There's a strong sentiment around the league that the 2022 NBA Draft begins with the fourth selection. While the exact order is still to be determined, the entire draft process has implied a separation between Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero and the rest of the draft field. The Magic, Thunder and Rockets are expected to take one each. And then? We really don't know what happens next.
The broad assumption is that Purdue point guard Jaden Ivey will be the No. 4 overall pick. He has widely been considered the fourth-best prospect in the class, but the team picking fourth is perhaps the worst fit for him on the board. The Sacramento Kings have a point guard in De'Aaron Fox. They used a lottery pick on Davion Mitchell last offseason. For his part, Ivey doesn't seem especially enthused about becoming a King. "I haven't been in contact with them, didn't work out for them. I'm kind of just letting this process handle itself," Ivey told reporters earlier in the week. "If I got drafted there, it wouldn't be the worst option. I can't pick."
The Kings might pick Ivey anyway, but we know they're fairly sensitive to the desires of draft prospects. Rumors suggested that Marvin Bagley III's interest in playing in Sacramento contributed to his selection over Luka Doncic in 2018. If the Kings aren't sold on him, there fortunately appear to be a number of teams that are. Multiple reports have suggested that the Kings are open to dealing the selection, so let's cover five possible deals for the most coveted selection in the 2022 NBA Draft.
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- Kings receive: Isaiah Stewart, No. 5 overall pick, No. 46 overall pick, 2024 second-round pick (via Washington or Memphis)
- Pistons receive: No. 4 overall pick
Remember Ivey's tepid words about Sacramento? He seemed a bit more enthused about Detroit. "I would love to go anywhere, but Detroit, my mom [Notre Dame head women's basketball coach Niele Ivey] played for the Detroit Shock in the WNBA," Ivey said. "I've lived in the area and I know what it's like." Without knowing Sacramento's targets in a trade down, we can also say that the Pistons sitting at No. 5 does give them a distinct advantage in these discussions because Keegan Murray, the versatile forward out of Iowa, is the best fit on the board for Sacramento. Moving any lower than No. 5 risks Murray becoming a Piston.
The problem Detroit is facing here is that it has very little else to offer Sacramento. The Pistons technically cannot trade a first-round pick until 2029 because of the protections on a pick currently owed to Oklahoma City. Their roster lacks the sort of win-now veterans the Kings, desperate to reach the playoffs, would probably like. The Kings would surely love to swipe Saddiq Bey in a deal, but he's probably too valuable to justify sacrificing to jump only a single spot. So that leaves us with Detroit's leftovers. Stewart is a young, starting-caliber center on a team that looks poised to chase DeAndre Ayton. Extra picks are always nice. But overall, this isn't an especially exciting option for Sacramento.
- Kings receive: Malcolm Brogdon, No. 6 overall pick
- Pacers receive: Richaun Holmes, Justin Holiday, No. 4 overall pick
Here's where things get more interesting. The Pacers are shopping Brogdon in an effort to hand their backcourt over to Tyrese Haliburton, and he'd be an absolutely perfect fit next to De'Aaron Fox. Where Fox is bold and lightning fast, Brogdon is a more measured alternative, relying on his steady shooting and ball-handling craft to generate offense. The two would mesh quite well in that respect, and Brogdon obviously has experience with Domantas Sabonis already from their time together in Indiana.
This is a simple, win-now trade for the Kings. They'd still be in position to either land Murray at No. 6 or take a longer-term project like Shaedon Sharpe as an eventual replacement for Brogdon. Indiana, in turn, gets to swipe Ivey as a partner for Haliburton. Add in the fact that Ivey played collegiately in the state of Indiana at Purdue and the Pacers could win some extra fan support with this move. Maybe the Kings would need a bit more value here, but the raw construction makes sense for both sides.
- Kings receive: Kyle Kuzma, No. 10 overall pick
- Wizards receive: Justin Holiday, No. 4 overall pick
There's no need to speculate on Sacramento's interest in Kuzma. They very nearly acquired him before the 2021 NBA Draft. The Lakers were set to send Kuzma to the Kings in a package for Buddy Hield before Russell Westbrook got in the way. The same traits that intrigued the Kings a year ago should appeal to them now. Kuzma is coming off his best professional season. He averaged a fairly efficient 17.1 points per game in Washington to go along with his steadily improving defense and 8.5 rebounds. That's a valuable starting forward.
Washington, meanwhile, gets the long-term backcourt partner for Bradley Beal it has craved since John Wall started getting hurt. The Wizards missed on Westbrook and Spencer Dinwiddie, but in Ivey they'd get a point guard whose playmaking upside and athleticism should be a breath of fresh air next to Beal. This is another deal that would likely require a bit more draft compensation on Washington's end, but it lands the Kings a relatively young player at a position of need. That's the best of both worlds for Sacramento.
- Kings receive: Julius Randle, No. 11 overall pick, 2023 Dallas Mavericks' first-round pick (top-10 protected)
- Knicks receive: Richaun Holmes, Justin Holiday, No. 4 overall pick
It might surprise you to hear this, but it's pretty hard to get established All-NBA players to willingly play in Sacramento. If the Kings want to get one, they'll have to be willing to swallow some degree of risk. Julius Randle carries several risks. His shooting regressed to the mean last season when fans returned to arenas, making him a dubious fit next to Sabonis and Fox. His defense has been up and down for his entire career. Even his attitude last season was an issue in New York. But Randle was an All-NBA player at a position of need for the Kings one season ago. If they think that player is still in there, this might be a trade that interests them. It's also entirely possible that they view Randle, owed $117 million over the next few years, as a negative asset.
We aren't quite sure how the Knicks view Randle right now, either, but it should be noted that they have a readymade replacement in Obi Toppin. There was some reporting at the deadline about a possible swap of Randle for Fox, but it is unclear how far those talks ever got. What we do know is that the Knicks are desperate to land a point guard. They've been linked to every available starter under the sun. Ivey is their best long-term play, and you can bet they're exploring every reasonable avenue to acquiring him.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
- Kings receive: No. 12 overall pick, No. 34 overall pick, 2023 Denver Nuggets' first-round pick (top-14 protected), 2024 Los Angeles Clippers first-round pick (unprotected), 2027 Denver Nuggets' first-round pick (top-five protected)
- Thunder receive: No. 4 overall pick
The Thunder are in a wholly unique position here. They have 18 first-round picks to trade over the next seven years. They are capable of trading for practically any player or pick in basketball with the exception of a few MVP candidates. If they want Ivey badly enough, they'll get him. But that's what makes constructing a trade offer so difficult. If they want him badly enough to give up, say, six or seven first-round picks, they'd probably just take him at No. 2.
So here's a middle ground. The Kings move down eight spots. In exchange, they pick up a high second-rounder that could probably net a playable rookie next season. They get one highly coveted unprotected pick, and along with it comes two more modest protected ones. That's four first-rounders and a second-rounder for Ivey. Even if the Kings are dead set on landing veteran help, it wouldn't be hard to flip those chips to other sellers. If the Kings aren't sold on Ivey, Oklahoma City undoubtedly has the most value to offer. It's just a matter of how far it's willing to go to add yet another ball-handler to its crowded young core.