Grading Sacramento Kings' 2013 NBA Draft Decisions
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The 2013 NBA draft has come and gone. Left in its wake are 60 players looking to start their careers and help their respective teams. The Sacramento Kings held two selections in the draft—picks Nos. 7 and 36—and used both picks to fortify the roster.
In particular, this draft was an important one for Sacramento, largely because it's the first draft for the new ownership group and new GM Pete D'Alessandro. This was their chance to leave their fingerprints on the organization and start building the team back up.
In that sense, it looks like they accomplished their goals. They picked two guards, Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum, who should be able to contribute immediately.
While oftentimes it takes a couple years to determine the overall success of a draft class, we can start getting an initial idea right now. We can look at the perceived strengths of the players selected, the established weaknesses of the franchise in it's current state and determine whether the new players should be able to provide an upgrade.
The Decision to Select Ben McLemore at No. 7
In Ben McLemore, the Kings seemingly got their shooting guard of the future. Granted, Tyreke Evans was tendered a qualifying offer, meaning he could return in 2013-14, but even in that scenario, Evans would likely return to point guard or work in at small forward.
Leading up to the draft, McLemore was seen as one of the few impact prospects in this class, which was viewed as one of the weaker draft's in recent memory. In fact, ESPN's Jay Bilas had Ben McLemore as his top overall prospect.
Here's Bilas' overview on McLemore: "McLemore is the player in this draft who is most likely to mature into an All-Star. His talents are considerable. The only question is whether he has the temperament and assertiveness to be a star performer on the NBA level. If selected by a team with an established star, McLemore can have the room to mature into one himself."
And Chad Ford, ESPN's main draft insider, had McLemore ranked as the No. 5 prospect entering the draft.
That's all well and good, but what really matters is where the Kings rated McLemore. After all, they're the ones who selected him, and they're the ones who will be investing millions of dollars into his NBA future.
According to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee, "General manager Pete D'Alessandro said McLemore was the top player on his draft board. Principal owner Vivek Ranadive was willing to pay to move up in the draft to select the redshirt freshman from Kansas."
D'Alessandro had nothing but positive words about the team's selection of McLemore, also from Jason Jones.
"Ben is a special player," D'Alessandro said. "He's someone our staff spent many hours watching, evaluating, debating. We debated about a lot of players, but the one player we were sure about as this process began (was McLemore)."
We'll have to see McLemore on the court before we can determine how good he'll be. After all, many were excited about the selection of Thomas Robinson one year ago, myself included. And that's not to compare the two; it's only to point out that there are always disappointments in every draft class.
What McLemore undoubtedly brings to the Kings backcourt is size. At 6'5", he is bigger than Jimmer Fredette (6'2"), Marcus Thornton (6'4") and Isaiah Thomas (5'9"). If Tyreke Evans (6'6") returns, he'd be the only guard taller than McLemore.
McLemore also brings elite athleticism and shooting ability, which, as head coach Mike Malone pointed out after the draft, is a combination not often seen in the same player.
Malone said it's rare you find a player as athletic as McLemore that also has his shooting ability.— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) June 28, 2013
You could make the argument that the Kings don't need another guard. You could say the team should have selected a small forward. But this is a bad team, and the only thing that's going to turn it around is better players, regardless of position. In that vein, Jason Jones put it best:
Too often bad teams get caught up drafting for need, not best player. Imagine if Spurs passed on Duncan because they had David Robinson?— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) June 28, 2013
As Bilas noted, the main knock on McLemore has nothing to do with his talent, it's whether he'll be assertive enough to tap into his potential.
Well, it appears as if falling to No. 7 in the draft has lit a fire under McLemore, who promises to be aggressive in the NBA, according to Henry Abbott.
Ben McLemore: "I can definitely say I come in with a chip on my shoulder. ... I can be an alpha dog and take over games."— Henry Abbott (@TrueHoop) June 28, 2013
If that's the case, the Kings could have a star on their hands. But even if McLemore doesn't become the "alpha dog," he's already got more talent than the handful of players selected immediately following him.
That's nothing to complain about.
The Decision to Select Ray McCallum at No. 36
Ray McCallum is not your run-of-the-mill second-round pick—he's got talent. Simply by looking at his draft position and the fact that he attended the University of Detroit Mercy, one might assume he's a guy who got by on grit and determination.
Yet McCallum was a McDonald's All-American in high school who decided to attend Detroit Mercy, spurning larger and more prestigious schools, because his father is the school's head coach.
McCallum was a McDonald's All-American that played at Detroit to play for his father/coach, Ray Sr. A big-time talent.— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) June 28, 2013
Not to mention, McCallum was also named the Horizon League Player of the Year during the 2012-13 season.
Beyond his talent, what's to like about Ray McCallum is that he's a pure point guard. With the possible exception of Isaiah Thomas, that's something the Kings have been lacking for quite some time. In that sense alone, he brings something to the table the team desperately needed.
Here's what Chad Ford wrote about the Kings' selection of McCallum:
"The Kings wanted a point guard, and McCallum is one of the purest point guards in the draft. He's not the sexist pick, but he's a steady floor leader who is very unselfish. If the Kings clean house, McCallum could end up playing a lot of minutes."
McCallum, like McLemore, also fills a weakness for the Kings: backcourt size. At 6'2", 191 pounds, he's much bigger than Isaiah Thomas, who was the team's starting point guard for much of last season. Simply based on matchups, McCallum's size should give him an opportunity off the bench as a rookie.
He'll likely never be a star, but that's also not to be expected out of a player drafted in the second round. As long as he can contribute something, he'll be worth the selection.
And considering his skills as a facilitator and his size, he's almost assured to do just that.
Overall, I like the selections the Kings made. The only thing that could have gone better is if Sacramento got an elite small forward at No. 7 considering that's a position of need.
What grade would you give the Kings' draft?
But based on the strengths of this class and the way everything shook out, that simply wasn't feasible unless the team really wanted to reach for a player.
And when you're in need of quality players, like the Kings are, you can't afford to reach for a guy that fills a need by passing on better players at positions that might already be filled.
We'll have to wait to see McLemore and McCallum on the court to get a true sense of how the picks will shake out. But given the information we have right now, and the current state of the Sacramento Kings, it's hard to argue that things could have gone much better.
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