With all the crazy dysfunction surrounding the Kings, the drama about George Karl's job security, and the debates of effort vs. scheme, it's easy to forget the least-important-but-still-kinda-important aspect of the season; the Kings 2016 1st round pick.
Yes, this is a discussion about the lottery. We might have all hoped to avoid this conversation this season, but at least this year has a new wrinkle in the regularly-scheduled lottery monotony—it's best for the Kings if they don't get to keep their pick. Sacramento is currently slotted with the 10th worst record in the league, and if they finish at 11th or better, their 2016 pick goes to Chicago thanks to that decades-ago Omri Casspi/JJ Hickson debacle. And after the salary dump with Philadelphia last July, it'd be safest for the long-term health of the franchise if the Kings could get that pick to the Bulls this year.
The most dangerous aspect of this convoluted mess is the Kings unprotected 2019 1st round pick, but Sacramento crafted the Philadelphia deal to try and avoid the possibility of having to give up that 2019 pick. Due to a collective bargaining agreement rule, NBA teams cannot trade—or, in the Kings case, convey—consecutive years 1st round picks. This means that Sacramento's goal is to give Philadelphia their top-10-protected 2018 pick to insure they won't lose the protectionless 2019 pick; and just in case one needs a reason to be worried about such a distant selection, DeMarcus Cousins' current contract ends after the 2017-18 season.
For a full and detailed breakdown of the Kings future draft pick considerations, check out Tony's post on the topic from last July, or Omer's visual breakdown. The details are convoluted, but if you ignore Philadelphia's swap rights, it sums down to this;
- Sacramento owes Chicago their 2016 pick if the selection is outside of the top 10; if not, they owe their 2017 pick if the selection is outside of the top 10
- If the Kings send the 2017 pick to Chicago, they will be unable to convey their 2018 pickto Philadelphia regardless of their final record.
- Thus, if the Kings want to avoid sending the 76ers the unprotected 2019 pick, they need to either convey their 2016 pick Chicago, or they'll need to avoid sending either pick in 2016 or 2017 and then successfully convey their 2018 pick to Philadelphia by being outside the top 10.
So it's safest for Sacramento to give the Bulls the 2016 pick, but if the Kings struggle and end up keeping it, it's not as if the front office could afford to be that upset. Sacramento will enter the summer with significant cap space and a desire to add win-now veterans, but with the continuing turmoil around the organization coupled with the jumping salary cap that will give nearly all teams free agency dough, the market may not be friendly to the Kings. The chance for at least one potential building block in the form of a rookie (or the chance for a valuable trading chip in the pick) may pay off for the Kings in the long run.
Given the potential shown by Vlade Divac's first (albeit only) draft selection in Willie Cauley-Stein, it would be nice to see Divac get another shot at drafting. Even if most draft experts (and this armchair scout) consider this a weaker draft class, there's always the luster of having just one more shot at a slightly promising rookie (I'm already got a serious draft crush on Okahoma's Buddy Hield, but we'll get into the actual draft come March).
In the end, it'd be best for the franchise if they conveyed the pick to Chicago this season. Honestly, the best thing for the franchise is a playoff spot that helps shed some of the dysfunctional vibes the franchise dons with their jerseys. But as the schedule turns from February to March with the Kings hovering right around the 8th-12th draft spot, the short- and long-term pick issues start coming into play, at least in the background.
After this brutal eight game stretch that includes San Antonio, the Clippers, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Dallas, San Antonio again, AND Cleveland, the Kings schedule is dramatically easierâtheir final 19 opponents have a current combined record of 464-601 (43.5%). There's plenty of time and opportunity for the Kings to secure the pick goes to Chicago, or to self-destruct and guarantee another trip to the lottery.
Then again, this could all be meaningless. The Kings could avoid all risk by being so good by 2019 that the 1st round pick would be meaningless. Snagging another promising rookie or trading the pick for a veteran could help start the new, hopefully stable foundation to bring them towards that goal. But then again, the Kings ARE the Kings.