Analysis: Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. should be on Sacramento’s radar

As the NBA moves along with the trend of dominant scoring point guards, the Sacramento Kings have remained stagnant in its search for a point guard that has star qualities.

Now that the regular season has ended, the Kings are currently seeking a new sought out point guard to continue the rebuilding process. They can potentially lose Darren Collison and Ty Lawson to free agency, which would put that much more pressure on them to draft a solid point guard in the upcoming draft who can contribute right off the bat.

Since drafting Tyreke Evans in 2009, Sacramento has yet to make an aggressive move in locking in a point guard in the draft. Seven drafts later and after passing on the likes of Kemba Walker (2011), Damian Lillard (2012) and CJ McCollum (2013), the 2017 NBA draft is not one that the Kings can take lightly.

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The upcoming draft gives the Sacramento Kings the opportunity to find new success at a position that has been often overlooked by the franchise for years. By adding a young willing point guard to an organization searching for answers, it could provide sustainability for a franchise still in search of a leader.

More often than not, the point guard of a team ranging from AAU basketball to the NCAA sets the tone of the organization and exemplifies the leadership characteristics needed to lead a group effectively.

Sometimes there are perimeter scorers that can fill in the leadership role and even a few bigs, but for a franchise that has dealt with a big being the overruling factor for six years, a point guard must be drafted.

The New Orleans Pelicans first round pick that was received in the DeMarcus Cousins trade can turn out to be gold in the upcoming draft. Projected to have their own pick at eight and the Pelicans’ pick at 10, the Kings are in a position to draft some fresh and exciting talent at the point guard position.

Unfortunately, by the time Sacramento gets to select a player, the likes of Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox will most likely not be available. But deep in the top then there are two guys that are more than capable of stealing the show. Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr.

Frank Ntilikina 6-5, 190 lbs, PG, 18 years old, France

Ntilikina is without a question the best available second tier point guard available in the later top ten of the draft. At 18-years-old, Ntilikina has maturity that is unmatched at his age to along with his high basketball IQ. The most lucrative asset of Ntilikina’s game is his size and how he is able to use it at his position.

He has a pass first mentality that for the most part has drifted away from the traditional point guard style of play in today’s NBA. Not only can Ntilikina pass with ease, he is dangerous off the pick and roll. With an evolving 3-point shot, he can hit the consistent mid range jumper and is very patient in watching the play develop.

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Ntilikina is most comparable to Dante Exum or Dennis Schroder. The best part of his game is his defensive ability. Ntilikina’s lengthy frame allows him to give his opponent space while not allowing him to drive efficiently or put up an easy shot without a decent contest. His pickpocketing skill is what will propel him above other young guards in the league.

Drafting Ntilikina would take the stress off the Kings to find their future point guard. As of now, Sacramento is developing multiple big men in Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and Georgios Papagiannis along with shooting guard Buddy Hield and Malachi Richardson. Adding a young point guard worth shaping in Ntilikina could serve as a beneficial asset to the organization considering his size, age and high basketball IQ.

Dennis Smith Jr. 6-3, 195 lbs, PG, 19 years old, NC State

Out of all of the available point guards in the top ten, Dennis Smith Jr. is easily the most athletic out of the bunch. With lighting quick skills at his size, Smith can be compared to a young Baron Davis.

Aside from his ability to play above the rim, Smith’s greatest qualities are his leadership and passing. Smith is a willing passer that can set his teammates up very well through screen and rolls.

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When the ball is in Smith’s possession, he has the capability to make his teammates better. On the other hand, when the ball is not in Smith’s hands, he tends to be very idle. Smith is a great finisher around the rim and is not scared of contact. He has great size for his body type and plays bigger than his actual size.

Smith is coming off a torn ACL, which caused him to miss his senior season in high school. Despite being injury prone, Smith emerged as one the best point guards in the NCAA his freshman year at NC State. Smith averaged 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists.

Defense is a strong suit in Smith’s game. He is an aggressive defender around the perimeter. By defending around the three-point line, Smith thrives in transition and works very well in a fast pace environment.

Implementing a young, run and gun, and well-rounded point guard in Smith, it would give the Kings the best of both worlds. Smith can help the young Kings core, as they are all more than capable of playing up-tempo.

Smith’s biggest downfall is his shooting. Although he is able to get to the rim with ease, Smith has trouble beyond the arc as he shot 35 percent from deep at NC State. An improved free throw shooter and mid range shooter, Smith, like other upcoming NBA players, has more than enough time to expand his game.

With the NBA draft just a couple months away, look out for these two upcoming rookies. Become acclimated with their style of play because the probability of the Kings selecting one of the two becomes more and more realistic as the clock continues to tick on Lawson and Collison’s contract.

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Manny Vieites
Special Contributor to Cowbell Kingdom

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