SACRAMENTO -- The 2016 NBA is just around the corner. June 23 will be here before we know it and it won’t take long for the Sacramento Kings to be on the clock with the eighth overall selection.
Two weeks ago, the Kings were in trouble. This particular draft was looking more and more like a two-man draft at the top and then five players vying for picks 2-7. But the draft very rarely holds true to form.
Every summer there is a name that comes out of nowhere. Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn went from being projected in the late teens to early 20 to the sixth overall selection in 2009. Wesley Johnson turned heads in the interview process during the 2010 NBA Draft, climbing all the way to fourth overall.
Defensive-minded Bismack Biyombo move all the way to No. 7 in 2011. Dion Waiters wouldn’t workout for a single team in 2012 and the mystique of the unknown landed him at No. 4.
Anthony Bennett shockingly climbed to the top spot in 2013 and Noah Vonleh moved from a 20s pick into the Top 3 before finally settling in at No. 9 in 2014.
The draft can be a crapshoot, and this year, it appears that Sacramento native Marquese Chriss has climbing shoes on. In mock drafts all over the country he is on the move, and while he likely won’t get his wish of landing in a Kings uniform, he may impact their future dramatically.
After Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, it’s a wide open race. The Draft Express bigboard has Chriss listed No. 3 overall after his substantial jump and in the CSNCalifornia.com Mock Draft 2.0, the power forward out of the University of Washington goes to the Phoenix Suns with the fourth overall selection.
Croatian-born Dragan Bender will likely draw consideration in the Top 4. It’s a copycat league and after last season’s breakout campaign by Kristaps Porzingis, no one wants to miss out on the next big thing from Europe.
This is a dream scenario for the Sacramento Kings. While they were impressed with Chriss’ workout earlier in the month, they are loaded up front.
Second-year big man Willie Cauley-Stein is slated to start alongside two-time All-Star DeMarcus Cousins. Kosta Koufos will eat major minutes off the bench and Quincy Acy is still a major possibility to re-sign with the team. And then there is always the possibility of another Sacramento native, Ryan Anderson, returning home to play the stretch four.
Chriss’ rise might make this an eight-man draft and if he can break the top seven, he can push one of draft’s four guards down to them at eight.
You want to draft the best possible player, but the Kings have major needs in the backcourt. After three seasons with the team, Ben McLemore still isn’t ready to shoulder the load at the two. And after watching him struggle all last season, neither is veteran Marco Belinelli.
At the point guard spot, Sacramento is in major trouble. Rajon Rondo, last year’s starter, is an unrestricted free agent and the Kings don’t seem interested in getting in a bidding war for his services. He he comes in at the right price, Rondo may return, but that’s a huge if.
His backup, Darren Collison, has found himself in a quagmire. The Placer County district attorney's office is still deciding whether or not to press charges after Collison was arrested in a domestic squabble over Memorial Day weekend. His availability to start the season won’t be known for sometime.
Even the Kings’ third point guard, Seth Curry, has opted out of his contract and become a restricted free agent. If a team with loads of salary cap space comes calling for the 25-year-old shooter, general manager Vlade Divac will have a difficult call to make.
The perfect scenario is for one of the four top-tier guards in this year’s draft to tumble to them at eight. The list includes Kris Dunn from Providence, the best pure point guard in the draft. Jamal Murray out of Kentucky, who will likely transition from the shooting guard spot to the point at the pro level. Cal’s Jaylen Brown, who can play either the two or the three. And Oklahoma’s senior shooting guard, Buddy Hield, who lit the NCAA Tournament on fire with his heroics.
It’s a solid group. The hope is that all four are starters in Year 1, or at least rotational players. Although there might not be an All-Star level guard in the lot, you can never tell until they lace them up and take the court.
There are more twists and turns coming as we get closer to the draft, but it appears that Sacramento might have a legitimate shot at adding a quality player at a position of need with the eighth overall selection. The Kings are in desperate need of another option in the backcourt and Marquese Chriss may have opened a door for that scenario with his pre-draft jump.