NBA

Sacramento’s Offseason Is Already Off To An Ideal Start

May 18, 2022, 9:13 AM | Updated: 9:13 am
(ESPN)...
(ESPN)
(ESPN)

Things don’t usually go this way for the Sacramento Kings.

Two weeks ago, rumors were circulating that owner Vivek Ranadivé had a differing opinion on who the team’s next head coach should be, placing Kings general manager Monte McNair in a limbo of sorts.

After days of agonizing speculation, McNair and the front office made their call as Sacramento inked Golden State Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown to a four-year deal, ending any talk that Ranadivé is still meddling in basketball decisions (for now).

What Sacramento needed to kick this offseason off with a bang, though, was a stroke of luck.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Kings got lucky.

Entering the Draft Lottery, the Kings had a 32% chance of landing in the top-four, a 19.7% chance of remaining at seventh, and a 34.1% chance of falling to eighth.

For the second time since 2018, Sacramento was handed a gift from the basketball gods (or possibly the ping pong ball gods) as they jumped from the seventh spot in the lottery to the fourth spot, sending a massive smile across Kings center Domantas Sabonis’ face as he represented his new team in Chicago.

Just over one month into the offseason, the Kings are batting a thousand.

McNair and the front office were able to make a decision on their own accord and bring in a new head coach that boasts a glowing defensive track record.

Instead of sitting on the outside looking in at the seventh or eighth spot in the NBA Draft, Sacramento now holds a golden ticket of sorts as they hold a top-four pick. That changes a lot in regards to how McNair will operate this summer.

By jumping to fourth, the Kings will have a variety of solid draft options to choose from once commissioner Adam Silver announces that “Sacramento is on the clock.”

Could McNair look to pair De’Aaron Fox with a dynamic guard like Purdue’s Jaden Ivey or five-star recruit Shaedon Sharpe?

Sacramento has looked for a formidable backcourt mate for Fox since the young guard took his first leap forward during the 2018-19 season.

Once the Buddy Hield experiment failed, the Kings let Bogdan Bogdanovic walk (for absolutely nothing, but I digress), drafted Tyrese Haliburton, traded Haliburton for Sabonis, and now, Sacramento is heading into the offseason with a question mark hanging over the starting shooting guard position.

Ivey is the popular pick at fourth, a player that averaged 19.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.0 steals per game on 46-percent shooting from the field and 36-percent shooting from three-point land.

The 6’4, 200-pound guard has some serious size and athleticism, but should McNair look to bring in a solid three-point threat instead?

It’s possible that Ivey’s shot can grow into a consistent threat, but seeing that the Kings absolutely cannot miss on this selection, these are questions that need to be addressed.

Sharpe is another player that could bring plenty of athleticism to Sacramento’s backcourt alongside Fox, but a lot of homework will need to be done on the 18-year-old.

After the 6’6 guard averaged 22.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 36-percent from three-point range on the Nike EYBL circuit in 2021, Sharpe graduated from high school early and enrolled at University of Kentucky for the spring semester.

In February, Kentucky head coach John Calipari announced that Sharpe wouldn’t play for the Wildcats in 2021-22.

Sharpe is another player that looks as if he possesses incredible athleticism and size (6’6, 200 pounds), but it all will come back to how McNair envisions Sacramento’s backcourt. Athleticism in the form of Ivey or Sharpe next to Fox could be problematic for defenses across the league, but shooting will also need to be addressed.

Not only do the Kings need a starting-caliber shooting guard, they also need a starting power forward after the team finally cut ties with Marvin Bagley III last season.

Iowa’s Keegan Murray has long been a player of interest in the Kings fanbase after the first-team All American arguably had the best collegiate season out of any draft prospect.

McNair has shown in recent drafts that he has an eye for players with experience after selecting a sophomore in Tyrese Haliburton during the 2020 draft and a senior in Davion Mitchell last summer.

Murray will turn 22 this in August on the heels of a breakout sophomore season that saw him average 23.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.3 steals per game on 55-percent shooting from the field and 39-percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Seeing that Sabonis is a pass-first big that can do damage in the paint and on the glass, Sacramento could use a player like Murray that can create his own offense and knock down jumpers from mid-range to the perimeter, something that Bagley and other power forwards in recent years haven’t been able to do consistently.

Is selecting Murray at fourth a tad high, though? Most mock drafts have the 6’8, 225-pound forward going in the sixth-seventh range.

Following each of his past two drafts, McNair has said that he will always select the best player available, regardless of the position. He proved that he will stand by that reasoning by selecting two guards (Haliburton and Mitchell) in back-to-back drafts.

Who does McNair view as the best player in this draft?

Ideally, the Kings would love if one of Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith Jr. or Paolo Banchero fall into their lap at fourth. This isn’t impossible, as we have seen surprise picks take shape in recent drafts. It’s completely reasonable to suggest that Orlando, Oklahoma City or Houston might turn their attention to one of the top guard prospects in Ivey or Sharpe rather than a forward or center in those three.

Many of these questions won’t have answers until it’s those respective teams’ turns to relay their selection to the NBA on June 23rd.

Sacramento could also look to use their new shiny fourth pick and future first-round picks to make a splash of their own by moving up or down in the draft.

Jumping up to fourth has given McNair a jumpstart on a crucial offseason for a Kings franchise that is in entering its 16th-straight summer without postseason basketball.

Sam Amick of The Athletic reported this week that McNair’s contract is set to expire following the upcoming 2022-23 season and there have been “no talks” surrounding an extension with Ranadivé.

Now that McNair has his head coach in Brown, a stroke of luck from the basketball gods with the gift of a top-four pick and a full offseason ahead of him, the 38-year-old general manager is already off to an ideal start this offseason as he aims to prove that he can be the executive that turns this team around.

This is where the fun begins.

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