Kings

NBA draft: Best-ever No. 40 picks, where Kings select in second round

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AP

NBA draft: Best-ever No. 40 picks, where Kings select in second round

The 2019 NBA Draft is just one day away, which means despite the millions of mocks you've seen on the interwebs, we won't know truly who will go where until the draft concludes Thursday night.

Well maybe except Zion Williamson, we have a pretty good idea where he will land.

The Sacramento Kings have put in the work along with every other team in the league hosting a barrage of prospects for pre-draft workouts. The team's first pick will occur at the No. 40 slot -- so it's the perfect time to head down memory lane and revisit some of the best picks of all-time at that number.

George "Iceman" Gervin, SF, Suns, 1974

Before I touch on Gervin's impressive (understatement) list of achievements, imagine having Gary Payton say you were his childhood idol -- that's what Gervin gets to lead with before listing out everything he's done.

The No. 40 overall pick by the Phoenix Suns, Gervin elected to stay in the ABA and continue playing for the San Antonio Spurs. The ABA Spurs eventually would join the NBA as part of the 1976 merger. So the dude dominated in both leagues.

Before being inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996, Gervin was a 12-time All-Star selection, four-time scoring champ, seven-time All-NBA, and named to the ABA All-Time Team.

He earned his "Iceman" nickname due to his cool demeanor on the court no matter what was going on -- and his ability to never sweat.

Across his NBA career alone, he averaged 26.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

Clifford Ray, C, Bulls, 1971

Clifford Ray did sweat, however, and not because he worked hard that one time rescuing a dolphin. Yes, that was a thing.

During his rookie year, Ray was named to the All-Rookie team with the Chicago Bulls, when he averaged seven points per game.

He has an NBA championship ring from the 1974-75 season with the Warriors, where he began a seven-year stint with the team. In those seven seasons, Ray boasted 7.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. 

He worked as an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks in 1987 and was eventually hired in 2015 as a consultant by the Houston Rockets.

[RELATED: Best-ever No. 58 picks where Warriors select in second round]

Monta Ellis, G, Warriors, 2005

Steph Curry was seen sporting a Monta Ellis jersey recently, as a tribute to the Warriors' former guard. That was part of a theme for Curry and the Dubs all season long, as they bid adieu to Oracle Arena. It was a tribute in which Ellis himself appreciated

“I wanted to honor him and his story, coming out of high school and doing what he was able to do," Curry told the San Francisco Chronicle. "He was a fan (favorite) and a beloved guy. So it’s only right to have him on the last night.”

Ellis played in seven seasons with the Dubs. During that time, he averaged 19.6 points per game while shooting 46.5 percent from the field. 

De'Aaron Fox out vs. Thunder as Kings enter crucial stretch in schedule

De'Aaron Fox out vs. Thunder as Kings enter crucial stretch in schedule

Kings starting point guard De'Aaron Fox is banged up and will miss Thursday's critical game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The 22-year-old has worn tape on his left shoulder the last two games and he disappeared into the Kings' locker room during the first half of the team's win over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday evening.

The diagnosis against the Warriors was right groin tightness. He returned to the game and played well, but that soreness may be a symptom of a bigger issue.

Despite Fox not showing up on the early edition of the NBA's injury report, the point guard will miss tonight's matchup against the Thunder with lower abdominal tightness. According to a team source, the two injuries are connected.

Fox played in 81 games last season, but he missed 17 games with a Grade 3 left ankle sprain early this season and one more game with lower back tightness. He's averaging 19.9 points, 6.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 31.6 minutes per game this season.

[RELATED: Kings coming together, earning puncher's chance at making NBA playoffs]

The Kings are at a crucial point in their schedule. They currently trail the Memphis Grizzlies by 3.5 games in the standings with 25 games remaining on the schedule and they face Memphis on Friday night on the second night of a back-to-back.

With Fox sidelined, coach Luke Walton likely will turn to veteran Cory Joseph to fill the void. Joseph started 21 games early in the season with Fox out of action and is a reliable, steady hand. He isn't the dynamic scorer that Fox is, but he's a solid defensive replacement that doesn't make a lot of mistakes. 

Kings coming together, earning puncher's chance at making NBA playoffs

Kings coming together, earning puncher's chance at making NBA playoffs

Something is different with the Kings this time around. They believed they had a shot at a playoff berth last season, but they didn’t know how to respond when times got tough.

The hangover seemed to play into the start of this season when Sacramento lost its first five games. Before the Kings knew what hit them, the hole was deep and a series of injuries made the road ahead even more difficult.

In a normal year, the Kings’ season already would be over and done with. At 24-33, they should have an insurmountable climb ahead, and the team and the conversation should shift to the 2020 NBA Draft.

But this is not a normal year. The 2019-20 season has been a trainwreck for multiple teams.

After making it to the Western Conference finals last season, the Portland Trail Blazers (26-33) have struggled and Damian Lillard now is nursing a groin injury.

The San Antonio Spurs (24-33) have made 22 straight postseason appearances, but they now are behind the Kings in the standings after losing Wednesday. 

The Memphis Grizzlies have turned heads with their gritty play, but they are fading after injuries to Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clark. New Orleans is making a move, but they are inexperienced and caught up in a four-or-five-team race for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Why is this season going to be different than last year when the Kings closed out the year with an 8-15 stretch to fall out of contention?

It might not be. The Kings definitely could stumble towards the finish line once again.

It’s also possible that Sacramento learned from its mistakes last season, gained valuable experience and now has the veterans who can help hold the ship together as the Kings venture into unfamiliar waters.

“We have a greater sense of urgency,” Harrison Barnes said of what feels different this season. “We realize what we have to do in order to make the playoffs. I’ve been proud of how everyone’s come out, focused, ready to play since the break ended. Hopefully, it will continue.”

The Kings have won three straight coming out of the break, including a 112-94 win over the Warriors on Tuesday. Sacramento is now 9-4 since losing to the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 22.

The loss in Detroit seemed to be a catalyst for change. Coach Luke Walton shifted his starting lineup to include Bogdan Bogdanovic while moving Buddy Hield to the second unit, but that was only part of the shakeup.

Since that game, newcomer Kent Bazemore has stepped in and taken on a much bigger role with the club. Second-year pro Harry Giles has also started to show improvement and almost every player is seeing a spike in their numbers.

“We’ve got a little pep in our step right now at shootaround, at practices,” Bazemore said. “Guys are just working. After practice, guys are just in the gym for an extra 45 minutes to an hour, just getting up shots. Guys are loving to come to work.”

Players are putting in the time, and they seem to be buying into Walton’s system. The Kings are staying together, and it’s possible they could get Richaun Holmes back from injury -- and maybe even Marvin Bagley III -- back before the season ends.

Sacramento is starting to pick up the pace on the offensive end, and the defense has played well over the last two games.

“I think we’re playing well on both sides of the ball,” De’Aaron Fox said. “I think we’re playing like a desperate team right now. It’s been going good for us. We’ve been able to get stops when we needed them. We’ve been able to execute when need be. I just think, right now, we’re playing our best basketball of the season.”

[RELATED: Fox putting nagging injuries on hold to help Kings win]

The Kings came out of the break seven games out of the eighth seed, but they’ve won three straight heading into a back-to-back with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Grizzlies on Thursday and Friday.

Memphis has dropped three in a row, allowing Sacramento to shave the deficit down to four games with 25 remaining. If the Kings are going to get all the way back in the race, Friday’s game against the Grizzlies is huge, as are winnable games at home against the Pistons and Washington Wizards next week.

Sacramento still needs to find a way to get past Portland, San Antonio and New Orleans in the standings, but the Kings have some momentum. They can’t afford any letdowns from here on out if they are going to have a shot of snapping their 13-year postseason drought.