Sometimes the best move is to do nothing at all and let everything unfold before you. That seems to be the mantra that the Kings came into Wednesday night’s NBA Draft with.
They sat back, waited patiently and when it was their time to select a player, they took the best player on the board, Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton.
“We’re happy that he fits the style of play that we want, but first and foremost, he was the best talent available to us and we don’t pass up talent,” McNair said.
That statement might hang in the air for a few months in the walls of Golden 1 Center. Over the last decade, the Kings have over-thought so many decisions and come away with copious amounts of egg on their face.
In the 2011 NBA Draft, they selected Jimmer Fredette over both Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard. A year later, Sacramento hit the panic button when Thomas Robinson fell to them at No. 5 and selected the power forward over Damian Lillard.
The Kings pulled off a similar move in 2013 when Ben McLemore dropped to them at No. 7. C.J. McCollum will tell you to this day that he thought the Kings were going to select him after they brought him in three separate times for an interview, including a last-minute visit the week of the draft.
In 2018, Sacramento had a choice between Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley at No. 2 overall and once again, they made a decision that will impact the franchise for years and years to come.
Haliburton might not be the best player in the 2020 NBA Draft. There might even be a player that is drafted behind him that eventually becomes a star. But in the moment, McNair chose the player that universally was considered a top 10 player and was high atop their board.
The Kings had interviewed Haliburton more than once during the extended draft process and they were prepared for the possibility that he potentially would fall to them. They also had additional plans in place in case their target wasn’t available.
“This year was really hard to predict, but we just prepared for every scenario and we thought Tyrese, wherever we could get him, would be fantastic,” McNair said. “We’re happy at 12 and he’s exactly the type of player we want to add.”
This might be the easiest pick of McNair’s tenure with the Kings. The key is that he didn’t force it. When the Suns selected Jalen Smith at No. 10, both Devin Vassell and Tyrese Haliburton were still on the board.
Sacramento was going to end up with a very talented player at a position of need, unless they got in their own way. There was no need to trade back or think outside the box. The best player available was Haliburton and McNair made the pick.
This was the first go-around for general manager McNair. He’s been in plenty of draft rooms, but the weight of the franchise was directly on him this time around.
“It was really exciting, but I really felt prepared,” McNair said of the experience. “We have a great team and the nerves quickly went away and it was really just exciting and I think we’re really pleased with how it went.”
McNair wasn’t done making his mark during his first draft. He made a savvy move with the No. 35 overall selection when he dropped back five spots and picked up a 2022 second round pick from the Memphis Grizzlies.
He added an underrated wing prospect in Robert Woodard at No. 40, which again drew rave reviews from draft experts across the country.
At pick No. 43, McNair selected Jahmi’us Ramsey, who slipped on draft night. This is a perfect spot to take a flyer and Ramsey has potential to make it in the league.
With three rookies already on their way to Sacramento, McNair sent the No. 52 pick in the draft to the Houston Rockets in exchange for a 2021 second rounder and a $1 million.
In all, he scored an easy "A" for his first draft. He added a top tier talent in Haliburton, a potential rotational player in Woodard, a low-risk, high-reward scorer in Ramsey and a pair of future second-round picks.
The week isn’t over. Free agency opens up on Friday and McNair has to figure out what went wrong in the rumored Bogdan Bogdanovic transaction and see if he and his team can work something out with the soon-to-be restricted free agent.
With Haliburton in tow, Bogdanovic became somewhat of a redundant player in the Kings’ rotation. If they can find a different landing spot for the talented 28-year-old in a sign-and-trade deal, they should explore it.
It should be a wild few days in Sacramento, but McNair and his staff have had plenty of time to map out their plan and then jump into the market with two feet.
“First and foremost, can we add talented players and secondarily, can we find players that fit the needs and roles we have available,” McNair said of what’s next.
McNair passed his first big test with flying colors. Now the work get serious as he tries to reshape the Kings’ roster in his image with the season a little over a month away.