Top 5 Players the Sacramento Kings Should Target in the 2014 NBA Draft
The Sacramento Kings currently sit at 22-42, tied for the fourth-worst record in the NBA. Sorry Kings fans, no playoffs this year. However, the opportunity to pick in the lottery during the upcoming 2014 NBA Draft isn't such a bad consolation prize, especially considering the tremendous talent at the top this year.
With a roster that features an All-Star caliber big man in DeMarcus Cousins, a top-tier athlete who seems to have found his form with Sacramento in Rudy Gay, a promising young prospect in Ben McLemore, and perhaps the NBA's most improved player in Isaiah Thomas, who should the Kings be targeting in the draft?
Though their record might not suggest it, the Kings are slowly beginning to find their identity this season as they continue to shuffle the pieces. "The NBA's most active cellar-dwellars" have made more moves than any other team in 2014, and so as the upcoming draft approaches, they must decide if they are fairly happy with their current roster pieces or if they need to add another superstar-type player.
In other words, are the Kings looking to find the player that best fits what they currently have or are they simply looking for the most talented prospect on the board?
Let's take a look at the five players that the Kings should be targeting in the upcoming 2014 NBA Draft.
5. Willie Cauley-Stein
If the Kings are looking for a defensive-minded center to pair with the defensively-challenged DeMarcus Cousins, then Cauley-Stein is someone they should target in the 2014 draft.
He's currently projected to be drafted later in the first round, so Sacramento could trade down to get him, perhaps landing a quality point guard in the process.
One example of a trade that I could see going down if the Kings decide to target Cauley-Stein: Sacramento trades their first-round pick (currently projected to be 6th) to the Atlanta Hawks for Jeff Teague and their first-round pick (currently projected to be 14th).
The decision to trade down on draft day, especially when you are in possession of such a high pick, is a tough one. In doing so, you're forfeiting the opportunity to land the potential face of your franchise. However, in the case of the Sacramento Kings, don't they already have their star in Cousins?
If a trade like the one that I suggested with the Hawks is presented to Kings GM, Pete D'Alessandro, I suggest that he strongly considers it. At this stage in their rebuilding process, Sacramento has accumulated some serious talent, so why not be looking for players to complement what they already have?
4. Tyler Ennis
Isaiah Thomas is an electric athlete who has developed into one of the best scoring point guards in the league (20.3 points per game). He's not just a scorer, either. His 20.61 PER rating is fourth among all point guards according to ESPN.
The problem with Thomas is his defense. At just 5'9", he has difficulty matching up with the increasingly tall point guards around the NBA. I mean, how could he be expected to matchup with the 6'6" Michael Carter-Williams? The guy has 9 inches on him.
This is why the Kings should target Tyler Ennis in the 2014 draft. He's a more prototypical point guard at 6'2", and throughout his freshman year at Syracuse he's proven to be both a great floor general and a clutch player.
He's also a pass-first guy, which is something the Kings desperately need. While Thomas' shoot-first approach has put pressure on opposing defenses all year long, guys like Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins would be so much more effective with a point guard who knows when and where to get them the ball.
Plus, if Ben McLemore really is a big part of what the Kings want to do long-term, a true point guard like Ennis would help significantly with his development.
3. Noah Vonleh
In watching Noah Vonleh throughout this college basketball season, I have come to the conclusion that he's going to be an extremely productive NBA player.
Not only is he a solid defensive presence, but he's also a tremendous rebounder (9.1 rebounds in just 26.3 minutes per game). And while his post game still needs some work, he has already developed a fairly reliable outside jumper (16-31 from three on the season).
Similarly to Cauley-Stein, drafting Vonleh would be filling the need for a defensive presence on the interior for Sacramento. The only difference here would be that Cousins would remain at the center position with Vonleh at the 4 spot.
Do the Kings believe in a power forward rotation of Jason Thompson/Carl Landry/Derrick Williams? Personally, I don't at all. Thompson is much better suited to play the center position, Landry is too injury-prone, and Derrick Williams is a small forward—and a mediocre one at that.
The Kings would be wise to take Vonleh in the 2014 draft. Or, if he's still left on the board, they'd be even wiser to take...
2. Julius Randle
Currently averaging 15.4 PPG and 10.5 RPG, Randle has been nearly impossible to guard at times in college. He's simply a man amongst boys out there. When he makes the decision to drive to the basket with his left hand, there is legitimately no way to stop him other than to send him to the line where he's a solid 72 percent free-throw shooter.
With this selection, the Kings would be getting a rookie with the ability to play meaningful minutes right away. Randle would give them a second matchup nightmare on the block, and when you consider the potential starting lineup next year of Thomas, McLemore, Gay, Randle, and Cousins, they'd have five guys capable of going off on any given night.
1. Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart is the perfect fit for the Sacramento Kings. He's a leader, he's smart, he's a great defender, and most importantly, he possesses the type of mentality that can change the entire culture of a locker room.
Rarely do we see prospects with as much talent as Smart who also take such pride in their leadership role and their defensive effort. For a Sacramento team that currently gives up the fourth-most points per game, someone like Smart could come in and have a huge impact on that side of the floor.
He could help out in other areas, too, seeing as how he does just about everything well. He currently leads his Oklahoma State team in points, assists, rebounds, and steals (his 2.7 SPG ranks fifth nationally).
Plus, if the Kings believe in Isaiah Thomas and choose to re-sign him, Smart is a guy that can play both the point guard and shooting guard positions. When the two of them are on the court together, Marcus would matchup with the more dangerous offensive guard on the other team. His defensive versatility would allow Kings coach Mike Malone to experiment with all kinds of different lineups.
Marcus Smart not only fits with the current Kings roster, but he's also a top-five talent in the 2014 draft. If he's still left on the board when it comes time for Sacramento to make their selection, he's their guy.