This time last week, it was widely assumed that the Sacramento Kings would call on a big man in Thursday's NBA Draft. With the acquisition of former 76er Samuel Dalembert on June 17, that possibility has been muddled a bit.
Anytime a team wins a minimal amount of games as Sacramento did in 2009-10, it indicates that there are a multitude of areas that could withstand improvement. As the roster is currently comprised, the front court is stronger than it has been in years. The triumvirate of Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, and Samuel Dalembert offers elements of athleticism, low post scoring, rebounding, and defense between them.
There are a couple sayings that are commonplace in NBA circles: Seven-footers don't grow on trees, and you can't teach height. It should come as no surprise that despite the addition of Dalembert, the Kings are absolutely still in the market for a big. Sacramento has had all of the elite big men prospects at their facility in recent weeks.
Reports are DeMarcus Cousins put forth a jaw-dropping performance. DeMarcus is the most ready of any prospect to play in the NBA from day one, but there has been widespread criticism regarding his lack of maturity and the possibility that he is somewhat uncoachable. Additionally, his body fat is 16.4 percent, one of the highest percentages of any collegiate prospect in the last decade.
Cousins was in Sacramento the same day as his direct competition Derrick Favors. Favors has NBA GM's going gaga due to his Dwight Howard-esque size and jumping ability. Derrick's statistics were fairly average, but he suffered from poor guard play. He did shoot better than 61 percent for Wake Forest as well. Not to mention the kid was born in July 1991. Think about that for a minute!
Another big that is warranting serious consideration from the Kings is Greg Monroe. The Georgetown center's draft stock has been skyrocketing since the process began a few months ago. Many experts list Monroe as the best passer in the draft, including guards.
He is familiar with the Princeton-style offense which Geoff Petrie adores. Monroe has terrific hands and was one of the best rebounders in all of college basketball last year, which would address a longtime weakness for the Sacramento Kings.
A longshot pick for the Kings is Baylor center Ekpe Udoh. Udoh's draft stock is affected by his unpolished offensive game and the fact that he's quite a bit older than his peers (just turned 23). But his 7-foot-4 wingspan and stellar defensive capabilities are grabbing the attention of front office types across the league.
Andres Nocioni's departure to Philadelphia clears up a logjam at small forward, but still leaves the position with uncertainty. The small forwards remaining on the roster are Omri Casspi and Donte Greene, and they have a great deal in common. Both can be deadly three-point shooters, both compete defensively, both are young, and both are marred with inconsistency. At this point in their brief NBA careers, neither is a bona fide NBA starter, and thus the possibility that the Kings may explore drafting a small forward is realistic.
Syracuse's Wesley Johnson, Wake Forest's Al Farouq Aminu, and Baylor's Gordon Hayward grade as the premiere small forwards in this year's crop. Johnson is considered the best shooter in the draft, and Geoff Petrie has shown a penchant for selecting offensive specialists. Aminu projects to be a standout defensive player. The Wake Forest product is relatively raw offensively, but his work ethic and motor will make him a top 10 pick in this year's draft.
Gordon Hayward was aided tremendously by a stellar run through the NCAA Tournament. Hayward earns praise for his high basketball IQ and sound rebounding for his position.
Udrih had a nice campaign in '09-10, but in a perfect world, he would be the first guard coming off the bench for the Kings. He plays marvelously alongside Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans, but a more traditional two guard with shooting range would be a more ideal fit.
Evans is going to dominate the ball almost every possession, so his running mate in the backcourt must be a capable shooter. Shooting guard is a position of need for the Kings, but quite frankly there isn't a player worth taking at the fifth pick. It is unlikely Sacramento will find a shooting guard in that mold this off-season.
I think the Kings will utilize the best player available strategy in Thursday's draft. DeMarcus Cousins will be incredibly tempting, and if he is indeed on the board at five, Petrie will deliberate long and hard over that possibility. I believe John Wall, Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, and Wesley Johnson will have heard their names called by the time the Kings make their selection.
It'll come down to DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe. Perhaps Cousins is more talented than Monroe, but if so, it isn't by much. And while Cousins is a problem child, Monroe is a choir boy by comparison. Ultimately, I believe Petrie has already fallen in love with the long-limbed Greg Monroe. His soft hands, adept passing skills, and first-rate rebounding ability will prove to be too much to pass up.
Geoff Petrie aims to bring the Rookie of the Year to Sacramento for the second straight season. If the Kings do indeed draft the eventual Rookie of the Year, it'll mark just the fifth time in the 64-year storied history of the NBA that a team has two consecutive Rookie of the Year winners.