SACRAMENTO - Draft night 2016 has plenty of Sacramento Kings fans in panic mode. DeMarcus Cousins is the cornerstone of the Kings franchise and instead of adding much needed guard depth, Vlade Divac took big man Georgios Papagiannis with the 13th overall selection and another project big in Skal Labissiere with pick No. 28.
Divac did add at least one player at a position of need with the 22nd pick in shooting guard Malachi Richardson. But the 20-year-old will need time to develop and learn the pro game. He’s not a starter on day one, although he has a ton of long-term potential.
The Kings added organizational depth with pick No. 59, but Isaiah Cousins will have to show some major upside at Summer League and through training camp if he hopes to make the team.
Sacramento has been hit with criticism for choosing a ‘win now’ mentality, as opposed to building towards the future. Now folks around the league are confused because the Kings just added plenty of youth instead of drafting for need.
There’s no question that the Kings improved their talent base. But it will take time to see how Divac fills out the rest of the roster to go with their infusion of youth. Here is a quick look at picks No. 13, 22, 28 and 59 and how they fit with the Kings this season.
Georgios Papagiannis - Center - Greece
Cousins is your star and he plays the same position, so why reach for a big man with your first selection? Divac and his team of scouts see something they like in the 18-year-old center. He has tremendous size, measuring in at 7-foot-2, 240-pounds with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and he’s played high level hoops in Europe for a while.
Divac went as far as to compare Big George’s skill set to the Memphis Grizzlies' Marc Gasol. He has great footwork for a man his size and his can really move up and down the court. He has soft hands, he can pass and he has plenty of range with his jumper. While he isn’t a great defender today, he has plenty of potential as both a team defender and as a shot blocker.
The Kings expect him to play in year one, but probably in the 12-18 minute range. It was clear last season that Kosta Koufos and Cousins struggled to play together, but this is a different type of big man. With Papagiannis, the Kings now have a long-term asset that will allow them to shop Koufos and his remaining 3-year, $25 million contract.
Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Cousins is a free agent in two seasons and will command a major commitment. At that point, Papagiannis will still be just 20-years-old.
If Cousins and Papagiannis become the next Gasol and Zach Randolph, then the Kings are onto something. If Papagiannis is as good as Divac and co. believe, he might even be a long-term answer for the Kings in the pivot. Either way, the Kings added a young, talented player that fits today and down the road.
Malachi Richardson - Guard - Syracuse
Richardson is a true wild card. He has incredible size and length at the shooting guard position, measuring in at 6-foot-6, 200-pounds with a huge 7-foot wingspan. He has very nice form on his jumper and he can really attack the rim. The Kings haven’t had a shot creator like this in a while.
But there is a reason he was available at the 22nd selection. While he has a nice shooting stroke, his decision making on the court is highly questionable. Richardson hit just 36.9 percent from the floor and 35.3 percent from long range. He’s streaky, but he also takes a lot of bad shots.
He also comes from Syracuse, which almost exclusively implements zone defense. Dave Joerger is known for his stout defense, but his work might be cut out for him with Richardson. If the Kings can rein him in on both ends of the floor, they might have one of the steals in the draft. Either way, he will be expected to play in his rookie campaign, albeit as a reserve.
If Richardson wants to develop into anything other than a no-conscience scorer off the bench, he will have to put in a ton of work. He can be a Jamal Crawford-type scorer with better size. Or he can develop into a big-time starting off-guard. But if he doesn’t improve, he could also have a very short career as a prospect that tantalizes you with his talent but disappoints you in his inability to adapt at the next level.
Sacramento will search for a veteran shooting guard to eat 30-plus minutes a night. If they can grab a starter, the drafting of Richardson furthers the idea that Ben McLemore’s time with the Kings is nearing an end.
Skal Labissiere - Center/Power Forward - Kentucky
Willie Cauley-Stein knew he wasn’t ready after one and even two seasons with coach Calipari at Kentucky, but Labissiere didn’t follow the path of his new Kings teammate. He came into the 2015-16 NCAA season as a five-star recruit and listed on most boards as a top three prospect for the 2016 NBA Draft. But after a sub-par freshman season with the Wildcats, he plummeted to No. 28 where the Kings were more than willing to take the gamble.
Sacramento doesn’t need Labissiere now or even two years from now. But you can’t fault them for snatching up the 7-footer with unlimited potential. This is a value pick with the potential to pay huge dividends down the road, but expect the Haitian-born big to spend a lot of time commuting between Reno and Sacramento.
The Kings have used this roster spot on Eric Moreland over the past two years, but Moreland couldn’t stay healthy enough to develop. Labissiere is organizational depth until he proves otherwise and teams around the league will be watching to see how he develops. Having a familiar face in Cauley-Stein to play mentor and big brother isn’t a bad idea either.
Isaiah Cousins - Guard - Oklahoma
The Kings loved Buddy Hield heading into the draft, but the talented shooter didn’t make it to them at No. 8. Instead, they took his backcourt mate at OU in Cousins. He’s got good size as a combo-guard, measuring in at 6-foot-4.5 with a 6-foot-6 wingspan.
The 22-year-old averaged 12.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists while hitting 41.1 percent from downtown as a senior. His numbers don’t jump off the page, but he played next to a guy who averaged 25 points a night.
He’s not an elite athlete, scorer or defender. But he was also the 59th pick in the draft. Cousins will get a shot to win a roster spot in Summer League and training camp, but with three other rookies, he’s not a sure bet to land one of the Kings' 15 roster spots this season.