It’s been almost two weeks since the Sacramento Kings jumped from the potential seventh overall selection, all the way up to No. 2. The unexpected boost in good fortune has set off a flurry of conversation about what the Kings might do with the pick.
It’s in an enviable position. The 2018 NBA Draft has plenty of talent, especially in the top five. Barring a seismic move that sees the Kings moving out of the top end of the draft, there is potential to land a much needed star.
Sacramento has time to mull over potential offers, research players and make a decision they believe will benefit the franchise long term. After multiple conversations, it appears the team is taking an open minded approach as to which player they will select.
“This is a draft with a handful of elite talents at the top,” a team source told NBC Sports California. “That presents multiple options to make our team better.”
Options are a good thing. Or at least they can be. Phoenix will dictate the opening of the action. They are expected to keep the No. 1 overall selection and Deandre Ayton is the likely choice. After that pick, things might get interesting.
Option 1 - Go with the Flow
There are plenty of NBA experts that believe that Slovenian guard/forward Luka Doncic is the second best player in the upcoming draft. Sacramento spent plenty of time during the season scouting the 19-year-old and a source confirms that they had multiple representatives in attendance at the EuroLeague Final Four.
He’s the most decorated European prospect to come along in decades, winning the European League’s Rising Star award the last two seasons to go with this season’s league MVP and Finals MVP awards.
Doncic has the basketball IQ and playmaking ability to step in and help in Year One. He’s an accomplished player with years of experience playing professionally in Europe. Like Bogdan Bogdanovic last year, Doncic has played non-stop for the last 19 months and is going to need a break this summer.
This might be the safe pick for Sacramento, unless Ayton unexpectedly falls. If Doncic can stick at the small forward position, he instantly fills the team’s biggest need and despite his age, he can step in on Day 1 and play major minutes.
Option 2 - Go Big
This isn’t an Ayton/Doncic or bust situation. There are three big men slated to go near the top of the draft that are intriguing. Marvin Bagley III out of Duke is the most accomplished offensive weapon of the group. Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. projects as a high-end two-way player with major upside and Mo Bamba out of the University of Texas is raw offensive player with incredible shot-blocking abilities.
The Kings have plenty of bigs, but Bagley, Jackson and Bamba are intriguing prospects. With Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos and Zach Randolph all entering a contract year and questions remaining about Skal Labissiere and Harry Giles, Sacramento might be in the market for a big in the near future.
Option 3 - The Gamble
The Kings are very high on Michael Porter Jr. Coming into the 2018 season, he was considered a potential top overall selection, but an early season back surgery wiped out all but three games of his freshman season at Missouri.
Porter fits the team’s biggest need, sliding right into the starting lineup at the small forward position. At 6’-10.75” with a 7-foot wingspan, he has incredible size for the three and he has the athleticism to slide over and play a stretch four.
He’ll need a clean bill of health if he’s going second overall, but don’t be shocked if the Kings take a long look.
Option 4 - Move Down
If Sacramento could move down a few spots in the draft, land the player they want and add a piece or two, that would be ideal. The issue with this plan is that the teams in the top six don’t exactly have a lot to offer in way of trade.
Atlanta appears to be fine sitting at No. 3 and selecting Bagley or Jackson. They have three first round selections this year, a couple of intriguing young players and a top 10 protected Cleveland Cavaliers pick in 2019. They also have plenty of holes to fill in their roster.
The Grizzlies owe a protected 2019 pick to the Boston Celtics. It’s top eight protected in a year, top six protected in 2020 and unprotected in 2021, meaning Memphis can’t offer a first round selection until 2023. In addition, Memphis is void of young prospects that would help the Kings in their quest to improve their roster.
Dallas has a 2019 pick and they also have the ability to take on a contract if the Kings want to clear up some cap space. Like Atlanta, they have plenty of holes to fill in their roster, but this is one of the few trade down partners that might work if the Kings actively shop the pick.
Orlando has the sixth overall selection and a 2019 first round pick, but this might be too far for the Kings to move down. Sacramento would love to get their hands on a player like Jonathan Isaac, but it’s highly unlikely the Magic would use the 20-year-old forward to move up four spots in the draft.
Option 5 - Move Out
It would take a once in a lifetime offer from a team to get the Kings to move out of the No. 2 overall selection and drop out of the top five or six picks in this year’s draft. If a young star becomes available, the Kings would have to kick the idea around, but barring something mind blowing, this option is pretty limited.
There are potential franchise changing players at the top of this draft and Sacramento has an opportunity to change their stars with one pick. They can play it safe, add a big for the future, take a gamble or make a deal. The Kings have options, but whatever path they choose, they need to get it right.