With gaping holes to fill, 2017 NBA Draft offers Kings several options

With gaping holes to fill, 2017 NBA Draft offers Kings several options

The Sacramento Kings walk into the 2017 offseason with gaping holes in their roster. Free agency will play a role, but before they get to spending their $60-plus million in cap space, Vlade Divac, Scott Perry, Ken Catanella and the rest of the front office will try to fill some of their needs via the draft.

While the first batch of draft prospects rolled through Sacramento late last week, Vlade Divac, along with European scout Predrag Drobnjak spent the weekend in Istanbul, Turkey at the European Championships. Sharpshooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic led Fenerbahçe to its first title, further building the hype around one of Europe’s best young stars.

Divac acquired the rights to Bogdanovic in a draft day trade last summer when the 6-foot-6 Serbian was tossed in along with picks 13 and 28 for the 9th overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft. Divac would love to entice the 24-year-old wing to play in the NBA next season.

Even if Bogdanovic buys in, the Kings need more.

Both Darren Collison and Ty Lawson are unrestricted free agents, leaving Langston Galloway as the only point guard on the roster. Rudy Gay has already informed the team that he intends to opt out of his $14.3 million player option for next season, opening a massive need at the small forward position.

The needs are clear. Sacramento has to find a point guard and small forward of the future. They also need a point guard and a small forward of the right now. If a player fits both now and in the future, so be it.

Lady luck shined brightly on the Kings during the draft lottery. A move from No. 8 to No. 3 would have guaranteed a point guard, but a pick swap to No. 5 still has Sacramento in the running to fill one of their biggest voids.

While plenty of mock drafts have a variety of players in the top five of the 2017 NBA Draft, there is a clear group that Sacramento will likely focus on. Barring a major trade, point guard Markelle Fultz out of the University of Washington is projected to go with the first overall selection, but then it’s wide open how the next four picks will unfold.

UCLA’s Lonzo Ball is projected to go to the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 2 in most mocks, but nothing is a sure bet. Small forwards Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum are top five selections as well, while Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox is an early draft climber.

Sacramento would love nothing more than to see Fox sitting on the board when they select at five. He’s slight of build, but the 6-foot-3 speedster is a high character player with tons of potential. He would step in and instantly compete for a starting job with the Kings’ young core.

There are concerns that Fox won’t make it to five and the Kings have a few options if they want to move up, but the real question is, should they?

If Fox is gone, Sacramento will still have a player on the board at a position of need. Be it Ball, Jackson or Tatum, the talent pool is rich. Finding a floor general is important, but finding a star should be the top priority. All five have potential to become more than just a starter in the league and all five fit one of the team’s two most glaring weaknesses on the current roster.

Drafting either Jackson or Tatum would instantly bump the talent level of the team. Both are considered top tier prospects and for Sacramento, likely starters on Day 1.

Jackson is a catalyst type player and personality that brings energy, as well as a tremendous skill set. He can pass, rebound, play defense at a high level and score above the rim. He’ll be an instant fan favorite wherever he lands.

Tatum has potential as a two-way player, but his offensive game should instantly translate to the NBA level. A polished scorer, Tatum would step in and give the Kings a scoring option to fill the shoes of Gay, who is on the verge of becoming an unrestricted free agent.

The Top 10 has plenty of other high end prospects. Sacramento could chase a shooting big in Lauri Markkanen. The 7-footer out of Arizona would help to stretch the floor at the four, but their other needs are more obvious.

Fox’s backcourt mate at Kentucky, Malik Monk, is also an intriguing player, but with Buddy Hield, Garrett Temple, Malachi Richardson and the potential for Bogdanovic to join the team, the Kings are heavy at the shooting guard spot.

Point guard Dennis Smith has a high ceiling and would likely challenge for top five consideration if it wasn’t for a torn ACL in high school and some questions about his attitude.

If Sacramento selects a small forward with the fifth pick and Smith was still available when they choose again at No. 10, he becomes a lower risk proposition the Kings might have to consider.

Point guard Frank Ntilikina out of France would fit the bill as well in the right situation. If the Kings land Jackson or Tatum at five, they could come back with Ntilikina at 10. He’s young and inexperienced, but he also stands at 6-foot-5 with a 7-foot wingspan. His defensive potential at the point is tremendous, but he is a project on the offensive end, not a polished player like the four point guards expected to go ahead of him in the draft.

Combo forward Jonathan Isaac is an appealing prospect, but he’ll need plenty of time to develop and he’s a better target if he somehow slips to 10. Like Smith and Ntilikina, this would be a nice addition if the Kings fill their other need with the fifth overall selection.

Regardless of how they got to No.’s 5 and 10, the Kings are in a good spot. They have options and plenty of players at positions of need and there is potential to land a future star. Once the draft rolls around on June 22, the focus will quickly shift to shoring up the remainder of the squad. With two high picks, the potential addition of Bogdanovic and plenty of cap space, the Kings are primed for a big time roster overhaul this summer.

Spurs disappointed, frustrated by effort in Game 2 loss to Warriors

Spurs disappointed, frustrated by effort in Game 2 loss to Warriors

OAKLAND -- Eventually the injuries were going to catch up with the San Antonio Spurs. With Tony Parker done for the season and Kawhi Leonard out with an ankle issue, the Golden State Warriors ran early double-teams at big man LaMarcus Aldridge all night long and dared someone else to beat them.

“I think that we maybe felt it too much, Kawhi being gone,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “In the sense that as I watched, I don’t think they believed. And you have to believe and I don’t think as a group they did.”

Journeyman Jonathan Simmons stepped in for Leonard and accepted the challenge, but he was one of the few Spurs player to show up Tuesday night as the Warriors steam rolled the team with the second best record in the Western Conference.

In the lopsided first half, Simmons went off for 17 of San Antonio’s 44 points as the Warriors took a 28 point lead into the intermission. No other player on the Spurs roster managed to score more than four points in the game’s first 24 minutes.

“When we’re at our best, everyone is playing well and Simmons has been able to be more consistent throughout this whole playoffs, which is great to see,” Patty Mills said following the game. “He’s doing his part and everyone needs to lift their own as well.”

A restricted free agent after the season, Simmons, 27, finished with 22 points on 8-for-17 shooting in 26 minutes.

The second half was more of the same. Without Parker to control the tempo of the offense or  Leonard to take the pressure off of Aldridge, the Warriors punished San Antonio, holding their visiting opponent to just 37 percent shooting on their way to the 136-100 win.

“When you’re playing a team as good as Golden State, you’re going to get embarrassed if that’s the way you’re going to come out,” Popovich said. “And we did.”

Only Simmons and reserve forward David Bertans (13 points) score in double-figures for the Spurs. San Antonio mainstays Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Patty Mills, Danny Green and Manu Ginobili combined to score 27 points on 10-for-32 shooting from the field.

“It’s disappointing, it’s frustrating,” said Gasol. “Give them credit because they played well. They made shots, they got their confidence going. I’m sure felt like they got away with in Game 1 with the way they were able to come back and get that win and tonight they were ready and you could tell.”

Warriors star guard Stephen Curry outscored the five veteran Spurs on his own, finishing the evening with 29 points in 30 minutes of action.

Popovich singled out Aldridge in his post game comments. The veteran big scored eight points on 4-of-11 shooting and chipped in just four rebounds in 27 minutes.

“LaMarcus has to score for us,” Popovich said. “He can't be timid. He turned down shots in the first quarter. He can't do it. You've got to score. Scoring has to come from someplace. I think he's got a major responsibility in Game 3 to come out ask get something done.”

Prior to the contest, Popovich said that the Spurs were in wait and see mode with regards to Leonard. The All-Star wing and reigning two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year led the San Antonio in scoring this season at 25.5 points per game. He may be the only thing stopping the series from being a runaway sweep by the Warriors.

The Western Conference Finals travels to San Antonio where these two teams face off Saturday night. The Spurs need to find a way to slow the Warriors who are now 10-0 during the 2016-17 playoffs.

 

Kings move up to No. 5 pick, keep No. 10 pick in 2017 NBA Draft

Kings move up to No. 5 pick, keep No. 10 pick in 2017 NBA Draft

The ping pong balls have spoken. There is some good news and some bad. The lottery gods smiled down on the Sacramento when the team jumped from the eighth overall all the way to the third pick in the draft. Unfortunately, the Philadelphia 76ers had the right to swap picks, costing Sacramento two spots.

Sacramento now officially own both the fifth and 10th overall selections after the Pelicans failed to move up into the top three of the draft. While a top three selection would have been a huge boon for the team, the Kings have to be ecstatic with a top five selection in a highly regarded draft class.

The Kings GM Vlade Divac issued a statement shortly after the conclusion of the NBA Draft Lottery.

"We are pleased with the outcome tonight and excited to have secured two top 10 picks in a very strong draft. We’re in a great position to improve our team and we look forward to the draft this summer."

It could have been much worse for Sacramento. After six years, the J.J. Hickson transaction is finally off the books. By staying inside the top 10 with their own selection, the Kings will now relay their second round selection (pick No. 38) to the Chicago Bulls to complete the 2011 trade that sent Omri Casspi and a protected pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Hickson.

Hickson didn’t make it through the season before being waived, but the pick restrictions remained in place, hampering the Kings’ ability to make trades involving picks for ever since.

Sacramento also received good news when the New Orleans Pelicans card was flipped at No. 10. The Kings landed a top three protected pick from the Pelicans as part of the DeMarcus Cousins trade over All-Star weekend. With New Orleans failing to move up into the top three spots, their picks is now officially property of the Kings.

It wasn’t a banner night. The team moved up into the top end of the lottery where a bevy of young point guards are waiting. But the fact that the Kings walk into a very strong draft night on June 22nd with No. 5 and No. 10 and an early second rounder obtained in the Cousins deal, is good news for a franchise in rebuild mode.

Here is the complete lottery:

14. Heat
13. Nuggets
12. Pistons
11. Hornets
10. Kings
9. Mavericks
8. Knicks
7. Timberwolves
6. Magic
5. Kings
4. Suns
3. 76ers
2. Lakers
1. Celtics