The Sacramento Kings have the No. 2 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, which could significantly help their struggling organization turn around quickly.
However, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Zach Lowe, most of the top players in the draft are trying their best to avoid the Kings.
“Who even wants to go to Sacramento? Because a lot of the top guys in this draft are openly trying to avoid going there,” Givony said on ESPN’s The Lowe Post podcast. “Jaren Jackson, Mo Bamba, (Luka) Doncic — no medical for Sacramento. So, if they’re going to take one of these guys, they’re taking him blindly without knowing what is this person’s medical status going to be down the road.”
The one person who did like the Kings, though, was Marvin Bagley III.
The Duke big man — who averaged 21 points and 11.1 rebounds per game for the Blue Devils last season — loved his visit with them when he worked out in Sacramento earlier this moth. And as he’s just about the only one among the top players who likes them, it seems he’s a lock at the No. 2 pick.
“I love it here, just being around all the people I’ve seen so far and met so far, just walking around the city, it’s a cool environment to be in,” Bagley said earlier this month. “Not only that, on the court, I feel like it’s a place where I can definitely focus, lock in and get better. And that’s the main goal for me, to continue to grow as a player and get better.”
What about DeAndre Ayton and Luka Doncic?
Unless something happens before Thursday — or a team comes in with a trade that the Phoenix Suns can’t refuse — it’s all but a lock that Ayton is going to be selected No. 1 overall.
The Arizona center dominated last season for the Wildcats.
And while Bagley has “dreamed of being the No. 1 pick his whole life,” Givony said it’s safe to assume that Bagley will be following immediately behind.
“So if (Bagley is) not going to go No. 1, then he has to go No. 2,” Givony said.
“You earn more money, and it’s a prestige thing. And so, he’s been in competition his whole life with DeAndre Ayton, his former teammate. So DeAndre is going to go one. Bagley is going to go two.”
So where does this leave Luka Doncic? The 19-year-old Slovenian — who is fresh off a ACB championship on Tuesday with Real Madrid where he hit a one-legged 3-pointer — was once projected to be among the first few picked.
Though, it turns out, the Kings aren’t a fan.
“All year, it’s not just (Kings coach Vlade Divac), but also his staff was very openly criticizing Luka, saying he’s not athletic enough. He’s too emotional. He’s not this. He’s not that,” Givony said.
So if the Kings don’t like Doncic, where will he end up? According to a Dallas Morning News report, Doncic may even be available when the Mavericks are up with the No. 5 pick.
ESPN analyst Mike Schmitz said he thinks Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. may go earlier than expected, which would bump Doncic down.
And, Schmitz said, Doncic would fit in well with the Mavericks.
“I really like his fit there with Rick Carlisle and his ability to use multiple ball handlers, get creative on the offensive end,” Schmitz told the Dallas Morning News. “He does benefit from having some explosiveness next to him in the halfcourt. I think a guy like Dennis Smith Jr., if he can learn to play also without the ball at times, that could be a fit there.”
“And then the veteran presence, too. Having a Dirk [Nowitzki], internationally born guy that’s been through this transition. Having J.J. Barea and Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes. To me, Doncic with Dallas is one of the more natural fits for him in this top five.”
So where does this leave the Kings?
Well, if Givony and Lowe are accurate, the Kings are taking Bagley with their first pick.
It’s the safe bet for them — and for an organization who hasn’t had a winning record since the 2005-2006 season, the safe pick is probably the smart move. If they were to take Doncic and it didn’t work out, it’d be even more of a mess in Sacramento.
“It’s just not the kind of embarrassment that they want right now,” Givony said. “They’re really trying to show people that it’s a new Kings, that they’ve changed. It’s not the same mistakes that they’ve made two, three years ago. It’s a thing of the past.
“So that potential embarrassment, I think, of (Doncic) coming out and saying, “Trade me. I’m not coming to traning camp.” That’s enough to maybe steer them into thinking that they shouldn’t take him.”
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