With the NBA Draft just days away, the Sacramento Kings are approaching one of the first turning points in the inaugural offseason for Vlade Divac, the recently installed vice president of basketball and franchise operations who will be making the decisions Thursday, and head coach George Karl. With the revamped front office now in place, Karl said he thinks everything is headed in the right direction with a draft plan in place.
"I think where we're at is a positive place," Karl said after Sunday's pre-draft workout that featured Wisconsin's Sam Dekker and Arizona's Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. "I think we know if we keep six, we kind of know what we're going to do."
This "positive place" could result in players such as Willie Cauley-Stein, Mario Hezonja or Emmanuel Mudiay, but trading the pick and doubling the return also sounds promising to Karl.
"If we don't keep six and we can turn it into two players, that would be exciting," Karl said.
Divac recently told The Sacramento Bee that his priorities for the draft include adding a shot blocker and playmaker. Karl seems to be aligned with that when it comes to his priorities for improving the roster, saying the Kings need defense.
"I think we need a defensive player. I think we must improve defensively so the two things that come to mind for me are shot-blocking … protecting the rim and maybe a defensive-attitude guy that I can go sic 'em on a great player," Karl said. "And offensively, philosophically, it comes down to decision-making. I think that is probably a little bit ahead of shooting, but I want playmakers. I want guys that when they're given an easy basketball play, they make it and make it more consistently than we did in the 30 games I coached."
Divac and Karl are just months removed from entering the door of the burning building that was ignited by the firing of Michael Malone. So what does Karl think about working with Divac? He says it's all good.
"I love Vlade ... he has integrity. When Vlade walks into the room you feel good, and it's kind of a unique trait," Karl said. "As a coaching staff we're trying to help him a little bit, walk him through some of the stuff."
How much the coaching staff is walking Divac through as it relates to the draft is uncertain, but when asked if he plans to have much of a say on draft day, Karl said if they were talking about a guy who is going to be playing 30 minutes a night for the team that he would be "aggressive" with his input.
"I don't think any guy at six is going to play 30 minutes for us next year. I think most of these guys we are considering are 19-year-old kids that are going to have to grow up a little bit," said Karl, who has insisted since the season ended that he doesn't plan to be overly involved in the draft analysis. "And I think it is actually easy to grow up on a winning team than it is on a losing team. And unfortunately, the guys that are the young prospects usually get taken by a team that is struggling."
These types of messages could always be a smokescreen around this time of the year, but it does bring up Karl's reputation he had while in Denver about not playing rookies. Karl would roll his eyes when asked about playing a rookie Kenneth Faried in 2012, granted that team was winning. Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post joined us back in February to talk about this and Karl's style of coaching.
On Sunday, Karl shared a little insight into his thoughts on rookies.
"I see a lot of guys that if you put them on the Atlanta Hawks and the growing pains of their failures don't create losing, but they just create take them out of the game and sit them today, it's a little different than when you play a guy and his bad performance creates a loss," Karl said.
This isn't to say if the Kings draft a player capable of replacing Darren Collison, Ben McLemore of Jason Thompson in the starting lineup or being a serviceable rotation player off the bench that Karl won't play him. Nor does it mean that he should ignore a rookie's problems with decision-making, but it will be something to keep an eye on. Regardless of the decision made on Thursday, Karl knows he will always have to adapt to the players he has.
"I as a coach when our roster is set, I've got to adapt to style of play a little bit to them too. If we don't have what I want; in pro ball the coach has got to be adaptable," Karl said. "In college, I think you can go recruit the type of player you want. In pro ball, you've got to have good players, you've got to have talented kids and if you can't get your type of player, then just got to change the style of play until you do get your type of player, or you try to make the player you get into maybe your type of player."
As for the players who decide they don't want to work out for certain teams like Emmanuel Mudiay reportedly did with the Kings? It irks Karl a little.
"I'm not going to deny that … I'm not happy when they don't come in. We're one of the 30 teams and you're going to be picky? Sometimes, I think we should be a little dogmatic there, but again, that's up to the decision-makers," Karl said.
It is expected that Monday's workout featuring Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky will be the last workout the Kings host before the draft.
"I think Vlade and Mike [Bratz] are going to be ready to go on Thursday," Karl said.