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2020-21 Kings Season Preview: Robert Woodard II

The Kings rookie looks like an NBA player, but can he perform like one?

Golden State Warriors v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our 2020 Kings Season Preview series, where we’ll be looking ahead to what this season will bring for every member of this Sacramento roster and pondering both best and worst-case scenarios. Today, let’s continue with Robert Woodard II.

How did he get here?

The Kings traded their no. 35 pick in the 2020 draft to Memphis for no. 40 and a future second-round pick in 2022. They used the no. 40 pick to draft Woodard out of Mississippi State. Woodard spent two years in college and averaged 11.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, and 1.1 steals per game as a sophomore. During that season, he shot 51.7 percent on 2-pointers, 42.9 percent on 3-pointers, and 64.1 percent on free throws.

Sacramento dipped into their mid-level exception to sign Woodard to a four-year deal that guarantees the rookie $3.3 million through his first three seasons and has a team option in year four. Per Bobby Marks of ESPN, Woodard is making the most guaranteed money ($1.5 million) of any second-round pick this season.

What is his best-case scenario for 2020-21?

Woodard already has an NBA body — on multiple instances during preseason media availability, his teammates have pointed out that Woodard is “jacked”. Head coach Luke Walton noted that Woodard won the team’s bench-press challenge, a rarity for a rookie. Ideally, that physique immediately translates into impact on the court. At 6’7, Woodard can defend the 3 and the 4, carrying over his sterling defensive metrics from his collegiate days, in particular his affinity for blocking shots. Woodard’s block percentage of 3.3 in college would be higher than any NBA forward in 2019-20.

Offensively, Woodard continues his uptick in shooting and becomes a league-average 3-point shooter while improving his efficiency at the free-throw line. He isn’t asked to do anything with the ball in his hands, continuing a trend of low usage, and simply fills in as a 3-and-D player. He improves his skill level just enough that he is able to play at the 3, a position of more need for the Kings (and the NBA as a whole).

His teammates have been highly complimentary of Woodard during the preseason, perhaps no one more so than Cory Joseph. Woodard’s best-case scenario would be actualizing that praise.

“I think he’s ahead of the the game and if anybody’s seen him play and his body, he has an NBA body already, that guy’s jacked,” Joseph said about Woodard. “So I mean he can definitely do it with his effort. He’s an incredible hard worker. We’re expecting big things from him. Hopefully he does a great job for us on the defensive end, he definitely has that body where he can make stops.”

What is his worst-case scenario?

Woodard played power forward in college, but his body type suggests he can move over to the 3 if he becomes more adept on the perimeter. The worst-case scenario for Woodard would be that he can’t make plays with the ball in his hands and is thus relegated to playing the 4. That gives him less versatility and diminishes his strengths as a rebounder. It also puts him in a logjam behind all the other Sacramento power forwards, including Marvin Bagley III, Nemanja Bjelica, Jabari Parker, and occasionally Harrison Barnes.

Woodard only played 27 minutes over four preseason games. Without a proper G League season, Woodard isn’t able to find minutes to develop, and this becomes a lost rookie season. Once the Kings bring in a new draft class next year, Woodard falls further behind them in the pecking order.

As a 21-year-old second-round pick, Woodard isn’t expected to do anything this year on the court. Sacramento’s financial investment in him is more about the upcoming seasons than this one. All Woodard has to do is focus on skill development so that he can be a perimeter player in this league moving forward. That’s where assistant coaches Rico Hines and Lindsey Harding come into play. The Kings have an outline of a versatile player in Woodard; a successful season would be him growing into that vision without worrying about stats or results.