The Kings’ Top 5 Draft Selections In The Sacramento Era
I’m kidding, well not really because the Sacramento Kings have a lot of pressure with the fourth overall pick Thursday. And 2022 marks the second time Sacramento has moved up in the draft in the last five years, the last time in 2018 when the Kings infamously took Marvin Bagley over Luka Dončić with the second pick, and we all know how that went.
Crying over another failed draft selection aside, here are a few of the best selections the Kings have made since their move to Sacramento in 1985 as we look ahead to Thursday’s draft.
5. Jason Williams
Coming in at number five is a cult hero here in Sacramento, Jason Williams. Drafted with the seventh overall pick in the 1998 draft, the man known as “White Chocolate” was an incredible passer of the ball, able to fit the ball through any lane of traffic. His handles were the stuff of legends, able to keep the ball on a string as he maneuvered through defenses
Despite his highlight plays, Williams only averaged 11.3 points and 6.3 assists per game in his three seasons with the Kings. “JWill” was eventually traded due to disciplinary reasons in 2001, alongside Nick Anderson to the Memphis Grizzlies for Mike Bibby and Brent Price.
While Williams wasn’t on the roster when the Kings were at their peak, he was instrumental in starting the playoff era of basketball for Sacramento and the main reason the Kings were able to acquire Bibby.
For that, he cracks my top five.
4. Kevin Martin
One of the forgotten stars of the mid-to-late 2000s for the Kings, Kevin Marin comes in at number four on my list of all-time Sacramento selections. Drafted 26th overall in 2004, “K-Mart” was strictly a bucket-getter, able to get off his shot in a variety of ways. Whether it was pulling up for a mid-range jumper or driving to the hoop, Martin was relentless on the offensive side of the ball.
Not blossoming into his full form until after the Kings last made the playoffs in 2006, Martin kept Sacramento competitive in most games, averaging 17.1 PPG during his six seasons in town. The versatile scorer peaked for the Kings from 2007 to 2009, averaging a little more than 24 PPG in those two seasons combined.
Still, Martin never made an all-star team as he was essentially a one-way player in the eye of the NBA, and didn’t really contribute to winning games with the Kings starting their playoff drought. K-Mart was eventually traded in the middle of the 2009-2010 season to the Houston Rockets in a three-team trade including the New York Knicks.
He went on to have another half-decade of success with the Rockets and Timberwolves before retiring in 2016.
He may not be a household name in the general NBA landscape, but K-Mart will always be remembered in Sacramento.
3. Isaiah Thomas
At No.3, Isaiah Thomas. “I.T.” was the darling of Sacramento after being selected with the last pick in the 2011 draft. While little was expected of him, he made an impact right away in Sactown, averaging 11.3 PPG in his rookie year as he competed alongside Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, and Demarcus Cousins.
When Thornton and Evans were both no longer on the team in the 2013 season, that’s when I.T. really took over, averaging 20.3 PPG in an exciting offensive tandem with Cousins. Sadly, this partnership didn’t last long as chemistry problems and front office mismanagement led to the Kings working out a sign-and-trade deal in 2013 that sent their budding point guard to Phoenix in exchange for the rights to Alex Oriakhi, who never played a minute in the NBA.
Thomas was then traded to Boston where he flourished, making the second team All-NBA in the 2016-2017 season, averaging 28.9 PPG while leading the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals.
I.T. only spent three seasons in Sacramento but they were memorable ones, going from Mr. Irrelevant to a fan favorite in the 916.
2. Peja Stojaković
Bringing it back to the early 200os, Peja Stojaković checks in at number two on Sacramento’s all-time draft list. The Serbian sharpshooter was selected 14th overall in the 1996 draft but didn’t officially sign with the Kings until the 1998-1999 lockout season.
Peja quickly became a fan favorite and instrumental part of the Kings success in the early 2000s, making three all-star teams and one All-NBA team during his tenure in Sactown. The Serbian averaged 18.3 PPG on almost 40% shooting from deep in his eight seasons with the Purple & Grey. Peja peaked during the 2003-2004 season when he averaged 24.2 PPG while shooting 43.3% from the three-point line.
Unfortunately, the team never reached its’ full potential and Stojaković was eventually traded to another team. He was moved in 2006 to the Indiana Pacers for Metta Sandiford-Artest, formerly known as Ron Artest.
Peja spent some time in New Orleans with the Hornets before being traded again to the Toronto Raptors in 2011, where he was cut immediately. The Serbian found a new home quickly, signing with the Dallas Mavericks as they went on to win the NBA title that season. Stojaković retired following the 2011 season.
Regardless of how the early 2000s turned out for the Kings franchise, Peja was and has been a staple for the Sacramento community, most recently serving as the assistant general manager and director of player personnel development for the Sacramento franchise.
1. DeMarcus Cousins
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to most as DeMarcus Cousins is the best draft pick the Sacramento Kings have ever made, talent-wise. Yes, Cousins had his issues on and off the court, but when he was locked in, he was one of the best, if not the BEST, center in the NBA.
Drafted with the fifth pick in the 2010 draft, “Boogie” could do it all: score, shoot, pass, defend and run the floor. Cousins was a walking double double every single night for the Kings, being the anchor of the team for six and a half seasons. Averaging 21.1 PPG and 10.8 RPG during his time in Sacramento, Boogie earned four all-star selections and two All-NBA selections as the lead guy for the Kings, peaking in the 2016-2017 season with 27.8 ppg before the All-Star break.
DeMarcus was then traded to the New Orleans Pelicans during the 2017 All-Star break for Buddy Hield and a package of players and picks, the rest is history.
It’s unfortunate Cousins’ career turned somber with all the injuries, but when he was fully healthy, Boogie could compete with anyone on any given night. Cousins is also the only Sacramento Kings draft pick to ever make an international roster for the U.S., winning gold with Team USA in 2014 and 2016.
Regardless of what you think of Cousins and his attitude in California’s capital, the big man out of Kentucky was undoubtedly the most talented player to be drafted by the Kings since 1985.
The 2022 NBA Draft starts at 5 P.M. PST. Here’s to wishful thinking that the Kings nail the fourth pick tomorrow.