With the draft nearly upon us and 14 prospect profiles in the books, I've finalized my Kingscentric Big Board. I am a believer in BPA, but this big board is influenced by the Kings roster as it is currently constructed and fit with the roster was taken into strong consideration. I agree that Vlade Divac's priority should be 1a. talent and 1b. fit, but I lean much more towards fit than many readers here.
Links to my prospect profiles are included;
1. Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke
2. Ben Simmons, PF, LSU
The perfect example of my slight preference for fit over talent. I think Ben Simmons is a slightly better prospect than Ingram, but Ingram's fit with Sacramento (predominantly his shooting ability) earns him my top spot. It doesn't matter, though; both players will be rightfully taken in the top 3.
I love nearly everything about a potential Dunn/Kings pairing and will be crushed when Boston/Phoenix/Minnesota/New Orleans ruins that dream. With his great court awareness, passing skills, and NBA-level athleticism and length, I reiterate my expectation that he'll be a top-10 NBA point guard by the end of his rookie contract.
Sits a hair beneath Dunn - the youngest player in the draft has a very high ceiling in just about every skill on the basketball court. He seems like a science experiment bent on making the picture-perfect modern NBA big man; range, quickness, length, basketball-IQ, high motor... the combination of DeMarcus Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Bender could start a big man revolution with three uniquely gifted, versatile players
Murray gets the nod over Hield thanks to his secondary ball-handling skills and extra youth (19 vs 22). He's a smart player and an outstanding scorer, and handled the bright lights as the biggest name at the biggest school in the country. His defensive weaknesses have become overhyped—he doesn't have the size or quickness to be a lockdown defender, but he doesn't have the physical limitations of some guards in the class. If he puts as much dedication into learning defense as he does into offense, there's no reason why he can't be one of the more stable scoring guards in the association.
Hield's value is obvious—147 made threes on the season and a proven ability to create his own shot when he needed to. Oklahoma had no chance of an NCAA tournament bid without Hield. Outside of his shooting, his value is more sketchy; he's not a facilitator and didn't show (or wasn't asked to show) great determination on defense. Still, the Kings have a massive need for shooting and consistent production at the two guard spot, and Hield provides that and has plenty of room to improve.
If I'm going to be wrong on any player this year, it'll probably be Luwawu. He only had one year of consistent production, and he has clear holes in his game, so drafting the 21-year-old Frenchman is a clear risk. But he's got NBA level athleticism, a developing jumpshot/three-point shot, and great defensive potential, and he plays with great confidence and swagger. I love the idea of Dave Joeger getting to work with Luwawu's range of skills. He's possesses multi-positional versatility and is developing rapidly at nearly every skill you want in 3-and-D guard. I'm going to go down with this ship - I really think he's this classes steal.
Jaylen Brown is a top 7 player in this draft class, but his weaknesses (31.2% on jumpshots, turnover issues, and he needs the ball in his hands to be effective) are already the Kings weaknesses. That said, his physical gifts and defensive potential are intriguing, and if he's the 2nd-tier prospect that falls into the Kings lap, he's got a great case for being the BPA. Sacramento might not be able to afford to be picky with fit if they think Brown is far-and-away the best prospect on the board at #8.
The upsides with Valentine are clear; he's got every offensive skill the Kings could want. He's a great shooter, a great passer, and a Tom-Izzo developed offensive mind. His physical limitations—below-average footspeed and athleticism that gave him problems in college—will be much harder to hide in an NBA defense, even if he can mitigate it somewhat by improving his awareness. The Kings selecting Valentine would give them a perfect offensive fit, but it would mean they have to find defense elsewhere; Sacramento can't survive long-term if Willie-Cauley Stein and DeMarcus Cousins are their only plus defenders.
Baldwin is a risk, but one I'm rationalizing myself into. He's not a great scorer, but he's a good shooter; he's not a great floor leader, but was asked to handle too much of the scoring; he's a below-average ball-handler without great court awareness, but he finished with very solid assist numbers. With his above-average physical gifts and youth, and you've got a high-potential prospect (albeit a risky one) who could become a very versatile, multi-talented NBA point in a few years.
A bulldog of a player who can score at every level, Jackson developed into a solid floor general and led a Notre Dame team that lost a ton of talent last year back to the Elite Eight. He's still got much developing to go as a passer, and his 5'11 size makes him a risk on defense, but he's a tough, gritty player and can outrun/outleap every non-Kris Dunn guard in the class. Jackson began this process above Baldwin, but Baldwin's long-term defensive potential nudged him up in the end (I might just be rationalizing Baldwin since he's the only name on this list to work out for the Kings, and we know how much Vlade Divac values that).
A future highlight-reel maker with all the raw talents of a stretch-four without the rebounding (11.8% defensive rebounding rate is really bad for a power forward) or the proven shooting (21 made three pointers inspires hope, not confidence). Chriss might make me look like a fool for doubting him in a few years, but I think he's a raw, raw prospect who will underwhelm if asked to contribute immediately. He'd be amazing for teams that can be patient (like Boston or Minnesota), but I don't know that the Kings will have that patience.
Overshadowed by his disappointing season is the secret that Skal really does have a solid base of skills, but he'll need serious coaching before he'll be tough enough to utilize them in the NBA.
Chriss and Labissiere are neck-and-neck for me—both are serious project players, but Chriss gets the nod because he didn't show the deer-in-the-headlights look that Labissiere did at Kentucky. If these two swapped colleges, I think Labissiere would have been higher on this list; he would have developed much more broadly in a less-stressful/Kalipari-free environment.
Sabonis won't be a star, but he's a tough player, an excellent rebounder, and a capable scorer both inside and out. I think he'll be a very capable bench role-player/solid starter in a few years if he manages to bulk up. It physically pains me to have a Gonzaga player this high, but I like him more than I liked Kelly Olynyk a few years back.
15. Furkan Korkmaz, G, Turkey
I regret not finding the time to do a full profile on Korkmaz, my highest ranked non-Simmons/Ingram player who I didn't review. But I'll also admit, unlike Luwawu, I didn't find full game footage to watch, so my opinion on Korkmaz is based mainly on others opinions and highlight clips. He's a very young player with an excellent shooting stroke and tons of room to grow, but aside from his success from three, he's proven little else. Korkmaz would fill a big need, but would come with major question marks.
On pure talent alone, Poeltl is a top 10 selection; he's an underrated scorer, a capable passer and a tough rebounder. He needs to improve his defensive fundamentals, but he'd be a great addition to a team with a proven defensive core (looking at you, New Orleans). I just don't think he fits in with the Kings current roster, with or without DeMarcus Cousins.
17. Deyonta Davis, C, Michigan State
Davis is a multi-talented big man who could have a solid impact in the NBA. He's a smart defender, a great blocker (4.1 blocks per 40 minutes), and is a developing scorer with decent footwork and the beginnings of a jumpshot. I just don't believe in his offense like I do Poeltl's/Sabonis', and he doesn't have the insane ceiling that Labissiere or Chriss offer.
Ellenson has all the tools to be a new-age stretch four, with a versatile skill set and the size, strength, and mobility to adequately defend both big man positions. He's certainly a project player, and will need to show more commitment to defending consistently, but he's got natural scoring instincts beyond his age. I don't know that the Kings have the patience to wait him out, though.
19. Dejounte Murray PG/SG
At this point in the draft, I'm picking sheer potential over immediate impact. Murray has ideal size for his position (when he fills out), and is a capable NBA athlete with good quickness. Every aspect of his game is raw, but aside from his three-point range (29%), nothing is exceedingly worrying. Tyler Ullis deserves to be on this list, and far be it from a Kings fan to doubt an undersized firebrand point guard, but Murray gets the nod from me in the late teens.
20. Taurean Prince, G/F, Baylor
Prince doesn't have the high ceiling of his peers, but he's got skills across the board and can provide an immediate impact. He's got the size to play both forward spots, is an NBA-level athlete, and provides shooting/rebounding/toughness in spades. He'll be transitioning from a zone-heavy system, so his defense instincts might take some time to convert.
Just outside the Bubble: Tyler Ulis, PG, Kentucky; Caris LeVert, G, Michigan; Diamond Stone, C, Maryland; Malachi Richardson, G/F, Syracuse; Stephen Zimmerman, PF/C, UNLV.
In all, my final Big Board doesn't seem that far off from the official 2016 Sactown Royalty Big Board. Collective hive-mind brilliance, or are we all lemmings plunging to our watery deaths together? Big thanks to all the readers/commenters who listened to the ramblings of this armchair scout this summer.
Final prediction: I think the gentleman in the image above will be the next Sacramento King.