The Sacramento Kings entered last night's NBA Draft in an unenviable situation. They had the eighth overall pick, sitting at the tail end of the draft's second tier of prospects. In desperate need of help in the backcourt, the Kings needed things to fall into place perfectly to nab one of those coveted guards (Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray, or Buddy Hield).
Things did not fall perfectly in place. Out of the prospects ranked 3-8, the Kings were left with Marquesse Chriss, a Sacramento native, but an extremely raw prospect who needs time to develop. Rather than grab another falling knife, the Kings made the right play to trade down. Nobody else in the top ten traded their pick so it's safe to assume the going price to trade up was too high.
For once, the Kings actually did well in their trades! Getting #22 for Marco Belinelli was a steal after the season Marco had shooting the ball. Dropping down to #13 to get the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic, #28 overall, and a future second was solid value; not highway robbery, but a perfectly respectable trade. Bogdanovic is one of the best young players in Europe, fresh off back-to-back seasons as the Euroleague young player of the year. He's got a complete skillset, a nice 6'6 frame with a 6'11 wingspan, and he's the best player on a team that just finished runner-up in the second best basketball league in the world.
And it's not a foregone conclusion that the Kings picked badly at their spots either. I'm not going to pretend I would have picked George Papagiannis at 13 or Malachi Richardson at 22; Papagiannis was ranked #50 overall on DraftExpress' big board, and I personally liked both Timothe Luwawu and Furkan Korkmaz better than Malachi. But then again, I'm a YouTube scout. This front office did well last year picking Willie Cauley-Stein at 6 last year, their only draft pick so far. Bucking conventional wisdom isn't necessarily a bad thing. Plus, getting Skal Labissiere at 28 is pretty awesome, and I can't complain about Isaiah Cousins at 59.
So if the Kings traded well and we can at least agree to be open to the possibility that they drafted well, why am I so uncomfortable with the Kings' draft night? The answer is simple: I'm not seeing the big picture. The Kings this offseason all but declared their commitment to giving one more shot at building around DeMarcus Cousins. That essentially means they need to focus on fixing the roster for next season; Cousins' contract runs for only two more seasons, so if you're pro-Boogie like the front office is, next season is it or you're running headfirst into your very own Dwightmare.
And here's the bottom line of the Kings' night: they walked out of the draft with no help next season. Bogdanovic likely isn't coming over until 2017, when he won't be tied down to the NBA's rookie scale. Papagiannis isn't going to be better next season than Kosta Koufos. Richardson is a downgrade next season from Belinelli. Labissiere isn't going to be better than Cauley-Stein. Isaiah Cousins isn't an upgrade over Ben McLemore. As it stands right now, the Kings' rotation remains depressingly unimproved.
There is still a lot of offseason left, true. Focusing on the draft to find an overall philosophy could be losing the forest by zeroing in on the trees. But after a decade of front office chaos, the onus is on the Kings to prove that they are a functional organization. They no longer have the benefit of the doubt. This goes beyond what you think should happen to DeMarcus Cousins or who you wanted the Kings to pick at any particular position. This question is more fundamental: can the Kings brass operate in a cohesive way?
After last night, I'm not seeing it yet. I am open to persuasion otherwise; actually, I'm desperate for it. But that anxiety is well-earned; we've seen this story before. It's time to put up or shut up.
Lord, give us all patience.