As the immortal Yogi Berra once said, "It's déjà vu all over again."
It feels like the Sacramento Kings have been here before, and it's because they have. A year ago, Sacramento held a 25-percent chance of obtaining the No. 1 pick to acquire All-American forward Blake Griffin. The Kings wound up with the No. 4 overall selection. This year, the Kings had a 15.6-percent likelihood of winning the John Wall sweepstakes, but instead will make their selection at No. 5.
If there's one thing Geoff Petrie has proven over his 16 years of service as Sacramento's president of basketball operations, it's that when given a reasonably low lottery draft choice he makes the most of it.
Petrie has had eight lottery picks in his time as the Kings' chief decision maker. In 1994, he drafted Brian Grant eighth. 1995, Corliss Williamson was taken 13th. A year later, Petrie added Peja Stojakovic at 14. 1997 brought Tariq Abdul-Wahad to the Kings. In 1998, Jason Williams was drafted seventh.
Nine years later, Petrie selected Spencer Hawes tenth. In 2008, Jason Thompson was brought in at No. 12. And a season ago, Tyreke Evans was picked fourth.
By my count, that's one strikeout (Abdul-Wahad), two singles (Grant, Williamson) two doubles (Williams, Thompson), one no decision (Hawes), and two home runs (Evans, Stojakovic). Compared to opposing NBA general managers, that is an exceptional track record. Petrie, the two-time winner of the NBA Executive of the Year award, is renowned for his decision making and talent evaluation.
Assuredly John Wall will be off the board. In all likelihood, Evan Turner and Derrick Favors will have already heard their names called. With that said, the Sacramento Kings will likely be choosing from a list of players that includes Syracuse F Wesley Johnson, Kentucky C DeMarcus Cousins, Wake Forest F Al-Farouq Aminu and Baylor PF/C Ekpe Udoh.
The composition of the Kings roster is such that they are in talent-addition mode. Fringe playoff teams and championship contenders alike make specific roster moves, adding that last piece or two to vault their team to the next level. Conversely, the Kings, with their influx of youth and abundance of question marks on the roster, will draft the best available prospect.
For that reason, I believe the Kings will take Kentucky C DeMarcus Cousins, who fits the bill as best available and fills a position of desperate need.
February's addition of Carl Landry provided a scoring threat at the power forward position that the Kings haven't had since Chris Webber. With Landry starting from his first day as King, Jason Thompson eventually moved to center. The pair worked reasonably well together. Individually, both Landry and Thompson are acceptable defensively. But collectively, they are both undersized for their respective positions.
One thing that Sacramento Kings' fans for years have been clamoring for is a big man to clog the paint defensively. A true center who can offer resistance to opponents. DeMarcus Cousins and his 6'11", 270 lb frame can do just that for a franchise accustomed to allowing layup lines.
Cousins boasts a 7'4" wingspan, polished back-to-the-basket moves, as well as the ability to face the basket and score. He plays physical, he has superb hands, is effective in the pick and roll, and has a mid-range game to boot. This summer, when Cousins makes the rounds and works out for prospective NBA teams, he is going to impress.
DeMarcus does have his fair share of question marks, however. Analysts have called into question his work ethic and wonder openly why he doesn't always play hard. As gifted as he is offensively, he takes his share of bad shots. As we get closer to the 2010 NBA Draft on June 24, you will hear a lot about his maturity, or lack thereof.
One of the most difficult positions in the NBA to fill is a bona-fide low post scorer. They just don't make 'em like they used to. Cousins has been compared to Al Jefferson or a taller Zach Randolph—two of the premier low-post players in the world. The only way a franchise gets their hands on a talent like Cousins (besides drafting him) is paying him $100 million if and when he becomes a free agent.
Ultimately, Petrie and the Kings scouting staff will do their homework. They will evaluate judiciously. But Geoff Petrie won't be able to pass up this proficient big man to grow with his prized Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans. DeMarcus Cousins' jaw dropping raw skills will prove too glorious to pass up.