The 2009 NBA Draft will no doubt be one of the most important drafts in Sacramento Kings history, and with 3 picks in the top 31, we could come away from this thing very good. There isn't much star talent in this draft, but there are a lot of players who could have solid careers. Ricky Rubio is a player most Kings fans would love to see on the team next year, but beyond him, the other foreigners are relatively unknown to most Americans. I'm not counting players like Brandon Jennings or Nick Calathes, Americans who went to play overseas, mainly because most of you already know who these people are.
A couple of Geoff Petrie's most successful picks in the draft were from Overseas. Brothers Peja and Hedo, both taken WAY higher than they were projected to go, and both ending up being very good picks. That's another thing with Petrie. Don't expect him to pick someone near their "projected" value.
So lets take a look at a few of the prospects we might take a shot at this year.
1. Omri Casspi 20 years old, 6-8, 220 lbs, SF, Israel (DX Projected Pick 30) - Casspi is probably the best European in the draft next to Rubio this year, and is projected to go as high as 23, to the Kings, which Chad Ford has him currently slated as. The funny thing about Casspi is, he's not the typical Petrie Europe SF a la Hedo or Peja. This guy is not known to be a very good shooter, although he's very quietly getting better, making 45% of his Three pointers this season, up from 28.6% the year before. This guy is athletic and has a great wingspan, and scores by getting to the rim and finishing inside. He'll need to work on his defense and ball-handling skills, as well as adding some muscle to his frame, in the NBA, but he could be a very good pick. DX lists his best case as Matt Harpring, and I say that's a decent comparison, but I think Casspi will be much better at scoring.
2. Rodrigue Beaubois 21 years old, 6-2, 182 lbs, PG, France (DX Projected Pick 32)- Beaubois has been slowly rising on draft boards, and got a nice bump from the Chicago combine when he was measured with a 6'9.75 (basically 6'10) wingspan, and had a 39'' vertical jump. This guy is very physically gifted. He's definitely a point guard in the same style as Bobby Jackson and Ronnie Price - decent shooters, lots of energy, very quick. A good thing about Beaubois is that his defense is one of his strong points, and with his physical skills you can see why. He averaged more rebounds (2.5) than assists (2.3) per game last year, and even though his ball handling skills are very good, I don't see him becoming an initiator of the offense.
Highlight Video (I recommend watching the whole thing, it might look like its just 3 pointers to start, but then its better):
3. Sergio Llull 21 years old, 6-3, 176 lbs, PG, Spain (DX Projected Pick 36) - Llull is a very safe point guard. You can trust the ball in his hands. He has a very good assist to turnover ratio and is also good shooting the ball from pretty much everywhere. He's aggressive on both ends of the floor, and loves getting his teammates involved. His weaknesses revolve around his small frame. He's not as good when he gets near the basket, or when he gets hit. That will be a big issue in the NBA, where players are bigger and tougher. He'll definitely need to learn better body control and bulk up a bit to be a good player over here. Another issue with Llull is that he'd probably make more money in Spain than in the NBA. An interesting thing about Sergio is that he was on the Real Madrid team that beat the Toronto Raptors 104-103 in the preseason in 2007. Bosh didn't play, but everyone else did. Here's the box score. Llull scored 17 points and had 2 assists in 15 minutes. Unlike him, he had 3 turnovers. Could this be because of the size and strength of NBA players?
4. Victor Claver 20 years old, 6-10, 218 lbs, SF/PF, Spain (DX Projected Pick 37) - Claver is by far one of the most athletic players in Europe, if not the most. His stock fell this year, mainly due to a knee injury he sustained during the season. He is very good at scoring around the rim, and also is a good 3 point shooter. The problems with Claver then start to pile up. According to DX, he turned the ball over on 22.6% of his possesions in the half court, and he only drew fouls on 6.4% of his shots. That might sound odd since he's so good at getting to the rim, but he relies too much on his 3 pointer when his strength really lies elsewhere (like Donte). He'll really need to increase his size to be a factor in the NBA, especially on the defensive end, and also improve his midrange game and ballhandling skills. He probably has the potential to be the best Euro in this draft next to Rubio, but he could also be a complete non-factor. Also, it should be noted that drafting Claver means the team who picks him will have to wait at least a year, as he just recently signed a new 3 year contract with his team in Spain (thanks to Blazersedge for the info). The contract has an affordable buyout after each year so he can leave for the NBA when he feels like it. This is probably not a good pick for the Kings since they need help now.
Highlight Video (this video is 7 months old):
5. Jonas Jerebko 22 years old, 6-9, 210 lbs, SF, Sweden (DX Projected Pick 40) - Jerebko (who plays in the Italian First Division) has the potential to be a very good defender and rebounder at the Small Forward position. He can provide you with points, and shoots well, but he simply lacks aggressiveness at this end of the floor. He also needs to learn to handle the ball better and has a 1:2 assist to turnover ratio. It will be interesting to see how he performs at Treviso, especially at the offensive end, since this is where most of his weakness lies.
Highlight video (can't find any highlight vids of Jerebko, so here's Draft Express's interview instead):
6. Milan Macvan 19 years old, 6-9, 265 lbs, PF/C, Serbia (DX Projected Pick 41) - Macvan is my least favorite Euro Prospect. Mainly because he's a smaller, less skilled version of Brad Miller. He has great basketball IQ, and is great at passing and helping set up his teammates. He's also a good shooter from mid range, and can hit a 3 pointer, as evidenced by his 33.3% clip from last year. But he's an absolute defensive sieve and can't rebound at all. He would be destroyed in the NBA (in my humble opinion).
Highlight Video (Playing against Americans):
I hope that this post has helped you become a little more familiar with prospects that the Kings might consider at 23 and 31 that you might otherwise not have heard about.
More International Players projected to be drafted (these are ones I believe the Kings won't consider at all)
Of the players I have told you about, I think Casspi is the only one who could be in play with the 23 pick, and the rest would be in consideration for the 31. I almost included Macvan in the list of players I think the Kings wouldn't consider at all, but he reminded me too much of a Petrie big even though I think he'll be a complete bust. Beaubois could be a great pickup at 31 especially if someone like Collison is gone by then.
DX's latest mock has increased Casspi's draft stock to 26 (+4), Beaubois to 30 (+2), Llull to 38 (-2), Claver to 39 (-2), Jerebko to 41 (-1), and Macvan to 42 (-1).