The worry about the 23rd pick in the draft started to come about when the Portland Trailblazers leapfrogged the Kings by trading three picks to the Mavericks in order to move from the 24th pick in the first round to the 22nd pick. It was widely rumored that they did this in order to take Omri Casspi before the Kings could add him to their franchise. When the 22nd pick came up in the draft, there was a certain malaise throughout the minds of the Kings fans I was around and in contact with as they assumed PDX would screw over the franchise in the draft. But that didn’t happen. Surprisingly, the Blazers drafted Victor Claver out of Spain to be their international small forward of the future.
And that left the Kings with plenty of options considering how the night was playing out. They could go with Casspi, whom they loved in the workouts and pre-draft interviews. There were interesting players like Toney Douglas and Wayne Ellington on the board to add to the depth of the backcourt. They could have grabbed a proven commodity with the 24-year old Sam Young, who probably won’t get much better than he is now but can definitely add some consistent scoring off the bench at the small forward position. DeJuan Blair was still on the board due to issues with his knees (they’re shredded like barbacoa) but he would have brought some much-needed toughness to the frontcourt along with one of the best rebounding motors in the draft.
But instead they stuck with Omri Casspi as the guy. He was probably the guy all along. Casspi is a wonderful kid who is one of the trailblazers (not in the NBA team sense) in this draft. Along with Hasheem Thabeet (first Tanzanian), he is the first person representing his native country in the NBA. He’ll be the first Israeli born player in the NBA as he’ll come over to join the team right away, instead of waiting a couple of years in European play. He’ll add to the toughness mentioned in the Tyreke Evans analysis that this team has been desperate for. He reminds me of Matt Harpring, only he’s never been an American football player and he’s not quite the shooter that Matt is.
Casspi has a questionable jump shot and limited range on said-jump shot. But he’s a classic slasher at the small forward position who does a great job of getting to the basket and moving without the basketball. He’s a strong finisher around the basket and has the body control of Rudy Fernandez when trying to score around the hoop. He’s a staunch defender as well who is plenty physical with his opponents. His rebounding skills and instincts are also solid.
So the question is where does he fit in with the roster and depth chart? Some are concerned that this could stunt the growth of Donte Greene by creating a logjam at the position. First off, Omri Casspi is not going to play right away and will probably log the majority of his time on the bench. He’ll be asked to learn from Andres Nocioni and be a sponge as he figures out the NBA game and culture. As for him possibly stunting the growth of Donte Greene? I say that’s potentially a good thing. Having two young players at the same position, fighting for the same minutes will push the right player to the forefront. If Donte can’t handle the competition with Casspi for minutes then you don’t want him on the roster anyway (and vice-versa for Omri). If Donte is going to be come the player that Kings fans hope he will, then he’ll have no problem bettering his game and proving that he deserves to be the starting small forward of the future in Sacramento.