SACRAMENTO -- After a wild draft night, plenty of Sacramento Kings fans are wondering if general manager Vlade Divac is crazy. Maybe he is, or maybe he has a plan that Kings fans can’t see just yet.
Following a long day of moving and shaking, including two substantial trades that have infused the Kings roster with young talent, Divac took time to chat with CSN California about his thoughts on the draft.
Per league rules, Divac couldn’t comment yet on a draft day trade that sent veteran Marco Belinelli to the Charlotte Hornets for the No. 22 pick in the draft. He was candid about the rest of the additions, including the team’s controversial choice at No. 13, as well as No. 28 and future European import Bogdan Bogdanovich.
Divac set social media ablaze when he selected 7-foot-2 big man Georgios Papagiannis with the Kings first selection. Sitting on the board were guards Wade Baldwin and Denzel Valentine, but Divac saw something in the Papagiannis that he couldn’t pass up.
“We followed him for a year and we thought he wasn’t going to be available after 18th, so that’s why we took him at the 13,” Divac said. “And if you ask me who he reminds me (of), he has the potential to be a new Marc Gasol.”
Gasol went with the 48th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, but he has developed into one of the game’s best big men. If Papagiannis has that potential, he makes a lot of sense for Sacramento going forward.
“He’s a tall kid that’s very mobile running up and down the floor, playing very good defense, (he) did very well shooting from outside,” Divac said.
Bogdanovich might be a steal for Sacramento. The 23-year-old guard will play one more season in Europe before hopefully joining the Kings next summer.
“He’s definitely number one player in Europe right now,” Divac said.
If the Kings are out of the top 10 in next year’s draft, their pick goes to the Chicago Bulls. Bogdanovich gives them a young, NBA ready option at the shooting guard spot.
With the No. 28 pick in the draft, the Kings went with another big man with huge upside. Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere was slated to go much higher in the draft, but his stock fell on Thursday night, leaving the Kings with an easy selection.
“With the 28th pick we thought that was the steal of the draft,” Divac said. “Skal Labissiere is a very talented guy. Probably biggest upside in this draft generation. A year ago he was projected to go top 5. He fell to 28 and we just couldn’t pass him.”
While most draft grades haven’t been kind to the Kings, they drafted for potential, not need. It will take a while to truly gauge how successful Divac and his team were, but they didn't stand pat this year like they have in the past. Despite their relative newness to each other, the Kings front office found a way to stockpile talent and clear almost $5 million in cap space.
Last season the Kings walked into the NBA Draft with a skeleton crew, but that wasn’t the case this year. Joining Divac were assistant GM Ken Catanella, director of scouting Mike Bratz and director of player personnel Peja Stojakovic, as well as plenty of scouts.
“We all worked very hard the last month and our scouts gave us great reports,” Divac said of his newly formed front office. “It would be very difficult this year to work on all those deals if I was alone with Mike (Bratz) like I was last year. It was a big improvement and we were all on the same page about the decisions, so we are very happy about what we did in this draft.”
Divac asked the fans for patience. He was clear that the Kings aren’t done building their roster and that they will be aggressive in both free agency and possibly in the trade market. It all begins again next Friday when free agency opens up and the mad dash for cash consumes the NBA landscape.