Analysis: Three realistic options for the Kings in the upcoming draft

With less than 10 games remaining in the season, the decision for bottom tier NBA teams to tank is at an all-time high. Potentially being the best draft class in a decade, the 2017 NBA draft is lingering around the corner and NBA General Managers are well aware of its existence.

The top prospects are set and scouts have already made their judgments based on the NCAA regular season, NCAA tournament and overseas play. And a team with the potential to draft two players in the top ten is the Sacramento Kings.

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The 2017 draft may be deemed as being top heavy with potential superstar guard talent, making it that much more important for GM’s to do everything in their power to rest players in order to secure a solid draft pick.

Considering the shift in scoring at the guard spot along with NBA scoring averages over the last four years, drafting a scoring savvy guard could lift a franchise out of the depths of mediocrity.

The need for scoring is at an all time in the NBA as players have joined forces to create “super teams,” making it almost unrealistic for a bottom tier NBA team to rise quickly from the ashes.

Since the 2009 draft, the Kings have drafted seven guards with three of those guards being drafted in the top eight: Tyreke Evans, Ben McLemore, and Nik Stauskas.

If there is a team in need of a scoring guard or wing, it is the Sacramento Kings.

Along with the need for a guard, the Kings are on the lookout for a wing scorer or a stretch four. Despite the overload of guards in the draft, the option of drafting a three or four is very high towards the later top ten.

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Currently, Sacramento potentially has two picks in the top ten ranging from (5th-10th).

One of those picks coming from their own placement and the other via the New Orleans Pelicans (DeMarcus Cousins trade).

Top Three Available picks for the Kings in the First Round

1. Jayson Tatum 6-8, 205 lbs, SF, Fr. DUKE

In the early part of the NCAA season, Mike Krzyzewski held back on the reigns of Tatum while he floated around the mid first round in multiple draft boards. It was not until around the midway point of this year that he unleashed his skill set and satisfied many scouts around the league. Tatum had a remarkable ACC Tournament as he averaged 22 points leading Duke to an ACC Tournament Championship. Tatum finished the season at Duke averaging 16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists.

Tatum is most comparable to Danny Granger or to Rudy Gay. He has the ability to defend at both the three and four spots while being mobile in doing so. Offensively, Tatum brings an extended range, high post shooting threat and mobility on the pick and pop or the screen and roll.

Tatum’s most valuable asset is his ball handling ability for his size. Being able to take on multiple opponents at his size offers him the advantage of getting to the rim with ease and drawing contact. Tatum’s game is viewed as un-cringe-worthy as multiple players his size are sometimes not well acclimated with a ball handling repertoire.

Tatum seems like the right fit for the Kings. With Gay potentially on his way out, Tatum could be a decent backup plan.

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2. Frank Ntilikina 6-5, 190 lbs, PG, 17 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 the age of 18 years old, Ntilikina has maturity that is unmatched at his age to go 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 has drifted away in today’s NBA. Not only can Ntilikina pass with ease, he is dangerous off the pick and roll. With an evolving three point shot, he can hit the consistent mid-range jumper and is very patient in watching the play develop.

Ntilikina is most comparable to Dante Exum or Dennis Schroder. The most productive 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 skills 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 George 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.

3. Malik Monk 6-3, 200 lbs, SG, Fr. Kentucky

Monk is highly considered as the most dominant shooting guard in the draft with a three point shot that he can create at any time. Monk led the Kentucky Wildcats in scoring averaging 19.8 points while shooting 45 percent from the field and a near 40 percent from beyond the arc. With great awareness upon catching the ball, Monk is able to elevate over his defender on switches/ screens and on driving pull-ups leaning towards the basket.

Monk can be compared to Jamal Crawford as he can easily get the shot he wants. He has great lateral quickness and is considered as one of the more shifty players in this draft.

Judging by his offensive skill set and his ability to get to the line, Monk could easily average the most points out of this years draft class. It’s very easy to see that Monk wants the ball in his hands at crucial moments in games and doesn’t shy away from being aggressive despite being undersized.

What sets Monk’s game apart from other shooting guards is that he is deceivingly athletic with an ability to float around the rim with ease. The downfall in drafting Monk is how well will he be able to defend the much bigger two guards at the NBA level.

Upon receiving Hield via the Cousins trade, Monk was glooming around the boards as being one of the potential selections for the Kings at the shooting guard spot. Even though the Kings have a starter in Hield for next season, Sacramento should continue to develop their guard play and focus on bulking up their 3-point threats.

It seems as if the trend for impactful sleeper picks have come in the second round of the NBA draft over the last couple of years and the Kings should have two potential early second round selections.

Drafting a stretch four or big man that will fit well within the rotation is what NBA coaches and GM’s count on when they take the plunge on second rounder’s. If a second rounder has the potential in being that high energy, rebounding force that can decide games, NBA GM’s will be more inclined on taking players of that caliber.

Two early second rounder’s to keep an eye out for:

1. Cameron Oliver 6-8, 235 lbs, PF, So. Nevada

Oliver has the ability to be a more athletic Patrick Patterson. Having the skill set to stretch the floor with his shooting stroke and bang around the rim gives Oliver the what if factor. With proper coaching, Oliver has a chance to be a starting four in this league, as he is more athletic than the majority of stretch fours in the NBA today.

Oliver averaged 16 points along with 8.7 rebounds to finish out his sophomore season at Nevada. Oliver led Nevada to a MWC regular season title, MWC championship and NCAA Bid.

2. Jordan Bell, 6-8, 225 lbs, PF/C, Junior Oregon

Being an undersized big man, Bell has found a way to contribute in Oregon’s run to the Final Four. Bell’s offensive game is not up to par at where it should be at his position but the defensive value is there.

Bell can be easily compared to Tristan Thompson as he has a knack for the offensive rebound. Drafting a game changing offensive rebounding big man in Bell could alter momentum in games for opposing teams and create driver insecurity, as he floats around the rim quite frequently to block or alter shots.

The Kings specific draft needs are still a question but the rebuilding process of the organization is now in full motion since the Cousins departure. Judging by the Kings’ drafting decisions in the last couple of years, Vlade Divac will have to draft at least one star in the draft to save his job moving forward.

It sounds like a broken record but maybe with the change of culture within the organization, the sky is the limit on draft night.

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Manny Vieites
Special Contributor to Cowbell Kingdom

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