SACRAMENTO (AP) — From owner to general manager to coach, no other NBA management team has had as little time to prepare for the draft this year as the Sacramento Kings.
The Kings have had so much turmoil and turnover since the season ended that focusing on the future has been an ever-present process of acceleration. The uncertainty that clouded the franchise for so long hit its peak May 21, when Keith Smart represented the Kings at the draft lottery at the request of the Maloof family.
Smart has since been fired as coach and replaced by Mike Malone. Pete D’Alessandro took over as general manager for Geoff Petrie last week. And new owner Vivek Ranadive has wiped away just about every memory of the Maloofs inside Sacramento’s suburban arena as part of the franchise’s “new era.”
The Kings can begin adding to that next chapter on the court come Thursday night, when they have the seventh and 36th overall picks in the draft.
“I see real potential in this draft,” D’Alessandro said.
The first-time general manager has relied heavily on the scouting he did in Denver’s front office and leaned heavily on Malone — whom D’Alessandro jokingly called “a seasoned veteran with two weeks’ experience” at his introductory news conference — to decide how that information might translate to the coach’s style and Sacramento’s needs.
D’Alessandro also brought over Mike Bratz from the Nuggets to be his assistant general manager. As for filling out the rest of his front office, that will have to wait.
“The beauty of this business is you have a network,” D’Alessandro said. “It’s like any business — you have people that you trust. Even without having a staff, I have the people that I trust in this industry that are excellent.”
This year’s draft will shed some insight on what direction D’Alessandro and Malone want to take the team.
The Kings could go for a point guard to complement big man DeMarcus Cousins. Michigan’s Trey Burke will likely be off the board by the time Sacramento makes its selection. Lehigh point guard C.J. McCollum, who has worked out twice at the Kings facility in recent weeks, would be the most likely candidate left.
If the Kings are searching for more athleticism inside, UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett, Pittsburgh center Steven Adams and UCLA forward Shabazz Muhammad are also options.
Help is needed no matter what position Sacramento selects. After making eight straight playoff appearances, the Kings have failed to make the postseason the last seven years and have the second-worst record in the NBA during that span. The franchise had become more frugal each year under the Maloofs, putting pressure on Petrie to find success in the draft, where talent can come cheap.
The Kings seemed to channel Petrie’s past success when they took Tyreke Evans with the fourth pick in 2009. Evans turned into the NBA Rookie of the Year, though the combo guard has been saddled with knee injuries and inconsistency ever since, and now he’s set to become a restricted free agent.
Drafting Cousins fifth in 2010 had the same risk then as signing him to a long-term extension does now: he’s a talented center who could blossom into one of the league’s best big men, but he’s also a player who has shown a lack of discipline and defense, getting suspended three times this past season — twice by the NBA, and once by the team.
While getting point guard Isaiah Thomas with the 60th and final pick two years ago might be considered a steal at that slot, the rest of Sacramento’s recent draft history has been forgettable.
Jimmer Fredette, the former BYU sensation selected 10th overall in 2011, has yet to live up to the hype. Thomas Robinson was such a disappointment after been taken fifth that the Kings traded him to Houston midseason. That missed pick was magnified even more because Damian Lillard, the NBA Rookie of the Year, was drafted by Portland one spot after Robinson.
But as with everything else in Sacramento now, the revamped franchise is looking forward and not back.
“I think this team is more of a clean canvas,” D’Alessandro said. “We have some strong pieces in there, but there’s a lot we can do to get it in the right direction.”