Last night the Kings beat the league-worst Milwaukee Bucks in convincing fashion. It wasn't too surprising of an outcome, but it was very nice to see Ray McCallum have another good game in a row; Consistency is something that we've sorely been lacking from our young players this year.
So with Milwaukee out of the way, how does the rest of the season shape up for the Kings? As Tom discussed earlier this week, we know for a fact that this team is better than its record. The fact that we don't have as many wins as we should is actually beneficial in the long run with such a deep draft coming.
Speaking of the draft, as of right now the Kings are 22-39, or 7th worst in the league, but they're also just a game away from 4th (currently Boston at 20-41).
The Kings have 21 games remaining. 12 of those come on the road, with half of them on this trip. In terms of quality of opponent, this trip actually offers the best chance to get wins. The only teams that are below .500 that the Kings will play from here on out are: Detroit, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, New York, New Orleans and the Lakers. Every single other team is either a playoff team or one hoping to be (Minnesota). To reach last year's record of 28-54, the Kings would have to go 6-15, or much lower than the .500 percentage they've been playing at with Rudy/DeMarcus/Isaiah healthy.
Some fans might be calling on the Kings to tank these games in favor of better lottery positioning. But if there's one thing I've learned over these long years of rebuilding is that it's not always about where you draft, but who you draft. The only Kings draft picks of the past 6 years, all of which the Kings have been in the lottery, that are still contributors on this team are Jason Thompson (drafted 12th in 2008), DeMarcus Cousins (5th in 2010) and Isaiah Thomas (60th in 2011). The jury is still out on our most recent selections of Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum. Along the way the Kings have missed out on drafting the following guys:
- Thaddeus Young (12th in 2007)
- Marc Gasol (47th in 2007)
- Roy Hibbert (17th in 2008)
- Serge Ibaka (24th in 2008)
- Nicolas Batum (25th in 2008)
- Nikola Pekovic (31st in 2008)
- DeAndre Jordan (35th in 2008)
- Goran Dragic (45th in 2008)
- Stephen Curry (7th in 2009)
- Jrue Holiday (17th in 2009)
- Ty Lawson (18th in 2009)
- Jeff Teague (19th in 2009)
- Wesley Matthews (undrafted in 2009 but played for Sacramento's summer league team)
- Paul George (10th in 2010)
- Kemba Walker (9th in 2011)
- Klay Thompson (11th in 2011)
- Kawhi Leonard (15th in 2011)
- Nikola Vucevic (16th in 2011)
- Tobias Harris (19th in 2011)
- Kenneth Faried (22nd in 2011)
- Nikola Mirotic (23rd in 2011)
- Reggie Jackson (24th in 2011)
- Literally anyone in 2012 but some notables are Damian Lillard (6th), Harrison Barnes (7th), Terrence Ross (8th), Andre Drummond (9th), John Henson (14th), Terrence Jones (18th), Jared Sullinger (21st), Miles Plumlee (26th)
That's a lot of misses for a team that has been as bad as we have been as long as we have been. There are franchise changing talents in there, with one of them (Damian Lillard) being a guy that we were going to draft up until Thomas Robinson fell in our laps (for good reason).
This draft has a lot of hype, but there's really no great way of telling which of these players will be great and which will be failures, especially as fans. Just look at last year's draft when we took Robinson. Up until almost draft day it was assumed that he'd be 2nd or 3rd at the minimum, but instead he goes 5th and probably shouldn't have gone that high. Drafting is guesswork, made easier through months and months of analysis by NBA Front Offices, and even they still get stuff wrong.
So I'm not too worried about the draft or where we'll end up. Naturally I'd like to have a top-3 pick if we could because statistically speaking you find a lot of superstars come from those picks. But so much of it is out of our control that I won't bother stressing about it. The more important thing is drafting a good player wherever we may land and developing him as player that can be a valuable contributor for years to come. Shoot, right now our 2nd round pick from this past draft, Ray McCallum, is looking better than our lottery pick Ben McLemore. Nobody would have expected that going into the season.
So let the ping pong balls and lottery standings fall where they may. Right now it feels good to just have a team in the first place, and I feel like we're closer to being a good team than we are to being a truly bad team, even though it's still a ways away, especially in the tough West.