The Sacramento Kings will be happy to be drafting 9th overall in the 2021 NBA Draft on July 29, assuming they don’t trade the pick, which remains a possibility. However, the tricky thing about drafting 9th overall is that there is hardly ever a consensus No. 9 pick; everyone has their favorite.
While I can’t say Jalen Johnson is my favorite prospect at this spot, he’s the one I believe has the highest ceiling and fits best with what Monte McNair is trying to build in Sacramento.
The first thing that stands out about Johnson’s game is his playmaking ability. Although it’s unlikely that he’ll handle the ball more than the Kings’ guard tandem of De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, the thought of him providing secondary playmaking at one of the forward positions in the first unit is exciting.
He’s also someone that fits the Kings’ transition-style offense, or at least the theorized version of it. Because of his combination of size (6’9 with a 7’0 wingspan) and athleticism, he thrives in the open floor and could become a go-to option on the break. His offense in the half court is a different story.
As physically gifted as Johnson is, he’s yet to figure out of how to use those gifts to become an effective driver in the half court. That’s probably the biggest concern with him in the immediate future because he’s not a particularly good shooter either.
It’s also worth noting that just because Johnson has shown flashes of being a point forward doesn’t mean that he’s one right now; in actuality, he’s prone to turning the ball over quite a bit.
Those things could make him the latest in a long line of missed Kings picks, but there’s reason to believe that his game will develop with a few years of stability, something he made sure he didn’t have with IMG or Duke.