forward, while Gordon is thought of in some circles as a four. In reality, the Shawn Marion comparisons for Gordon show that he can play either. And if that's the case, there's value in putting the two together. Gordon, as he develops, can take the tougher defensive assignment while allowing Gay to rest on whoever the weaker opponent is, saving his strength for the offensive end and allowing him to play free safety a bit.
Additionally, Gordon definitely fits the mold of the fast team the Kings want to be, able to get up and down the floor quickly to attack. The point guard situation is unresolved but if they land a good pick and roll point guard, Gordon could work really well in those sets with Gay spacing the floor and Cousins attacking the glass.
Honestly, their best scenario is to draft Gordon, and sign-and-trade Gay for assets, which would help them tremendously. Gordon figures to be a role player who plays defense, rebounds, and finishes in transition. You're going to get a lot more bang for your buck for a player like that than an isolation-centric combo forward who's not a prolific shooter.
Draft Dario Saric: This fits better than most teams for Saric. They could use another offensive creator and Saric can do that from the wing. He's 6-10 with ball-handling skills so you can put him in pick and rolls from the power forward spot with Cousins. He's athletic in transition so he meets their team concept. He's likely to be available here and you can play him with Gay in frontcourts or even go smallball with him at center.
But he's also not refined in any determined way. There's a lot to be desired from him defensively and there's some uncertainty for how his game will translate from Europe here. It's a high upside pick, but they also need to absolutely nail this one. It's complicated.
Draft Doug McDermott: As badly as the Jimmer Fredette reach went for them, McDermott's not at all the same player. If you think he's too small to play four, you can put him at three, and use him as a bench scorer behind Gay. If you think he can play four, you can pair him with Cousins and all of a sudden you've got a stretch four combined with Cousins' brutality. He's a lethally efficient shooter and a high-character leader, something that they could use unbelievably badly. Cousins might take to McDermott's overwhelming positive attitude well. Or he could punch him. It's Cousins, there's no way to know.
If they do take him, moving Thompson's an option again, as well as Derrick Williams. The good news is you might be able to get away with him playing four on defense if you pair him with Gay.
Draft Marcus Smart: Smart is bull-headed, strong as an ox, and can score with high proficiency. The Kings reportedly don't want to break the bank for Isaiah Thomas. If that's the case, Smart provides them with a fast, aggressive scorer they can put in immediately. Smart's decision making is a question mark... but then again this is the Kings we're talking about here.
Smart's a leader, and that's something the Kings need. And he's fast as lightning. His defensive upside is probably what's best for the Kings here. With him on the perimeter, Gay on the wing, and Cousins down low, that team could pull an ocean liner over their shoulders; it's just an insane amount of strength. Will Smart absolutely be better than Thomas? No, but you can also draft Smart and use that as leverage to try and re-sign Thomas for less. A Thomas-Smart pairing is actually a really interesting idea.
Draft Tyler Ennis: This would be a reachy-reach-reach, but if they're serious about not committing to Thomas, it's also not a bad plan. Ennis can shoot, run the offense, and is 6-2. You'll eventually want a sharpshooter on the outside, but it does give you a polished, smart point guard who can run pick and rolls.
Draft Clint Capela: I'm way higher on most than Capela. He's just freakishly athletic. 6-11 with a 7-4 wingspan and he's got great mobility. Put him next to Cousins and watch the swats pile up. Let him loose to finish up transition plays with putbacks. Work with him to refine his skillset and you've got something that could look a lot like Serge Ibaka. This is a reach, but it's one I wouldn't mind them taking.
Draft Gary Harris: Another reach, but then, Harris is the best pure shooter in the lottery. They need someone to space the floor, and Harris fills that role immediately. He's plug and play, needing very little in the way of adjustment. They took Ben McLemore last year. This pick would basically mean you're putting the two of them in a hunger games scenario. One of them is going to maximize their potential. The other one's going to be a bench guy.
Draft James Young: Young's the best wing on the board and has a lot of the skills they need... if they let Rudy Gay go. That's what this comes down to. You don't need Rudy Gay and Derrick Williams and James Young. But I wanted to include this one since it gets them a guy who is likely to be a solid role player. There's very little risk with Young. He'll be who he is, or better.
Draft Adreian Payne: A monster inside who can also shoot threes. Terrific leadership and mental toughness, and a smart basketball player who has played inside of a strong system and been in big games. Payne has limited upside due to his age, but he's also not going to put up with Cousins' nonsense, which could be a good thing. And the two would be absolutely terrifying inside. This is a bold pick, but the franchise could use one.
Trade up: Gay's free agency makes a trade impossible. However, some combination of second-round picks, Jason Thompson, and the No. 8 could maybe get them in position to draft Exum. Exum replaces Thomas and gives them a playmaker who can get up and down the floor. If they're willing to move multiple assets, they might be able to find someone like Boston or Utah who would be OK with trading down to take Vonleh or McDermott in exchange for multiple players. If the Celtics are sold on Marcus Smart, for instance, there's a good chance he's still there at No. 8. Moving up for any player but Exum seems unwise since their odds of getting into the top three are essentially zero.
That is, unless the Cavs would be open to a conversation about DeMarcus Cousins for the No. 1.
Trade down: You can move down and still get an impact player, particularly Young or Payne. The Bulls reportedly want to move up and are offering two picks. Would No. 8 for 16 and 19 peak Sacramento's interest? They could likely get Rodney Hood and a power forward in one of those spots. Nik Stauskas might even still be available if the Bulls don't take him. And Zach LaVine could very well be there at either spot. It's something to consider.
Trade for a vet: They're into this idea. Vivek Ranadive wants to get better now. To do so, he needs impact guys. They could package the No. 8, Jason Thompson, Derrick Williams, and Ben McLemore, and make an impressive swing towards a veteran. But Kevin Love isn't staying. There's point in broaching that. If the Cavs take Joel Embiid No. 1, the Kings should probably talk to Cleveland about either Tristan Thompson or Anderson Varejao. Thaddeus Young should probably be on their radar, as should David Lee.
But I'd warn against this. Sacramento needs to be patient with the rebuild. Forcing the issue is only going to make things worse.