Sunday Musings: A Kings draft-day deal wouldn’t be a surprise

Pete D'Alessandro sits courtside with Kings owners Vivek Ranadivé and Raj Bhathal. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

The NBA Draft is almost here.  A group of young men have been poked and prodded.  Strategies have been formed by every NBA team with contingency plans for every possible scenario.  It is an event that truly marks the beginning of the new basketball season and kicks off the NBA’s summer festivities.

But is the draft all that it’s cracked up to be?

The answer is no, the draft is the biggest crapshoot for every professional sport and maybe even more so in the NBA.  You can measure a player’s height and wingspan, but you have no way of measuring their heart or how they will develop once they are paid millions.

Take the 2013 NBA Draft, for instance.  The Cleveland Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett with the first overall selection and the 20-year-old forward posted -.4 win shares on the season, which tied him for second-worst out of the 60 players drafted.  Bennett’s 6.7 PER was fourth-worst in the league for a player with more than 600 minutes of action.  But he’s young and has time to turn things around.

Last season’s draft has the potential to become one of the all-time worst, but it’s too early to make that claim.  What we do know is that only four players averaged in double figures and an incredible 19 out of the 27 first-round picks that made an appearance averaged more than six points per game.

Ten teams passed on Michael Carter-Williams in the first round, and he went on to win the Rookie of the Year award.  Carter-Williams not only led all rookies in points per game at 16.7, but he also led in rebounds (6.2) and assists (6.3).

Sacramento will forever regret passing on Damian Lillard in 2012.  Instead, the Kings drafted Thomas Robinson with the fifth overall selection, and he is currently playing for his third team in two NBA seasons.  The Kings weren’t the only team to pass on Lillard.  How much different would the Charlotte Hornets look right now if they had taken Lillard instead of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist?

Even the 2012 Draft has its black marks.  Kendall Marshall (13), Royce White (16), Fab Melo (22) and Jared Cunningham (24) have all spent time out of the league within their first two seasons.  And the argument could be made that nine of the 14 players taken in the lottery in 2012 have yet to scratch the level expected of them; the 2011 Draft is no better.

There are very few “can’t-miss prospects”, even in a star-studded draft like this season’s.  You could probably put Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins in that category.  Joel Embiid would have been in that category, as well, before a stress fracture in his right foot was found earlier this week.

After those three players, there are really no guarantees.  Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, Dante Exum, Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon round out a very talented top eight.  There may be a few All-Stars in that group and maybe even a an All-NBA-type player, but we won’t know for a few years, at the least.

It’s a quality group, but there is at least one Bennett or Robinson hiding in the lot.  There always is.  One of those players will be a bust and maybe two or three others will take much longer to develop than the Kings can afford to wait.

This is the reason why the Sacramento Kings are actively shopping the the No. 8 overall selection.  As the saying goes, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”  Pete D’Alessandro and his group want to improve quickly.  They don’t want to wait and see if they chose one of the two or three top-tier talents in this draft that never materialize as NBA regulars.

Dealing the No. 8 spot means trading potential for production.  It means taking on a player or two that have a history of success at the NBA level in exchange for an unknown.  It may not work out, but plenty of teams made subtle moves to their roster last season and had tremendous results.  Sacramento wants to follow that trend.

The Kings will have a strategy coming into Thursday night’s draft.  And they have contingencies plans, as well.  Don’t be shocked if they pass on an opportunity to take one of these young players.  Don’t be shocked if the Kings once again steal the show with a fury of deals that transform their roster once again.

Sacramento has assets.  They have roughly $17 million in expiring contracts and a few talented pieces to add to a deal involving their pick.  Outside of DeMarcus Cousins, almost any player on the roster can be had for the right price.  When you win 28 games, that is the reality.

So hold onto your hats, Kings fans.  There is a good chance that your team will be a mover and shaker on Thursday.  There is a chance that some of your favorites will find new homes and that you will soon have a new crop of players to embrace.

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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also provides game day coverage for NBA.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart".