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The Ghost of Lottery Present: Ping Pong Balls are the worst

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Yesterday we took a look back at the early history of the Sacramento Kings and their many trips to the NBA lottery.  The Kings had a good run in the early part of the 21st century that made the lottery a distant memory but starting in 2007 the Kings have been back in the lottery every year.

2007

Lottery Position: 10th

Chance to win: 1.8%

Actual Position: 10th

Draft Pick: Spencer Hawes

After a long absence, the Kings finally returned to the lottery in 2007, although not in a very good position to improve their standing.  The Kings ended up staying put and selecting Spencer Hawes at #10 to hopefully be their big man of the future, despite holding out hope that Joakim Noah would slip to them (he went 9th to Chicago).  Hawes never lived up to his potential and has instead become more of a stretch five.  This draft was not particularly great however with the best players after Hawes being Thaddeus Young (12th), Wilson Chandler (23rd), Arron Afflalo (27th), Carl Landry (31st) and Marc Gasol (48th)

2008

Lottery Position: 12th

Chance to win: 0.7%

Actual Position: 12th

Draft Pick: Jason Thompson

The Kings improved a little bit from 2007 to 2008 but not enough to get back into the playoffs and as such they were in the lottery once more.  Kings fans at the time were very hopeful to get a new Point Guard, with guys like D.J. Augustin and Jerryd Bayless potentially being in their range.  Both Augustin (9th) and Bayless (11th)0 went ahead of Sacramento however, as did talented Stanford big man Brook Lopez (10th).  The Kings wound up surprising everyone by taking little known Jason Thompson out of Rider University with the 12th pick when most thought they would take the potential of Anthony Randolph (14th).  Thompson proved to be a decent if not spectacular pick in what turned out to be a very deep draft past the lottery with notable names coming after him including Robin Lopez (15th), Roy Hibbert (17th), JaVale McGee (18th), J.J. Hickson (19th), Ryan Anderson (21st), Courtney Lee (22nd), Kosta Koufos (23rd) Serge Ibaka (24th), Nicolas Batum (25th), George Hill (26th), Nikola Pekovic (31st), DeAndre Jordan (35th), Omer Asik (36th), and Goran Dragic (45th).

2009

Lottery Position: 1st

Chance to win: 25%

Actual Position: 4th

Draft Pick: Tyreke Evans

Proving just how unlucky Sacramento can be in the lottery, the 2009 draft saw the Kings come in with the best chance to win the Blake Griffin sweepstakes and instead drop the maximum amount of spots to 4th.  This also caused them to miss out on James Harden (3rd).  The Kings would go on to select Tyreke Evans at 4th, who would go on to win Rookie of the Year.  However much of Tyreke's success came from the fact that he was a rare rookie who came into the NBA with a developed NBA body and opposing defenses didn't have him figured out yet;  Evans' follow-up years were still good but didn't show much improvement from his rookie season.  Meanwhile Stephen Curry (7th), took a little more time to develop but proved to ultimately be the better player.  Evans was a pretty good pick for the Kings at the time, with the only players that you could consider on par or better than him being Curry, DeMar DeRozan (9th), Jrue Holiday (17th), Ty Lawson (18th), and Jeff Teague (19th).  What a great draft for Point Guards.

2010

Lottery Position: 3rd

Chance to win: 15.6%

Actual Position: 5th

Draft Pick: DeMarcus Cousins

This is a rare case where Sacramento falling in the draft actually ended up helping them out.  If Cousins had the personality and demeanor of Tim Duncan, it's quite possible he would have been the #1 overall pick over his Kentucky teammate John Wall.  Instead, red flags over Cousins caused him to drop into the Kings laps at 5th.  The Kings could have taken a safer pick in Greg Monroe (7th) instead but opted to go with the greater talent in Cousins.  So far that's panned out, with Cousins proving to be one of the league's best big men and an All-Star.  The only other player in the entire draft that Sacramento could have picked that would have been as impactful as Cousins was Paul George (10th).  Overall, a fantastic pick for the Kings.

2011

Lottery Position: 5th

Chance to win: 7.6%

Actual Position: 7th

Draft Pick: Bismack Biyombo (traded for Jimmer Fredette)

Aaaaand here's where the Kings screw it all up.  This draft probably set the Kings back a solid five years.  First, the Kings had the misfortune of dropping a full two spots from the fifth slot, which had less chance of happening as them jumping up to 3rd.  Then they decide to make what is probably one of the worst trades in team history, sending the 7th pick and Beno Udrih away for the 10th pick and John Salmons.  The Kings at the time were desperate for a Small Forward, so they decided to trade down three spots in the draft AND trade a decent player in Udrih for a shooting guard in John Salmons who was past his prime and had a worse contract than Udrih.  It's mind-boggling that in today's day and age such a trade could have occurred.  The Kings compounded on this error by then taking perhaps the worst player in the entire lottery (if not the entire first round) in Jimmer Fredette.  Almost any other player would have been an upgrade, and that's not even mentioning the fact that players such as Klay Thompson (11th) and Kawhi Leonard (15th) were available.  In fact, the only players in the entire first round who had less of an impact in the NBA than Jimmer Fredette are Jan Vesely (6th), Chris Singleton (18th), Nolan Smith (21st) and JaJuan Johnson (27th).  Petrie was able to redeem himself a little bit by selecting Isaiah Thomas with the 60th pick, but since we're strictly focusing on the lottery here, what a setback this was.  Alright let's move on before I spend another 1,000 words ranting about this decision.

2012

Lottery Position: 5th

Chance to win: 7.6%

Actual Position: 5th

Draft Pick: Thomas Robinson

Well this isn't much of a palate cleanser.  Missing out on back-to-back lottery picks is a big no-no in terms of rebuilding and the Kings did just that in taking Thomas Robinson with the 5th pick.  Now to be fair, at the time many considered Robinson falling to the 5th pick to be yet another heist of the DeMarcus Cousins variety, which is why the Kings decided to abandon their earlier plan to select Damian Lillard (they were also very high on Dion Waiters, who went 4th to Cleveland).  Robinson proved to be one of those players whose strengths in college (dominant physicality) proved to be not good enough in the bigger, faster NBA.  While T-Rob could still rebound like crazy, he couldn't stretch the floor, finish at the rim or defend against bigger, taller players.  Robinson has already been traded four times in three seasons.  Even not including Lillard, the Kings missed out on Harrison Barnes (7th), Terrence Ross (8th), Andre Drummond (9th), and Jared Sullinger (21st).  This wasn't a great draft in the first place although it produced a couple of great players near the top in Lillard and 1st pick Anthony Davis.

2013

Lottery Position: 6th

Chance to win: 6.3%

Actual Position: 7th

Draft Pick: Ben McLemore

The first pick of the new regime, Ben McLemore was supposed to be gone by the time the Kings picked.  At this point in the draft it seemed to good to pass up on a player who had extreme athleticism and was one of the better shooters at his position in college.  This pick looked like yet another miss in his rookie season, as he failed to shoot effectively or consistently and looked lost on both ends of the floor.  This gave way to a big improvement in his sophomore year in which it looked like McLemore could one day live up to his potential.  It's obviously still too soon to say how we will look back on this draft in ten years, but it does seem the Kings missed out on at least Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th), who has been the closest thing to a star this draft has produced, along with Victor Oladipo (2nd) and Nerlens Noel (6th).

2014

Lottery Position: 7th

Chance to win: 4.3%

Actual Position: 8th

Draft Pick: Nik Stauskas

Another pick in which it's too early to tell as we've only had one season, albeit a disappointing one, from Nik Stauskas.  Stauskas started to play a little bit better as the year went on, and this upcoming season will be a big one in determining whether this pick was worth it.  As of now however it looks like players such as the Kings will regret passing on the likes of Elfrid Payton (10th), and Jusuf Nurkic (16th).

***

The 2015 NBA Draft lottery will be Tuesday, May 19th.  Will the Kings be able to break free from the chains of history and actually jump up?  Or will it be disappointment yet again?  If there's one thing we learned from this look back at our past, the lottery has less to do with a team's success than picking the right player does. So don't be too disappointed if the Kings drop on Tuesday or too excited if they jump up;  The real measure of success won't be decided until years from now.