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Rumors Roundup: Kings interested in Ayton, may want to keep the pick after all

With potential trade and free agency ahead, the Kings may elect to keep their pick. And they’ve looked into the Phoenix big man.

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2022 NBA Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s finally here. The 2022 NBA draft is just about 24 hours away from commencing and the rumors are more abundant than ever.

The latest rumor comes from The Athletic’s Zach Harper and is very interesting for the Sacramento Kings (emphasis mine):

Sources have told The Athletic that (Deandre) Ayton is being highly sought after by Detroit and Atlanta, and Sacramento has checked in on a potential acquisition. The Hawks and Pistons both have a ton of flexibility to get a deal done. Even if a team is able to offer Ayton a max offer sheet, the Suns would be expected to match rather than lose him outright.

The former No. 1 pick from the infamous 2018 draft, where the Kings selected Marvin Bagley III instead of Luka Doncic, is likely on the move from the Phoenix Suns after their relationship was damaged during their playoff exit. Coincidentally, against Doncic and the Mavs.

Deandre Ayton is almost certainly the player Sacramento would have taken instead of Bagley III if they had the first pick. He showed a lot of promise coming out of the University of Arizona and has since proven to have the skills the league assumed he would. He has shown great potential and could be one of the NBA’s premier big men of this generation.

But would he work on the Kings?

Not likely. Though he is a great center and fills Sacramento’s need for a true big man that has both offensive and defensive skills, the pairing of him and Domantas Sabonis in the front court is unattractive and would be similar to the duo of Sabonis and Myles Turner in Indiana. Not the greatest.

Sabonis needs a frontcourt partner that spaces the floor more than Ayton does to be 100% effective. If Ayton were to come to the Kings, the best way for it to work would be without Sabonis. They would also have to give up the No. 4 pick as well as some assets like Harrison Barnes. A lot would have to happen just to replace a skilled big man the team already has faith in.

Harper also linked the Kings to a player they were often linked to at the start of the last season, Tobias Harris:

The Kings are also looking around for a potential acquisition with Grant out of Detroit or Tobias Harris out of Philadelphia. In fact, it sounds like the Kings want to put themselves in the mix with any available trade target at this point because they’re so desperate to make something happen that puts them in the postseason.

For a team like the Kings looking to force themselves into the playoffs, adding a talented veteran like Harris could be beneficial. He would be an instant starter that fills the lack of depth the Kings have at wing. He can play at the three or the four and provides a lot of offense with his ability to create for himself at multiple levels.

The main negatives: his age and streaky play. Though Harris is only 29, he is out of his prime and has lost a step in recent years with his points per game declining in three consecutive seasons. Though not by much, it is not a welcomed sign. Along with his prime being in the rearview window, he is not the most consistent player on the court.

There are some games where he looks simply unguardable and can score at all three levels. And some games where it looks like he’s allergic to the basket. If he comes to Sacramento, they are going to rely on him to be one of their top three scoring options. He would have to be reliable and worth whatever they give up if he were to help get the Kings over the hump.

Even with all of the trade rumors, not everyone believes Sacramento should include the No. 4 pick in any deal. Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo has a differing opinion.

Plenty of teams are chasing the Kings’ No. 4 pick, and Sacramento has certainly been listening. But I’m not as confident as some seem to be that the pick ultimately moves: looking around the league, it’s tricky to identify the right type of package that would ultimately entice the Kings to come off their spot. The sense I get is that Sacramento likes the draft and may not want to move back especially far, and it’s hard to see a combination of veterans and desirable draft positioning that seems appealing. If the Kings stay at No. 4, Keegan Murray seems to be the likely choice.

Woo thinks the Kings should just stick to their lottery luck and go with the most talented rookie that lands on their plate at four. The players available at that spot are highly sought after for a reason. Their selection could turn out to be a franchise-altering player and get Sacramento where they want to be.

Many top analysts and NBA minds consider this year to be a four-man draft. Those four are Jabari Smith Jr., Chet Holmgren, Paulo Banchero, and Jaden Ivey. Even though it seems simple, this puts the Kings in a tricky situation at No. 4. Do they trust everyone’s opinion and just take Ivey. Do they go with the “safe” pick and take Keegan Murray? Or do they use this opportunity to gain multiple assets and still have a pick in the lottery?