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What we can learn from the Kings’ two top-10 picks

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Having two picks this high will reveal a lot about how the organization views the current roster

NBA: NBA Draft Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

On June 22nd, the Kings will have the chance to cash in on three Draft picks, two of which are in the top 10. In a post-Boogie world, the importance of these assets cannot be overstated. With a surprisingly robust young core already in house, and four picks over this year and next, but none in 2019, the Kings will be drafting with the intent of solidifying the makeup of the team.

In moving from their win-loss determined pick at #8 to the #5 pick, and coupled with the #10 selection they received from New Orleans, the Kings have found themselves in what I think are the two most interesting spots in the Draft. With their early pick they can select from whomever remains from some of the more elite-considered prospects -- players like De’Aaron Fox, Dennis Smith Jr. and Jonathan Isaac have come up here. Any decision between players here could be motivated by a different guiding principle, one which would also probably inform who they take with their late pick. At #10, they may be choosing between big man prospects, or reaching for wings like Donovan Mitchell, OG Anunoby, or Justin Jackson, who was just invited for a workout with the team. As is natural this time of year, and particularly for Kings fans (for us it’s practically reflexive) some contingents are starting to take shape.

Some fans favor De’Aaron Fox with the #5 pick, for whom there is obvious merit. If the Draft were to take shape as many Mocks predict, Fox would be available. Moreover, it seems Fox himself wants to be here. Fox sounds tantalizing as the lead guard flanked with wing players who project as 3-and-D types like Buddy Hield, Malachi Richardson, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and big men who can operate in P&R and Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere. Additionally, with Fox at #5, a really coherent case can be made for Lauri Markkanen at #10. Read the scouting report on Markannen from Bryant West for a little more, but with Fox’s speed, and Cauley-Stein’s rim-running, Markkanen’s ability to space out to three would be hugely complementary.

For other fans, the allure of Jonathan Isaac overtakes Fox at #5. Isaac is a lively-bodied “unicorn” who already displays a nice stroke and ball-handling ability. He could grab that small forward spot and be able to shift up to power forward in a pinch in smaller lineups. However, with coherence in mind, it becomes less clear who makes the most sense at #10 out of the reasonable choices. In this case, Markkanen, if available, might glut up the big men spots. Labissiere, Cauley-Stein, Papagiannis, and then Isaac would all warrant looks which may throw Markkanen’s fit into question. If international point guard Frank Ntilikina comes available, some reports suggest the Kings would snatch him up. Or perhaps he and Markkanen are off the board in which case someone like Malik Monk may be available and, despite his not being a position of need, be too talented to pass up.

There are other views. Some prefer Dennis Smith Jr. over Fox; Zach Collins, Donovan Mitchell, OG Anunoby over Markkanen. Some even suggested that the Kings wouldn’t take a point guard in the Draft at all. Greg Wissinger has suggested packaging the two picks to move up into the top 2 or 3, while Tony Xypteras has floated the idea of packaging the #10 and #34 picks, along with some sweetener to move up in range to take Isaac at 7 or 8. Some (okay, just me on Twitter), have entertained the idea of trading the #10 pick for a team’s 2019 pick and other assets. All of these have merit in their own right, and most are mutually exclusive.

All of this is to say that this Draft represents a unique chance to glean insight into the thinking of the front office. In conventional years, teams typically draft players in the first round in accordance with a different principle than they do players in the second round. But the proximity of picks 5 and 10 may warrant a contiguity in the guiding principle informing them. This is what the above discussion tries to weed through: what may 5 determine about 10 and, considered together, what do they reveal about the state of the team? Of course, the front office may determine the core of this roster is incomplete, and select the players they consider best available. In this case, contiguity wouldn’t really be the issue, but perhaps some guiding principle like asset accumulation.

This possibility breeds a volatility which won’t be anything new for the fan-base. I still think we are reconciling with a sort of cognitive dissonance between the post-2016 Draft confusion and the promising play of the players actually selected that year. The lesson from that experience is to consider that what may appear nonsensical on Draft night may not appear so in, say, February. Come June 22nd, Kings fans will have the chance to learn a lot about their new front office from the contiguity between and reasoning behind what they do with both of their lottery picks.