Monday Mail Sac/Pick & Droll: Past drafts, 'Reke & Cuz, 2013 StR Draft Extravaganza

Tom Pennington

Tick, tick, tick...

It's draft week Monday, so let's begin the Mail Sac with a draft-related question:

From the one and only andy sims: "Assume you could have seen into the future, and have known exactly how the first NBA years of our most recent lottery picks would pan out. (Not their rookie seasons, but their NBA tenure up ‘til now). Where would you place the following within their respective draft classes? In other words, if Robinson went 5th, what number should he have been based on what he's done in the NBA?"

Thomas Robinson

James Fredette

DeMarcus Cousins

Tyreke Evans

Jason Thompson

And hell, Spencer Hawes

Anyone move up? Anyone leave round one or the entire draft?

There are two ways of looking at this. One is to look at performance to date, and another is to look at who'd you rather want moving forward. I'm going to take the first path, and just look at the career-to-date performances of the players. I'll bold-type the players that were drafted before the Kings' respective picks.

Let's start with the 2007 Hawes draft and mover forward. Here would be my "re-rack" of that draft based on what we know today: Kevin Durant, Marc Gasol, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Mike Conley Jr., Thaddeus Young, Arron Afflalo, Carl Landry, Spencer Hawes, and Jeff Green. Other players to be considered include Rodney Stuckey, Wilson Chandler, Jared Dudley, Tiago Splitter and Glen Davis. Again, if I were going from here forward, I would select Chandler, Dudley and Splitter over Hawes. But based on career-to-date performance, Hawes is still a top ten player in that draft.

In 2008, the Kings shocked just about everyone when they selected Jason Thompson with the 12th pick. Based on career-to-date, that draft might roll out today something like this: Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert, Danilo Gallinari, Serge Ibaka, Nikola Pekovic, Eric Gordon, Nicolas Batum, Ryan Anderson, Omer Asik, DeAndre Jordan, George Hill, Javale McGee, Goran Dragic, Jason Thompson. Other players to be considered include O.J. Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, Robin Lopez,Brandon Rush, Michael Beasley, D.J. Augustin, J.J. Hickson, Kosta Koufos, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Mario Chalmers. Holy crap, that turned out to be a pretty good draft! Thompson turned out better than half the guys that were drafted ahead of him, but based on this list he went too high.

2009 saw the drafting of Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans. Evans was selected with the fourth pick by the Kings. Based on the career-to-date numbers, the list would roll out in the following manner: James Harden, Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Ricky Rubio, Taj Gibson, Demar DeRozan, Jeff Teague, Darren Collison.

It's amazing what one year can mean when these guys are still playing under their rookie contract. Harden would not have been my #1 guy at this time last year, and one still could have argued Curry vs. Evans. It's easy to forget that the 2012-13 season represented 25% of the careers for these guys (33% for Griffin, 50% for Rubio). I would anticipate this list moving a bit more over the next couple of years (I think that Jeff Teague will move up considerably, for example).

The Kings selected DeMarcus Cousins with the 5th pick of the 2010 draft, and to date he has been better than everyone drafted ahead of him not named John Wall. Laying that draft out today: Paul George, Wall, Greg Monroe, Cousins, Derrick Favors, Evan Turner, Gordon Hayward, Larry Sanders, Eric Bledsoe, and Greivis Vasquez. So far, Cousins would still be the best "value" pick. And if he had his head screwed on straight, he'd be above Monroe on my list. Also interesting to note that the Pacers grabbed George with the 10th pick and Lance Stephenson with the 40th pick. Now that's value!

2011. This one might take a while. While technically selecting Bismack Biyombo with the 7th pick, the Kings really selected Jimmer Fredette with the 10th pick (no, really!). These guys have only been around a couple of years, so this list will still probably change a lot over the next few years. But as of right now: Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Kenneth Faried, Chandler Parsons, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Nikola Vucevic, Tristan Thompson, Isaiah Thomas, Brandon Knight, Derrick Williams, Jonas Valancinas, Iman Shumpert, and Biyombo. Fredette would get lumped in with the following players based on career-to-date performance: Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Markieff and Marcus Morris, MarShon Brooks, Reggie Jackson, and so on. Again, I am not equating Fredette to Kanter in any way other than their career-to-date numbers.

So there are a couple of items of note here. First, passing on Kawhi Leonard was a crusher, with or without the 7/Udrih for 10/Salmons trade. I mean, the Kings weren't going to draft the rights to Marc Gasol with the 10th pick back in 2007, and I can look at the myriad players from 2008 and justify why the Kings passed on each of them at the time. And it's foolish to second guess the Evans pick, which has proven to be solid. But Leonard was a very good prospect at a position of desperate need, and the Kings passed on him and positioned for Jimmer Fredette. That's the kind of deal that sets a franchise back.

The funny thing is, the Kings have achieved top 10 value out of that draft to this point ... it's just that the value came from #60 pick Isaiah Thomas.

2012. Pass out the hot soup and blankets, as this could take a while. Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters, Harrison Barnes, Alexy Shved, Tyler Zeller, Mo Harkless, Andrew Nicholson, Chris Copeland, Jae Crowder (say Crowder!), Brian Roberts, Festus Ezeli, just about anyone else that you would want to name, Thomas Robinson.

The first thing that jumps out at me here is how few rookies really made a significant mark last year. Seven, maybe? Perhaps this list will expand over the next couple of years, and perhaps Robinson will be part of that expansion. But what a waste of a pick for the Kings.

***

Next up, al_lives: "I just watched the Spurs and the Heat battle it out for the 2013 NBA Championship, and man was it amazing to watch basketball being played at the highest level. All the players and staff knew what they had to do to win: the superstars knew their roles, the role players became stars in their own right and the coaches were so quick to adjust to the opposition that the series became part-basketball game, part-chess match, and 100% a spectacle to behold. My question is: do you see the Sacramento Kings playing basketball at this ultimate level in the future NBA Finals with our current core of Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins?"

I noted somewhere (the podcast, I think) that one of the depressing things about watching the Finals was the realization of just how far away the Kings are from competing at that level. Each team had three players each that are better than anyone on the Kings (Duncan/Parker/Ginobli/and-or Leonard and James/Wade/Bosh). So as of right now, the Kings are three players away from being among those teams, and probably at least a player or two away from being even a fringe playoff contender.

Could Cousins and Evans still develop? That's the hope of the organization. Each player has improved at least a bit each year as a pro, and there is really no reason to think that either player has peaked. Their development has certainly been slower than what one would hope for, as Evans has lagged behind fellow classmates Harden and Curry after having a superior rookie year. To be clear, Evans is a better player than he was as a rookie, but he has not had the exponential improvement that has been seen in Harden and Curry. Likewise with Cousins, who was supposed to possess so much "upside" over a guy like Greg Monroe, yet has not separated himself (and it could be argued that he is slightly behind Monroe as of this moment.

I spoke with Jerry Reynolds a couple of years ago, and Reynolds discussed the need for this team to obtain a player with a bit of a veteran presence that was also better than anyone on the roster. Guys like Fancisco Garcia (or in Jerry's case, Jim Les) were great character guys, but you can only do so much leading as a fringe rotation player. Now I suppose that this is not always the case - Oklahoma City has done alright with their young players being their best players. But it's not easy to pull a Durant/Westbrook combination out of your hat. Can Cousins/Evans be Durant/Westbrook? I'm 99% certain that the answer to that is "no."

The Kings may not add that veteran guy this summer. New ownership may determine to get their arms around the current roster, and then start wheeling and dealing in smaller chunks, trying to pick up small bits of value along the way. I can certainly see the new front office taking more of a "moneyball" approach and staying away from the big contract. And by big I mean that third contract that can eclipse the $20 million dollar level. As much as we debate the prospective contracts of Cousins and Evans, $65-80m contracts over 4-5 years only crush a franchise if a player gets hurt or blue-flu's his way out of town.

All of that said, the new regime has listed player development as a priority. We'll sure no soon enough whether Cousins and Evans are on an upward path or an outward path.

Pick & Droll for today is the Sactown Royalty 2013 Draft Contest.

The prize: Bragging rights.

The rules: Guess the Kings draft pick at #7. If you think that the #7 pick will be traded, then define what you think the trade will be, including the players that will ultimately be coming to the Kings (for example: The Kings trade the #7 pick for the #11 and the #25, selecting Michael Carter-Williams at #11 and Mike Muscala at #25).

1st Tie Breaker: The proper guessing of the #36 pick serves as a 1st tie breaker.

2nd Tie Breaker: List the first seven picks, in order. You do not have to list the teams that draft the players, just the players.

3rd Tie Breaker: First one to have their picks in, which are to be left in the daily Mail Sac/Pick & Droll threads. However, once you submit your picks they cannot be changed.

Deadline to submit picks is Wednesday, June 26th, 6 PM Pacific. Updated lists will appear in the Mail Sac/Pick & Droll posts of Tuesday-Thursday this week.

So in the threads, your contest comment might look something like this:

"7th: Joe College. 36th: Sergio International. 1-7: Tipsy, Queasy, Surly, Sleazy, Edgy, Dizzy, Remorseful."

Or -

"The Kings trade the 7th pick and Patrick Patterson to the Houston Rockets for Thomas Robinson. I really don't care about the 36th pick at this point, and the NBA can kiss my ass. Honeymoon's over!!!"

It's that easy!

-

Send your questions and topic ideas to asksactownroyalty@gmail.com. As always, it's OK to jack this thread (and only this thread).

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