Josh Jackson

Which direction will they go? Evaluating the Kings' draft needs

Which direction will they go? Evaluating the Kings' draft needs

The Sacramento Kings have needs coming into the 2017 NBA Draft, like every other team. With two picks in the Top 10 and an early second round selection, they have an opportunity to add talent at multiple positions of need, but they are at the mercy of the teams surrounding them.

An infusion of talent is the highest priority, but here is a look at the most glaring holes the Kings have as they move towards Thursday’s draft.

Point Guard

Darren Collison and Ty Lawson manned the point last season and both of them enter the summer as unrestricted free agents. Both made it abundantly clear that they wouldn’t mind returning to Sacramento, but will either jump at the opportunity if it is in a slightly diminished role as a mentor to an up and coming guard.

There are plenty of options for the Kings in the draft. Neither Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball are expected to make it to Sacramento, but there is a legitimate possibility that Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox will make it to the fifth overall selection where the Kings currently sit. He’s the fastest player in the draft and at just 19-years-old, he has plenty of room to grow.

If Fox is gone at five, the Kings will likely shift gears and look to fill other needs at 5 while hoping to re-address the position at 10. N.C. State’s Dennis Smith might still be on the board at 10, although he has a couple of red flags. Smith tore an ACL in high school and there are some concerns regarding his willingness to work with others.

Frank Ntilikina out of France might garner consideration at 10 as well. The 6-foot-5 point with a 7-foot wingspan projects as a plus defender early in his career, but he will need time to develop offensively. Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell has worked hard to convince teams that he can play either guard position. He’s a plus defender with an aggressive offensive game, but he averaged just 2.7 assists per game last season with the Cardinals.

Sacramento brought in Frank Mason III for two separate workouts and if he makes it to the second round, he is likely in play at 34. Oklahoma State’s Jawun Evans is another intriguing prospect that might make it down to the Kings in the early second round. Regardless of who the Kings draft at 5 and 10, they may add depth at the position with the 34th selection as well.

Small Forward

Rudy Gay has already informed the team that he is opting out of his final year with the team and both Omri Casspi and Matt Barnes were sent packing at the trade deadline. Garrett Temple can steal some minutes at the position, but the Kings lack size and a frontline starter at the small forward position.

The top end of the draft has plenty of potential fits. Josh Jackson out of Kansas is a ferocious two-way player that projects as a potential All-Star at the position. Duke’s Jayson Tatum will step in and be a scorer on day one and Jonathan Isaac from Florida State has one of the higher ceilings in the draft. At least one, and likely two of these players will be on the board when the Kings select at No. 5.

If Jackson somehow makes it to the Kings at 5, they would have to jump all over him. He’s a high energy player that stuffs the stat sheet on the offensive end and projects as a plus defender.

Tatum plays a similar style to Gay. He doesn’t have the raw athleticism of Jackson or Isaac, but he’s a more refined player at this point in his career. He likes isolation plays and mid-range jumpers, which may not fit the modern NBA for much longer, but he is an elite scoring talent.

Isaac may not be able to stay at the wing position long term. At 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, he has the tools to succeed on both sides of the court. But he is raw, making him one of the bigger boon or bust prospects in the top 10.

If the Kings land a point guard at No. 5, the position becomes more difficult to fill at 10. North Carolina’s Justin Jackson visited Sacramento during the workout process, but he is slated to go in the 15-20 range. Indiana’s OG Anunoby would be in play at 10 if he wasn’t still recovering from an ACL tear. He is a defensive juggernaut, but needs time to develop on the offensive side of the ball.

Additional Needs

The Kings are well stocked at the shooting guard and center positions, with three or more players at each spot. They will address either the point guard or small forward position with the fifth overall selection, but the chance of filling both major positions of need through the draft becomes more difficult to project.

Following the release of Anthony Tolliver, second year big Skal Labissiere is currently the only power forward on the roster. While the talent pool for points guards and small forwards gets thin at the 10-pick, there is plenty of potential to add talent at the four.

Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is one of the best shooters in the draft and at 7-foot tall, he presents an interesting skill set for the power forward position. The Finnish-born big might not make it to 10, but if he does, the Kings have to an open mind about adding the unique talent.

Zach Collins made a tremendous run with Gonzaga before falling in the NCAA Finals to North Carolina. He played well in his solo workout in Sacramento, showing an array of post moves and knocking down a load of 3-balls to conclude his session. The 7-foot freshman can play either the four or the five and his physical style should translate well to the NBA game.

John Collins out of Wake Forest dropped by Sacramento twice for workouts and is projected to go anywhere from 12-20. He is a plus athlete with an advanced offensive game in the post. He didn’t have to opportunity to show his long range shooting or ball handling at the NCAA level, but he should be able to score at the pro level.

If the Kings pass on this group with No. 10, there are a stack of players that might make it to them at 34. Caleb Swanigan posted 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds as a sophomore at Purdue. He is a banger that can score with either hand and knocked down 44.7 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Local product Cameron Oliver has an NBA body and NBA athleticism. He produced at University of Nevada Reno and he should be available in the second round. Oregon’s Jordan Bell is another option is the team is looking for a defensive presence at 34.  

Kansas Jayhawk stars stop by Sacramento before NBA Draft

Kansas Jayhawk stars stop by Sacramento before NBA Draft

SACRAMENTO -- The Kansas Jayhawks showed up in force Wednesday in Sacramento. Point guard Frank Mason III dropped in for his second workout with the Kings. Later in the afternoon, NBC Sports California confirmed that forward Josh Jackson made an appearance at Golden 1 Center for a meeting with the team, but did not workout.
Jackson, 19, is considered a top five pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. The 6-foot-8, 203-pound wing posted 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season while helping Kansas reach the Elite 8. 
He and Mason made a devastating tandem, leading the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. 
Mason is listed as a second-round pick in most mock drafts, but he’s turned heads with his leadership and athleticism. The 5-foot-11 point guard put on a dunking display following the workout, showing that his max vertical of 41 inches from the NBA’s combine last month was no fluke. 
The senior guard averaged 20.9 points, 5.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 36.1 minutes a night for coach Bill Self. He is the first player to come through Sacramento for a second workout this draft season. According to Mason, he has already worked out for 10 teams, including two separate stops in Orlando. He has four more workouts scheduled between now and next Thursday’s Draft. 
“I think it’s a good sign,” Mason said of his second visit with the Kings. “Maybe they’re really interested in me.”
Mason is getting comfortable in Sacramento, even taking time to reach out to Kansas fans living in the Capital City via social media. The 23-year-old even invited a young Jayhawks fan and his father down to his hotel in downtown Sacramento where he took pictures and hung out in the lobby.
“It’s really cool to know that I’m a role model for kids,” Mason said. “Just for him to meet me and where I’m heading in my career, it’s a pretty big deal for him.”
The Kings are looking to add at least one point guard in the upcoming draft, most likely with one of their two top 10 selections. But if Mason makes it to the early second round where the Kings hold the 34th overall selection, he might be an option as a spark plug off the bench. 
Jackson is the second potential top five player to visit the Kings during pre-draft build up. Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox made an appearance two weeks ago, spending the night in Sacramento and working out for the team.

The Sacramento Bee was first with the news of Jackson’s visit. 

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.