Patience & The No 4 Draft Pick Are Critical For The Sacramento Kings

When the Kings hired Warriors assistant Mike Brown earlier this month, it was clear that he was being given pretty straightforward marching orders: Get this team to the playoffs. It’s been the directive for general manager Monte McNair, too, and it is certainly understandable why team owner Vivek Ranadive wants an all-hands-on-deck approach to putting Sacramento into the 2023 postseason—it’s been 16 years, including nine under the stewardship of Ranadive, since the Kings appeared in the playoffs.

Around the league, there has been widespread speculation about how that directive will affect the Kings’ approach to this offseason. Sacramento received some lottery luck when it moved up to No. 4 in next month’s draft, but now there are rumblings that the Kings will seek to cash in that luck and deal away the pick for a more established veteran who can help the team break the league’s longest playoff drought, and the second-longest playoff drought of any franchise in major North American sports (baseball’s Seattle Mariners have not been in the postseason for 20 years).

Thing is, the Kings have spent the last 16 years trying to make the playoffs, approaching each season with a certain level of tunnel vision: What can we do to win now? That’s how a team winds up making a trade for an ill-fitting and expensive Rudy Gay in 2013, and compounding that deal with a contract extension. That was one thing, but then the Kings did much the same thing for Harrison Barnes in 2019. Guys like Gay and Barnes—heck, throw in the likes of John Salmons and Kosta Koufos—are a Kings specialty, players just good enough to keep you on the fringe of the playoff hunt, but not quite good enough to carry you over. 500 and into the thick of the West postseason picture.

Maybe the Kings deserve credit for not having completely tanked all these years, at least not intentionally. They have approached each season bent on getting into the playoffs, even if it means a first-round drubbing by a higher seed. They have not piled up losses to improve their draft position, even though there were times they should have done just that, should have given up on a season in hopes of getting a better player for the long term.

The Kings’ Unsightly Draft History

Their draft history might be one explanation for that. The Kings have been brutal when it comes to picking players, and not just because they passed up on Luka Doncic in 2018 (as well as Trae Young and Jaren Jackson Jr. for that matter, plus Mikal Bridges, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Miles Bridges , Michael Porter Jr., Jalen Brunson, and so on). There was the 2011 selection of Jimmer Fredette with the No. 10 pick, and there were also the four straight drafts from 2012-15 that saw the Kings use Top 8 picks on Thomas Robinson, Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas and Willie Cauley-Stein. That was followed by the No. 13 pick in 2016, used to choose flameout center Georgios Papagiannis.

So, OK, maybe there is reason for the Kings to avoid too much emphasis on the draft.

But the draft did yield De’Aaron Fox, who still has star potential after his down season last year. And it brought in Tyrese Halliburton, who allowed the Kings to trade for big man Domantas Sabonis of the Pacers last February. The Kings are in the difficult position of having the No 4 pick in what is widely viewed as a three-man draft, but the prospects after the Chet Holmgren-Jabari Smith-Paolo Banchero trio are still intriguing.

Seldom-seen Shaedon Sharpe wowed personnel evaluators during a workout earlier this month and re-asserted himself as potential Top 5 pick. Combo guard Jaden Ivey was one of the most dynamic players in college basketball this year, and Iowa forward Keegan Murray is only a shade off of the Top 3 bigs expected to lead off the draft. The Kings need to sort through these players and find the right fit, even if doing so means taking on a young guy who will need time to develop—even if it means the playoff drought goes to Year 17

The Kings can’t afford to cash in their lottery luck on a good-not-great veteran who will do little more than get them close to the postseason. The streak is frustrating, but now is not the time to get impatient. Keeping and using the No. 4 pick, and doing so wisely, is critical for the Kings and gives them a better shot at being truly competitive in the years to come.


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