The NBA Draft Lottery is almost upon us. It’s a night that for decades tormented the Kings and their fanbase, although there have been a few positive developments in recent years.
On June 22, ping pong balls will get dumped into a hopper and a series of random draws will determine who will land a top-four pick in one of the best drafts in recent memory. There are potential franchise-changing stars at the top end of this year’s draft and the lottery has tremendous importance for every team who has a shot of moving up.
Can the Kings make the jump? Can they defy the lottery gods one more time and find a cornerstone at the top? Will they keep the pick no matter where it lands or will they trade it away in an attempt to jumpstart their rebuild?
It should be a busy offseason for Kings GM Monte McNair, and it all starts Tuesday when Sacramento finds out just how valuable their 2021 first-round pick is.
Nuts and Bolts
The current lottery odds are a lot more favorable for a team like the Kings than they were under the previous system. Sacramento now has four chances to move up, instead of three, and the odds of moving up have improved as well.
Sacramento finished in a three-way tie for the eighth-worst record in the league. A series of coin flips determined that the Chicago Bulls would draft eighth, the Kings ninth and the New Orleans Pelicans at 10. All three teams have equal odds of moving into the top four.
There is a 4.5 percent chance of the Kings moving into the top spot, where Cade Cunningham is waiting to be selected. Sacramento also has a 4.8 percent chance of moving to No. 2, a 5.2 percent opportunity of moving to No. 3 and a 5.7 percent chance to grab the No. 4 pick.
The odds aren’t great, but there still is a chance the Kings find lottery luck as they did in both 2017 and 2018. Cunningham is expected to go No. 1, but Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga are all top-tier prospects with tremendous upside.
While there only is a 20.3 percent chance of the Kings moving up, there is a 46.4 percent chance that the Kings select No. 9 and a 29.4 percent chance of the team dropping one spot to No. 10. The chances of two teams skipping over the Kings into the top of the lottery is just 3.4 percent and there is a .1 percent chance of Sacramento falling all the way to No. 12.
The Kings can draft 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12 and there is less than a .1 percent chance of the team falling all the way to 13.
Does the pick have value?
Every pick has value, but this is a particularly good draft, especially at the top end. If Sacramento can somehow defy the lottery odds, there are franchise game-changers in the top four. If they don’t make the leap up the board, it’s a mixed bag of young players with potential, but no one is a sure bet.
If the Kings move into the top four, this will be the most valuable chip the franchise has owned in a long time. It represents a chance to add a building block to the core of the team or potentially trade for an All-Star level player.
If the pick stays at No. 9 or moves down a spot to No. 10, there are plenty of quality players to choose from, like Scottie Barnes out of Florida State, Keon Johnson from Tennessee, Arkansas’s Moses Moody, Cory Kispert from Gonzaga, Baylor’s Davion Mitchell and Josh Giddey out of Australia. Sports six through 12 in this year’s draft are wide-open, with multiple players vying for position.
While the Kings will have options, there is a huge difference in value between a top-four pick in this year’s draft and a selection in the nine-to-11 range. There are always teams willing to jump up to grab a player they fall in love with, but can the Kings get a game-changer in trade?
That’s a difficult question, but there are a lot of teams in the league that look ready to make major changes this offseason.
What is the best path forward?
You can’t keep losing forever and expect the fanbase to stick around. McNair has a huge offseason in front of him. He has to determine if the team can retain center Richaun Holmes. He has to figure out if Marvin Bagley, Buddy Hield and even Harrison Barnes are part of the future in Sacramento.
In a perfect world, the Kings would jump into the top end of the draft and find a young player with superstar upside to pair with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. If that doesn’t happen, expect McNair to be aggressive with this selection at a minimum.
Is a package that includes the No. 9 overall pick and one or two of the Kings’ other pieces enough to land a game-changer? Can they sweeten the deal with another future pick?
If the Kings stick at their current draft position, nothing is off the table outside of Fox and Haliburton. They can land a quality player with upside around nine or 10, but they’ll likely have to wait a season or two for him to develop into a rotational piece.
McNair wants to deliver a playoff run. He wants to turn things around in Sacramento. Draft night might be the best opportunity for him to transform the roster in an impactful way. The NBA Draft Lottery will determine just how much ammunition he has to work with.