On the list of things NBA players don’t want to do, playing in Sacramento has to be close to No. 1, right? When Ben Simmons presented Philly with his platter of preferred trade destinations, an exec said he wanted to go to one of the three California teams, which was either an oversight because there are four NBA teams in California, or a Freudian slip because Sacramento’s own fans have nicknamed the Kings “basketball hell.”
So I’m going to need a ruling on if the underworld of the NBA counts as part of California, or if it has its own independent designation like Luxembourg.
The latest basketball player to show an aversion to Sacramento is projected top five NBA Draft prospect Jaden Ivey, who some mock drafts have going at No. 4 to the Kings. When asked about the potential landing spot, the former Purdue star gave a meandering response featuring all the enthusiasm of a child being taken to the mall parking lot carnival over Six Flags.
“I haven’t been in contact with them, didn’t work out for them. I’m kinda just letting this process just handle itself. If I got drafted there, it wouldn’t be the worst option. I’m not the GM who picks the guys so I’m kinda just trying to enjoy this process and whatever happens on draft night, I’m just going to stick with it.”
Saying it “wouldn’t be the worst option” is the same as saying “I guess we can eat a frozen pizza” after being promised a pie from your favorite delivery spot. Frozen pizza actually might be a more apt description of playing NBA basketball in Sacramento. Making millions off of a sport, like pizza, is never bad. However, there are different tiers of pizza/NBA teams, and that foldable fresh slice of pepperoni piping hot from an industrial kiln is not the same as a Totino’s Party Pizza from the toaster oven in the break room.
The other issue with drafting Ivey is how he fits in with Davion Mitchell or De’Aaron Fox. Tyrese Haliburton was the odd man out a season ago, being traded to Indiana for Domantas Sabonis at the deadline. Bringing in the big man was a better fit for the roster, and if the plan is to trade promising guards for proven positional needs, it’s not the worst approach the Kings have tried.
While I agree that the front office should take the best player available that high up in the draft, there has to be more foresight than just bringing in a replacement for Mitchell or Fox. Cycling through guards until one pops is like trying to crack a pass code by starting at “0000” and working up through “9999.” By the time you figure it out, the bomb has already detonated. Why not skip the waiting period and make a move?
There have been rumors of the Kings shopping the pick around to trade down, which I feel like is a deal too complicated for them to pull off. I’m also not sure trading the fourth pick will net the kind of player they need. Ivey could be that kind of key addition for another franchise. It’s just drafting a player who could get you someone in the future that the fourth pick can’t get you now is where the universe splits between genius and insanity.
That’s why I think Ivey should brace himself for draft night and at least somewhat mentally prepare for a year or three in NBA purgatory. It’s a simple move but more importantly it’s one that keeps the team’s playoff-less streak alive.
The only thing I’m confident of with the Kings is their ability to self-sabotage. The organization is unlike any I’ve seen when it comes to finding ways to squander talent and draft picks. You could give them the answers to Jeopardy, and they’d fail to answer in the form of a question.
They hired Mike Brown as their new head coach, a choice with all the creativity of an auditor. Is he really the guy who’s going to meld Mitchell, Fox, Sabonis, a lottery pick, and a bunch of meh players into a unit capable of making the play-in games let alone the playoffs? Uhhhh… what is “no”?
Shitty frozen pizza, basketball hell, not California — whatever you want to call the Kings, there’s not a lot of reasons to blame a prospect for being indifferent at the thought of starting his career with a franchise that was last in the playoffs when he was 3 years old.
Best of luck, Jaden and Kings fans.