If they fall: Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart and Joel Embiid
With the draft later on today, the Sacramento Kings are primed to make a big splash. They have been actively fielding offers for the eighth overall pick, but blockbuster draft-day trades rarely come to fruition. There is talent at No. 8, but there is also uncertainty. Whom do the Kings like? Who will make it all the way to down to eight when the Kings are on the clock? And lastly, if someone tumbles in the draft, will Pete D’Alessandro forgo his trade plans and jump on a player the Kings thought would be out of their range?
The top two are set. Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker will both be off the board when the Philadelphia 76ers step to the stage with the third overall pick. Outside of those two, there are talented players that can go anywhere from three to eight.
The game we’re playing today is easy. Yesterday, it was Dante Exum, Noah Vonleh and Julius Randle. Today, we take on the remaining group of players worthy of a top-eight selection. Would the Kings take these prospects if they fell and how would they fit in with the team that Sacramento is building?
What if Aaron Gordon falls to the Kings?
Jonathan Santiago: Take him. Gordon, to me, fits the criteria for best player available, as well as best fit for the Kings. They need to shore up their defense, and Gordon brings exactly that to any team that considers selecting him with its pick. He blocks shots, guards multiple positions, passes pretty well for his position and is incredibly athletic, which is something that isn’t lost on general manager Pete D’Alessandro. On a team that has Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins and potentially Isaiah Thomas in the fold next year, Gordon would still be able to make an impact because he doesn’t need to score to be effective.
James Ham: Where Randle is a questionable fit next to Cousins and Gay, Gordon is perfect. The high-energy super-athlete out of Arizona reminds me of a young Dennis Rodman. He may never be that type of rebounder, but he will dominate on the defensive end at the NBA level. He doesn’t need the ball to score and he will fill the stat sheet in a way that works for the Sacramento Kings. Keep the pick.
What if Marcus Smart falls to the Kings?
JS: I would trade the pick if Smart is the best player available. I’m not completely sold on his upside considering he didn’t improve a whole lot in his second season with the Cowboys. At 227 pounds, he’d definitely be a matchup nightmare for opposing point guards and would be able to defend multiple positions. But is he the playmaking point guard the Kings need? I don’t see it. I think both James and I agree that he’s basically a player in the same mold of Tyreke Evans, minus the handles and shiftiness. But if we were drafting for the San Francisco 49ers or Oakland Raiders, I’d happily take him to play middle linebacker.
JH: Smart plays defense and is a leader, but he isn’t a pass-first point guard and he struggles mightily from the perimeter. Sacramento already had this player in Tyreke Evans and the Kings let him move on to New Orleans. It can’t always be about fit, but I have a hard time seeing a lineup with Smart, McLemore, Gay and Cousins working out in the Kings’ favor. He will have a strong career, but I’d deal the pick.
What if Joel Embiid falls to the Kings?
JS: I would definitely shop the pick and see what I can get. But if I’m not getting a proven player with perhaps an All-Star track record, I’d gladly take Embiid. As I’ve mentioned before, the foot injury worries me because other centers like Yao Ming, Bill Walton and Zydrunas Ilguaskas battled health issues throughout their careers due to problems with their navicular bone. However, Embiid has tremendous upside and improved dramatically on a month-to-month basis in just one season at Kansas. He definitely could be a game-changer at the center position and he would fit well next to DeMarcus Cousins, who could easily slide over to power forward to make room for the 20-year-old big man.
JH: A healthy Joel Embiid has Hall of Fame potential. But no one likes a big man with back and ankle problems. If the Kings were drafting in the top five of this draft, I would probably pass on the center out of Kansas. But at No. 8, it’s a no-brainer. There isn’t a trade that you can make that would bring more potential to the Kings. If he is the next Greg Oden, so be it. If he is the next Hakeem Olajuwon, then Pete D’Alessandro goes down as a complete genius. You have to risk something to get something. Draft Embiid and pray that you have the next Duncan-Robinson tandem.