10 most successful Kings' NBA draft picks over last 35 years
Isaiah Thomas, Pick No. 60, 2011
From Mr. Irrelevant to MVP candidate. The Kings spent the No. 10 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft on BYU star Jimmer Fredette. That selection didn’t work out as planned, but Geoff Petrie pulled a rabbit out of his hat with the final selection of the draft.
It took Isaiah Thomas until mid-February to earn the starting point guard position in Sacramento and that was only the start. For three seasons, he was lightning in a bottle, including his last year with the club when he averaged 20.3 points and 6.3 assists per game.
Following the 2013-14 season, the Kings allowed the 5-foot-9 guard to shop himself on the open market. When he received a three-year, $21 million offer from the Phoenix Suns, the Kings shipped him out for second-round pick Alex Oriakhi and a trade exception that they never used.
Thomas would go on to make consecutive NBA All-Star appearances in 2016 and 2017, and he made the All-NBA second team in 2017 as a member of the Boston Celtics.
A hip injury derailed Thomas’ career, but he still goes down as one of the best pick the Kings have ever made.
DeMarcus Cousins, Pick No. 5, 2010
Following an eight-year postseason run from 1998-2006, the Kings fell on hard times. After winning a combined 42 games over the previous two seasons, Sacramento found lottery luck with big man DeMarcus Cousins.
It wasn’t always pretty and there were plenty of hiccups on the road to stardom, but Cousins became one of the most dominant bigs in the game during his six and a half seasons in a Kings uniform. He made three NBA All-Star appearances during his time in Sacramento, including the 2017 All-Star game, where he found out he was traded during the postgame press conference.
Cousins outperformed almost every player from his draft class over the last decade, although like Thomas, injuries have taken their toll on the brash center.
Jason Williams, Pick No. 7, 1998
The Kings passed on the opportunity to select Kansas small forward Paul Pierce during the 1998 NBA Draft. Instead, Petrie selected a point guard out of Florida named Jason Williams with a clouded past and a flair for the dramatic.
Williams helped usher in the golden age of Kings basketball. His highlight passing reel made him a perfect complimentary piece in the team’s up tempo style. While his stay in Sacramento was short-lived, Williams got the ball rolling.
Petrie would go on to trade Williams, along with Nick Anderson, to the Memphis Grizzlies for Mike Bibby and Brent Price. Bibby would help take the team to new heights, but he wasn’t nearly as flashy as his predecessor. Williams would go on to win an NBA championship with the Miami Heat during the 2005-06 season.
Peja Stojakovic, Pick No. 14, 1996
Patience is a virtue. The Kings selected Peja Stojakovic in the 1996 NBA Draft and then had to wait two years for him to arrive from Greece. He joined the squad prior to the lockout shortened 1998-99 season, which also coincided with the arrival of Chris Webber via trade, Vlade Divac through free agency and Jason Williams through the draft.
It didn’t take long for the sharpshooting Serbian to get comfortable in the NBA. Stojakovic made his first of his three NBA All-Star appearances in his fourth season with the Kings. He opened the spacing for Webber and Divac to work the high post offense and became one of the best 3-point shooters in NBA history.
When he retired as a member of the 2010-11 NBA championship Dallas Mavericks team, Stojakovic ranked third all time in 3-point makes.
Tyreke Evans, Pick No. 4, 2009
Yes, you can show up on both the best draft pick and worst draft pick list. The Kings held a series of workouts pitting the cream of the crop college point guards against one another leading up to the 2009 NBA Draft. Evans was a man amongst boys.
Sacramento passed on Stephen Curry to make the Evans selection, which is why he makes the worst selection list. But Evans was dynamic in his first season, posting 20.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game on his way to the Rookie of the Year trophy.
That was as good as it got for Evans. He struggled to mesh with DeMarcus Cousins on the court and eventually left in a sign-and-trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. He returned for a second tour of duty with the Kings during the 2016-17 season, but it was short-lived.
Evans is currently out of the league serving a two-year ban for substance abuse, but Kings fans remember that 20-5-5 rookie season like it was yesterday.
Brian Grant, Pick No. 8, 1994
All of the big-named talent was gone when the Kings selected No. 8 overall in the star-studded 1994 NBA Draft, so Petrie turned to Xavier big man Brian Grant to fill a hole at the power forward spot.
With Mitch Richmond starring, Grant did the dirty work in the paint for Sacramento. In his second season with the team, he helped the Kings snap their decade-long postseason drought.
When he was drafted by the Kings, he said he would play for a Dr. Pepper and a bag of chips. That wasn’t the case three years later when he opted out of a five-year deal and left the Kings for a six-year, $56 million contract with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Grant played 13 seasons in the NBA before retiring following the 2005-06 season. During 2005, Grant was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease. He has become a spokesman for the disease over the last decade.
An honorable mention for the top 10 Kings draft picks also comes in from the 1994 NBA Draft. Michael Smith came into the league with Grant as the No. 35 pick in the second round. He and Grant made a fierce tandem during their three years together. Smith was traded to the Grizzlies during the 1997-98 season.
De’Aaron Fox, Pick No. 5, 2017
After failing to move up in the draft in any of their previous seasons in Sacramento, the Kings struck pay dirt in 2017 when they shot up from No. 8 to No. 3 and then fell back to No. 5 as part of a pick swap from an earlier trade. No. 5 was a perfect landing spot.
General manager Vlade Divac had his eye on Fox early in the draft process and might have even considered moving up to select the Kentucky prospect if the team hadn’t moved up three spaces in the lottery.
Fox didn’t have a great rookie season, but he found his footing in Year Two, and was a finalist for the league’s Most Improved Player award. In his third NBA season, Fox has taken another leap forward in production and he is now considered the face of the franchise with the potential to grow into an All-Star.
Billy Owens, Pick No. 3, 1991
It’s not often a player makes it onto a list as one of the best draft picks in franchise history when they refused to play for the team and were traded away before playing a single game. Hello, Billy Owens.
Owens was supposed to be Chris Webber before there was a Chris Webber. A multi-faceted power forward out of Syracuse, the Kings selected Owens with the No. 3 overall pick, right behind Larry Johnson and Kenny Anderson and the pick before Dikembe Mutombo.
In a shocking move, Jerry Reynolds and the Kings traded Owens to the Golden State Warriors for Richmond, big man Les Jepson and a future second-round pick (Tyus Edney). Owens never lived up to his potential and bounced around the league, playing for six teams over his 10-year career. Richmond made six straight All-Star teams with the Kings and was later inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame.
Owens ended up being traded back to the Kings during the 1995-96 season where he spent a little over two seasons underachieving.
Lionel Simmons, Pick No. 7, 1990
The Kings went for broke in the 1990 NBA Draft. They made a series of trades and walked into draft night with four first-round picks, including the No. 7 overall pick where they elected Lionel Simmons.
The L-Train was extremely productive in his first four years in Sacramento, but a knee injury took away his mobility and he struggled to stay on the court during his final three seasons in the league.
It wasn’t a great draft haul for the Kings. They selected Travis Mays with the No. 14 pick and he was out of the league after playing just 115 games. They used the No. 18 pick on center Duane Causwell and the No. 23 on Anthony Bonner. Out of the four players drafted, Causwell had the longest career, playing a total of 11 seasons in the league.
Another draft day note on the 1990 Kings draft. Sacramento also held the No. 40 pick in the draft, which they used to select Bimbo Coles before trading him for Rory Sparrow. Coles played 14 years in the NBA and finished his career with more win shares than any of the four Kings taken ahead of him.
Kevin Martin, Pick No. 26, 2004
Petrie was known for pulling an unknown name out of his hat on draft night and finding talent. In 2004, the Kings were still a force to be reckoned with, which is why they had the No. 26 overall pick. Petrie used that selection to take Kevin Martin out of Western Carolina University and K-Mart delivered.
Martin played sparingly in Year One, but by his third NBA season, he was averaging 20 points per game and was the Kings’ best player. With an awkward shot and an innate ability to draw fouls, Martin carried the franchise through a dark time.
Midway through his sixth season in Sacramento, Martin was traded to the Houston Rockets to clear the way for Tyreke Evans and the new-look squad. Martin would go on to have productive years with the Rockets, Thunder and Timberwolves before retiring following the 2015-16 season.