My heart sank when I saw the Boston Celtics logo.
For a brief second I thought it meant the Sacramento Kings pick had jumped. I was expecting to see the Kings logo. But then my brain registered that since the pick was going to the Boston Celtics, it was their logo on the card. The pick hadn’t jumped. I let out a loud sigh of relief.
It shouldn’t matter, but we all know it does. We’ve spent years loathing the trade that sent the Kings’ unprotected 2019 first rounder to the Philadelphia 76ers (who later traded it to the Boston Celtics). Whether that pick was the 14th pick or the 1st pick, it wasn’t ours. It was a sunk cost, but it would’ve been a final knife twist if that pick had landed in the top four.
According to Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren, it nearly did.
One tidbit from Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren - the 14th pick came within one ping pong ball of landing at No. 4.— Mark Murphy (@Murf56) May 15, 2019
But now we can officially close the book on one of the worst trades in franchise history. As a reminder, the Kings sent Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, a 2017 pick swap, and a 2019 unprotected first round pick for the rights to Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic. The Sixers swapped picks in 2017 moving from 5 to 3, and eventually trades the third pick in part of their deal to move up to the first pick to select Markelle Fultz. The Kings selected De’Aaron Fox, and that’s working out pretty well so far. The 2019 pick becomes the 14th overall in a relatively weak draft.
The Kings got extremely lucky in that trade. But we shouldn’t allow the narrative to be re-written to say that the trade wasn’t all that bad. It was a horrendous trade. In a bad trade with Sam Hinkie, it’s worth noting that ok results doesn’t excuse a bad process.
And while giving up the 14th pick isn’t nearly as bad as giving up a top 4 pick, let’s not pretend that the Kings couldn’t use that first round pick right now. The Kings have an exciting core with Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III, Harry Giles, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Harrison Barnes. But how many times last season did we lament the lack of depth? You’ll hear arguments being made that the Kings need veterans now, and that adding another young player isn’t needed right now. But that logic falls apart under the most meager investigation. What team can’t find room on their roster for a 19 or 20 year old player who will be cost controlled for years to come? This draft lacks star power at the top but there are productive players who project to be available at 14. Anyone who tries to tell you that some veteran free agent is more valuable than a Chuma Okeke, a Grant Williams, a Bol Bol, or a Nassir Little is simply trying to convince you that our mistake wasn’t that bad. Those players are lottery tickets. They may never be great, but there’s an almost certainty that a really good players comes from this drafted being selected 14th or later.
We shouldn’t excuse any part of that disastrous trade and we shouldn’t forget the consequences of it, but we can finally begin to look forward without it hanging over our heads. We can hope to find a gem in the second round, we can look forward to free agency, and we can look forward to the future with a fully stocked draft chest. The next time we don’t have a lottery pick, it better be because the Kings made the playoffs.