Let’s start with a few caveats. Second round picks are unlikely to pan out. Late first round picks are unlikely to pan out. In general the draft as a whole is a crapshoot. This year’s draft was considered a relatively weak draft. We can all agree on these points. Now, with that agreed upon, I need to say the following:
The Sacramento Kings had a bad draft.
This isn’t about Justin James or Kyle Guy or [checks Google] Vanja Marinkovic. I’d never heard of Pedrag Stojakovic before he was drafted. Now he’s a legend and one of the folks making these picks. Any of those three players could be fine. I hope they turn out great. The odds are against them, but gems always emerge from the second round.
Despite the knowledge that the second round is an enormous guessing game, you can still maximize the value of your assets. Second round picks are assets, or so we’ve been told over the past few seasons as the Kings have accumulated a baker’s dozen of them in trades. So if we accept that they are an asset, you need to maximize your use of that asset.
When you use those assets to select multiple players projected outside the top 60, you’re failing to maximize value. Sure, another team might have ended up selecting one of those guys, but based on all pre-draft intelligence it seems likely the Kings could have simply invited James or Guy to camp and used their draft picks on other players.
But the Kings seemed disinterested in continuing to build through the draft. The chorus of local media has been pushing the narrative that the Kings don’t need more young players, that now is the time to acquire veterans. But this very concept is absurd. The Kings missed the playoffs by 9 games and have a terrible track record in free agency. Adding more depth via the draft is a cost-efficient method that smart teams take advantage of.
Contrast the Kings with the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets were the number two seed in the West last year. They’re getting to the point where their key players are expensive. So they’re taking low-risk high upside draft picks like Bol Bol. If it doesn’t work out, they can live with the miss. Second round contracts are non-guaranteed. But if it works out, they got a first round talent for low cost. They picked Bol 4 picks after the Kings made their first selection. This isn’t even about Bol, they could have taken a similar swing with Jontay Porter. There were high upside, low risk opportunities available, and it seems like the Kings failed to maximize their three opportunities to improve the team.
A few years from now we’ll look back on this and my frustration will seem silly. But we’ll also look back and be able to point to the gems the Kings missed. Smart, successful teams take the second round seriously and work to maximize the possible value from their picks. It feels like the Kings failed to do so.