The Sacramento Kings—who won 32 games and traded their franchise center for what essentially amounts to a pair of rookies—face a crucial summer. The team will be very bad next year, although they have a pair of first-round picks in this year’s draft to develop. Thanks to a disastrous trade with Philadelphia a few summers ago, they have the fifth pick instead of the third, and they also owe their 2019 pick to Philly, which means they have three first-round picks over the next two years to build their team around and a fairly definitive date by which they want to start winning games.
The team has a few players who look like keepers (Skal Labissiere and Buddy Hield), but the cupboard will be incredibly bare next year. Rudy Gay is probably gone, and Darren Collison, Tyreke Evans, and Ty Lawson are all unrestricted free agents, which means the team’s returning veterans will be deeply average dudes like Kosta Koufos and Arron Afflalo. It’s hard to see them convincing any free agents of consequence to sign in Sacramento, since the team sucks and the city is thoroughly unglamorous.
Thankfully, the upcoming draft looks like it has a very deep pool of players. Scan any of the more credible mock drafts and a rough consensus emerges. Markelle Fultz will go to the Celtics at the top of the draft, while the Lakers will take Lonzo Ball (L.A. is looking at other prospects, but Ball still seems like the most likely guy at two.) After those two get drafted, the intrigue starts. Philly has the third pick, Phoenix is at four, and the Kings pick fifth. It’s unclear in what order Josh Jackson, De’Aaron Fox, and Jayson Tatum will be picked, but the consensus has them going at three, four, and five. If for some reason Lonzo Ball slips to three, Philly will pick him instantly.
According to Chad Ford and the Sacramento Bee, the Kings are set on Fox, the quick and tenacious point guard out of Kentucky who owned UCLA in the NCAA tournament. So set, in fact, that they may consider packaging the fifth pick and the tenth pick (which they got for Cousins) to trade up with Philly to ensure they can get him.
There’s talk inside the organization about combining picks Nos. 5 and 10 to move up in the draft to secure Fox. If they found a taker, that would be a high price to pay to move up two to three spots.
And here’s Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey today:
We’ve heard this countless times before, but league sources keep saying the Sacramento Kings are seriously considering packaging picks No. 5 and 10 in a trade for the 76ers’ No. 3 in the June 22 draft.
Fox fits well with the Kings’ desire to run and he seems like the sort of two-way player they desperately need. However, trading up to three to get him would be moronic. The most likely scenario right now would be Josh Jackson getting picked up by the Sixers at three, Tatum going to the Suns, and Fox landing with the Kings anyway. The Sixers and Suns could both use Fox, but regardless of how the top-5 sorts itself out, Sacramento will get one of the three prospects and any one of them would be a good fit. Fox is smart and relentless, but he’s not the sort of can’t-miss player you mortgage the farm to pick up. The Kings have no small forwards at all right now, and Tatum is a natural scorer while Jackson is a spectacular athlete.
No matter who lands at five, the 10th pick is also a more valuable asset than usual. NBA scouts and execs agree that the 2017 draft is incredibly deep, with eight prospects in “Tier 2” (after Fultz and Ball), which is, per Ford, “reserved for players with All-Star potential.” This doesn’t inject any degree of certainty into the proceedings, and lord knows the Kings have had their share of draft fuckups, but it’s a worthwhile indicator that the Kings are bound to land two potentially very good players. They sit at the bottom of a three-man vortex and another one at 10. If they sit tight, they can pick whoever of Fox/Tatum/Jackson falls to them, and whoever falls in the next group (probably Lauri Markkanen, Frank Ntilikina, or Dennis Smith). Five and 10 are the easiest possible draft slots, so of course the notoriously trigger-happy Kings are thinking of overacting.
The team has needs at every position, and they could easily snag a point guard and a forward, depending how the draft shakes out. The Kings need many good players because they are so barren, and two cracks at developing a star is better than one, even if they get the player they truly want. There’s no need to get owned by Philadelphia again.