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Sacramento Takes A Step In The Right Direction

(Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images)

After butchering their draft selections for the better part of a decade, Monte McNair delivered in his first go as Kings GM

Yes, we know. You know too.

The Sacramento Kings have had a rough decade of making draft selections.

Whether it be taking someone that nobody had on their top-100 board (Hi, Papagiannis) or just whiffing on a high-lottery pick, the Kings have more blunders than triumphs while selecting in the NBA Draft every offseason.

Former general manager Vlade Divac departed the organization in August after several years of mistakes, handing the keys to the front office over to Monte McNair.

McNair, who had worked with the Houston Rockets for the last decade-plus, formed a respectable front office that includes respected executives Wes Wilcox, Ken Catanella, Phil Jabour and Paul Johnson.

The newly-formed Sacramento front-office seemingly struck gold during Wednesday’s draft, selecting talented Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton with the 12th pick.

It was long rumored that some forwards could sneak into the top-ten, pushing a guard or two into the later lottery picks.

Once Florida State’s Patrick Williams jumped into the top-five and fellow teammate Devin Vassell was selected 11th, the Kings were in a position to draft Haliburton–a player that several mock drafts had above the seventh-selection.

Team needs prevailed for those ahead of Sacramento, as the teams that needed forward depth decided to pass on the 20-year-old guard.

“It was just about the best player available. It always will be,” McNair said during a media session after the draft. “We’re happy that he fits the style of play we want, but first and foremost he was the best talent available to us and we don’t pass up talent.”

Pairing Haliburton with Fox is a vision that should excite Kings fans.

Haliburton can play both on and off the ball, something that can be valuable for Sacramento in a variety of ways.

For starters, when Fox is off of the floor, Haliburton is the clear number-two option to run the offense. The former Cyclone averaged 6.2 assists per game last season, with scouts citing that the 6’5 guard has excellent court-vision.

When Fox is on the floor, the Kings can run Haliburton next to him at the two-spot if Buddy Hield is resting–or the team can opt to play small-ball, with Fox, Hield and Haliburton all seeing the floor together.

Haliburton’s shot looks a little different than the traditional form you might see around the league. Sacramento fans are used to unorthodox form after watching former guard Kevin Martin fill it up consistently in the past.

Last season, the newest King averaged 15.2 points per game on 50-percent shooting from the field and an impressive 41-percent from downtown.

With the impending departure of Bogdan Bogdanovic looming, adding Haliburton to the team–a playmaking guard with three-point range–should help cushion the blow of losing the Serbian guard.

Surrounding Fox and Marvin Bagley III with shooters was clearly a goal of McNair’s in this draft, as Sacramento selected sharpshooting Texas Tech guard Jahmi’us Ramsey with the 43rd pick in the draft.

Ramsey was the leading scorer for Texas Tech last season, scoring 15.0 points per game on 42-percent shooting from beyond the three-point line.

Ramsey has the looks of a legitimate long-range threat, showing that he can both create his own offense and move without the ball, allowing guards to find him for a spot-up look.

The 19-year-old was named to the All-Big 12 team and was the Big 12 Rookie of the Year after putting forward an impressive freshman season.

In today’s NBA, rostering players like Ramsey is an important necessity. Sacramento has Buddy Hield, who can hit three-pointers better than anyone in the league that is not named Curry, Harden or Lillard.

Bringing in Ramsey could put another threat on the floor that could free up Hield in certain sets, giving the Kings multiple guards who are deadly from deep to space the De’Aaron Fox-led offense.

One of the Kings most glaring issues in recent seasons has been the abysmal defense, as Sacramento allowed 112.1 points per game in 2019-20.

By drafting Haliburton (2.5 steals per game), Ramsey (1.3 steals per game) and the 40th pick in Wednesday’s draft Robert Woodard II (1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks per game), Sacramento has brought in three above-average defenders that will hopefully assist in lowering the opponent scoring average.

Woodard, who was seen as a first-round pick, fell to the Kings at 40th after Sacramento made a deal with Memphis to acquire the pick.

The Mississippi State forward averaged 11.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists while shooting 42-percent from beyond the three-point line.

Woodard’s athleticism appears noteworthy, as the 6’7 forward utilizes every inch of his 7’1 wingspan. The 21-year-old can provide the Kings with an inside-outside presence, one that can block shots and sag out to the perimeter to knock down three-pointers–something that McNair has to be a fan of after coming from a three-point-happy Rockets team.

Each of the three draftees from this Kings draft class can shoot the three-ball above 40-percent, something that only Nemanja Bjelica did last season for the team (Hield shot 39-percent).

The Kings improved in these aspects after Wednesday’s draft:

  • Playmaking
  • Shooting
  • Defense
  • Depth

Most notably, the team did not draft a power-forward or center.

Sure, Woodard could see playing time at the four or maybe even the five in small-ball lineups, but it appears as if the Kings are going to ride out Marvin Bagley III and Richaun Holmes at the center position.

The team will need to make a decision on Bjelica’s contract in the coming days, a decision that could be made at any time over the weekend.

As the rest of the roster takes shape in the coming days, training camp is right around the corner, with teams aiming to start full-workouts by December 4th.

McNair has to feel good about his draft haul–Kings fans should feel good too. Not only did the team address needs, but they have over-exceeded expectations by selecting players that many predicted would not be available for Sacramento.

The Kings have most notably received applause from national media, such as ESPN who called the franchise winners of the draft:

Unlike drafts of the past, we won’t have to wait four months to see the drafted players in action.

It’s hard to believe, but the Kings will be playing in pre-season games in less than a month’s time. The 2020-21 NBA season is coming fast, and things are looking up for the Sacramento Kings after a surprising draft night.

The struggling franchise needed a win. They got one.

Now it’s time to get to work.