All NBA drafts are not created equal. Some drafts are better than others, and unfortunately for the Sacramento Kings, and the league’s other lottery teams, this year’s draft projects to be one of the weakest in recent memory.
However, that doesn’t mean the Kings can’t find a good player in this draft. Yet what it does mean is that they’re not going to find any can’t-miss, flawless prospects.
Along with the positives that make them one of the draft’s top prospects, each projected lottery pick also has the red flags that come with them, including the projected No. 1 overall pick, Nerlens Noel, who is still returning from a torn ACL.
That means Sacramento will have to do its homework on the players and be aware of what they bring to the table, along with any potential pitfalls associated with them. Speaking of which, here are some of the pitfalls associated with some of the players most likely to be selected by the Kings.
Cody Zeller could be a good fit for the Kings. For one, Sacramento could pair him with DeMarcus Cousins to give the team a very formidable one-two punch in the frontcourt.
What also makes Zeller intriguing is his athleticism. In fact, he tested extremely well in that regard during the combine, posting the best athletic testing numbers among all big men and top five for all players, according to ESPN. With the skill set Cousins already brings to the table, adding a player like Zeller would give the Kings a combination that most teams couldn’t match up with.
While Zeller entered the 2012-13 season as one of the top prospects, he didn’t exactly overwhelm scouts with his performance as a sophomore at Indiana University. Yes, he increased his scoring (from 15.6 to 16.5 points per game) and rebounding (6.6 rebounds per game to 8.1), but his field-goal percentage decreased (from .623 to .562) and his turnovers increased (1.7 per game to 2.3).
After playing center in college, Zeller will have to move to power forward in the NBA. He’s shown he has the athleticism to handle the switch, but there are still questions about his shooting range. Zeller is trying to put those to rest by showing off his touch during workouts. But the fact that he hasn’t demonstrated that, along with the ability to play the 4 in games, is somewhat troubling.
With the skill set he brings and the fact that he averaged 17.9 points as a freshman at UCLA, there’s little question that Shabazz Muhammad will be able to score in the NBA. That alone could make him a valuable commodity for the Kings.
Furthermore, Muhammad plays small forward, which is probably the Kings’ biggest position of need entering the draft. So what’s not to love for Sacramento?
While it’s true Muhammad can score and play small forward, those are about the only certainties surrounding him. There are serious questions about the defensive value and rebounding he’ll bring, not to mention his ability to play offense within the confines of a team.
Muhammad just seems to fit the profile of player the Kings might want to avoid. Sacramento already has enough me-first scorers and already struggles enough defensively as is, so there’s no point in adding another player of a similar mold to the mix.
At 6’6”, 184 pounds, Michael Carter-Williams brings the type of legitimate size to the point guard position that the Kings are sorely lacking. With Isaiah Thomas (5’9”) and Jimmer Fredette (6’2”) as the two point guards still under contract, Carter-Williams would provide a serious upgrade in this regard.
Carter-Williams’ skill set also brings things Fredette and Thomas are lacking. He’s known for his defensive prowess, while Thomas and Fredette clearly are not. He’s also more of a pure point guard with his ball-handling ability, quickness and court vision.
There are two problems with Carter-Williams, one of which isn’t of his doing. That issue is simply that the Kings don’t need another guard. With Fredette and Thomas under contract, they already have two point guards. Shooting guard Marcus Thornton is still under contract. Not to mention Tyreke Evans and Toney Douglas are restricted free agents who could realistically return.
However, that could all be overcome if the Kings are convinced Carter-Williams is the answer. But his lack of a consistent jump shot (29.2 percent from three-point range; 39.3 overall field-goal percentage) is a real concern. There’s a chance he could improve on that in the NBA, but as we’ve seen with Tyreke Evans, those changes can be slow to materialize.
With his excellent athleticism and leaping ability, Bennett is seen by some executives as the prospect with the most upside, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. That alone should make him intriguing for a team like the Kings, who simply need more impact players.
Bennett also has a very versatile skill set. He can play in the post, with his back to the basket, or he can extend his game to three-point range (37.5 percent from downtown). Furthermore, he doesn’t just provide value on offense, as he’s also an excellent rebounder (8.1 rebounds per game).
The major strike against Bennett is that he’s a bit of a tweener. His size (6’8”, 240 pounds), particularly his lack of height, isn’t a perfect profile at power forward. Yet Bennett doesn’t have any experience playing small forward, and switching to the 3 may neutralize the athletic advantage he has against power forwards.
Bennett is also coming off of surgery to repair his rotator cuff. The injury is not expected to limit him long term, but it could be a red flag for his overall durability.
Trey Burke brings a winning attitude that the Kings have been lacking for quite some time. Don’t get me wrong, there are some high-character guys already on the team—Isaiah Thomas, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes immediately come to mind. But there’s no doubt a culture change is in order, and Burke could be another step in that direction.
Burke also possesses excellent point guard skills and has the shooting range and scoring efficiency (38.4 percent from three-point range; 46.3 percent field-goal percentage) that could make for a seamless transition to the NBA.
With Burke, you have the same inherent problem you have with Michael Carter-Williams—he’s a point guard. That’s out of Burke’s control, but it doesn’t change the fact that Sacramento already has a ton of guards.
This second knock is also out of Burke’s control: his size (or lack thereof). At 6’1”, bringing in Burke would add another undersized guard to the Kings. It also limits his versatility, as he wouldn’t be able to sub in at the 2, unlike Carter-Williams, who has the requisite length to spell in at shooting guard.
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