SACRAMENTO - Kris Dunn didn’t fall to the No. 8 pick. Neither did Kentucky’s Jamal Murray. And when the Sacramento Kings moved back to No. 13 and Vanderbilt’s Wade Baldwin was sitting there for the taking, Vlade Divac passed.
Someone has to man the point for Sacramento. Free agents Rajon Rondo and Seth Curry are still options at the position, but one is about to get grossly overpaid and the other is not considered a starting lead guard in the NBA. And then there is Darren Collison, who is bound to garner some sort of league suspension for his role in a domestic dispute.
Opening night in the Golden 1 Center is just months away and if the lineup card was due today, rookie second rounder Isaiah Cousins is the only option coach Dave Joerger has to turn to.
Adding to the Kings’ angst is the fact that the free agent market is horribly weak at the point guard position. So weak that the Sacramento Kings might have to get creative when filling their biggest position of need. That is, unless they want to gamble on the likes of Jeremy Lin, Ty Lawson or Brandon Jennings.
Three starting point guards have already moved teams during a pre-draft barrage of trades. Derrick Rose is a Knick, George Hill has moved on to the Jazz and Jeff Teague is now running the show for the Pacers. All three would have looked good in a Kings uniform, if only on a one year trial basis.
So where do the Kings go? How do they fill a position that is extremely important if you hope to succeed and potentially make a run at the playoffs for the first time in a decade?
The answer might be a simple move that will turn back the clocks to draft night 2009. That was the night that Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio slid down the draft board to the Kings at No. 4. With most of Sacramento waiting to celebrate a draft day coup, the Kings surprised their fanbase with the selection of Tyreke Evans.
Evans would go on to win the Rookie of the Year award with his record setting 20-5-5 campaign. His career never reached the height that many believed it would and after four years in a Kings uniform, he was moved to the Pelicans in a sign-and-trade deal for Greivis Vasquez.
Rubio fell to the fifth pick and made the Minnesota Timberwolves wait two years before coming to the NBA. During his five years with the T-Wolves, he has proven to be consistent, if nothing else.
During the 2015-16 seasons, Rubio posted averages 10.1 points, 8.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds per night, which looks remarkably similar to his career averages of 10.1 points, 8.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds. He is every bit the pass-first point guard that teams believed he would be when he was taken by the T-Wolves.
He’s worked on his perimeter game, but he’s well below NBA standards in both field goal percentage (36.8) and 3-point percentage (31.8). But he’s a quality defender and a floor general. Still just 25-years-old, there is room for improvement.
Basically, Rubio is Rondo light, just five years younger. He is also available.
After signing Rubio to a four-year, $55 million deal with Minnesota last summer, the team selected Dunn with the No. 5 overall pick and are willing to part with the flashy point guard and the Kings might be a match made in heaven.
Rubio is still owed $42 million over the next three seasons, but that is not nearly as much as it seems under the new NBA cap. In fact, it might be less than what Rondo, 30, makes.
Kosta Koufos signed a four-year, $33 million deal with the Kings last season and in year one, it was obvious that he and DeMarcus Cousins are a bad mix on the floor. The Kings went big in the draft, taking Georgios Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere in the first round, and they still have last year’s lottery pick Willie Cauley-Stein ready to play major minutes.
In addition, the Kings have 23-year-old shooting guard Ben McLemore, who is in desperate need of a change of scenery. McLemore is owed $4 million in the final year of his rookie contract and still has plenty of potential to grow.
Sacramento could offer both in exchange for Rubio and help balance both rosters. Koufos is a solid third big that would work well with the T-Wolves young frontline. McLemore could play off the bench behind high-flying Zach LaVine as added depth with upside and plenty of game experience.
Rubio would slide right into the Kings starting lineup and replace Rondo’s minutes, giving the Kings a reliable option at the point.
It’s not the sexy move that Kings fans are dreaming of, but it’s practical. The trade would virtually be a wash in year one, leaving the Kings more than $30 million in cap space to pursue a starting shooting guard and at least one more major free agent.
Rubio is young, he plays an exciting brand of basketball and he still has room to grow. More importantly, he would answer the Kings biggest need. The Kings passed on him once. They might not be able to afford to a second time.