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McNair, Kings must find another Haliburton in '21 NBA Draft

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Kings general manager Monte McNair set an impossible standard for himself when he selected Tyrese Haliburton with the No. 12 overall pick in his first NBA Draft. He found an instant starter and franchise building block in the late lottery, and Sacramento needs him to do it again.

For a franchise like the Kings, finding gold in the draft is imperative to building a roster. Sacramento isn’t a hotbed for free agents and they don’t have a treasure trove of assets to acquire all-star level players. 

The draft is the Kings’ main source for adding talent and more often than not, they’ve missed. 

Jimmer Fredette over Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard? Thomas Robinson the pick before Damian Lillard? Ben McLemore over C.J. McCollum and Giannis Antetokounmpo? Marvin Bagley instead of Luka Doncic and Trae Young? 

The inability to consistently select the right player, or more accurately, to consistently select the wrong player, has set back any momentum that the franchise has tried to build. The failures on draft night are the main reason for the franchise’s 15-year playoff drought.

Even when the Kings have hit, like De’Aaron Fox in 2017, they still missed. While Fox is turning into a star, the Kings also had the No. 10 overall pick in that draft. Instead of taking Donovan Mitchell or Bam Adebayo, they traded the pick for No. 15 and 20. 

 

They missed again at both of those selections, taking Justin Jackson and Harry Giles over John Collins, OG Anunoby and Kyle Kuzma.  

How much different would this team look if they had hit on even one of these misses? We are talking about more than a decade of coulda, shoulda, wouldas. 

The Kings aren’t the only team to make mistakes. But the sheer volume of gaffes is brutal to revisit. 

RELATED: Haliburton comes up short in bid for Rookie of the Year

On Tuesday evening, the NBA’s Draft lottery will determine where the Kings select on July 29. They have an opportunity to move into the top four, but much higher odds of picking at selection No. 9 or 10. 

Regardless of where they select, they need to find another potential starter or at a minimum, a rotational player. This is a very good draft, with talent up and down the board.

Even if the Kings don’t move up, they will have an opportunity to find a quality player, if they’ve done their homework, ask the right questions and value the right attributes.

McNair made an impression with his selection of Haliburton, but he needs to continue the trend of adding pieces that fit long term. He’s shown during his first year at the helm that he values length, versatility and athleticism. He also needs to find a player with a high basketball IQ that plays with an edge. 

The Kings will have options, regardless of where they land in the lottery. Whether it’s in the top four or somewhere around the No. 10 spot, they need to find value and continue the build. 

McNair hit a home run in his first draft, but that’s over and done with. He has to find a way to do it again if he hopes to turn things around in Sacramento.