SACRAMENTO (AP) — The Sacramento Kings’ rebuilding project is undergoing a youth movement.
The Kings filled a major void at point guard by drafting Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox with the fifth pick in the NBA draft and then traded their second lottery pick for two more first-round selections Thursday night in hopes of finding the pieces that will help end an 11-year playoff drought.
“I feel like we can grow together,” Fox said. “Of course it will take some time. But every franchise takes time when they’re hitting some bumps in the road.”
The Kings have hit plenty of those the last decade and now are starting over after dealing away star center DeMarcus Cousins in February. That deal brought them shooting guard Buddy Hield and the 10th overall draft pick from New Orleans that general manager Vlade Divac then traded to Portland for the 15th and 20th selections.
Sacramento took North Carolina forward Justin Jackson and Duke big man Harry Giles with those picks. The Kings then took another point guard in the second round, selecting Kansas’ Frank Mason III with the 34th overall pick.
“We are building here something special,” Divac said. “You can’t do it overnight or in a month or in a year. We started last year and we just want to add talent to what we have.”
Point guard was the biggest need coming into the night for the Kings with Darren Collison, Ty Lawson and Langston Galloway all headed to unrestricted free agency next month. Divac pounced when Fox was available in hopes of finding a leader who can engineer a franchise turnaround.
“I know it’s going to be tough to change a team, but for me I wanted to come in and be able to affect the game right away,” Fox said. “A lot of people say I could be a franchise changer, and that’s what I really want to be.”
Fox is extremely quick and a skilled ball handler who showed the ability to get to the basket in his one season at Kentucky. He averaged 16.7 points, 4.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. His biggest weakness is his outside shot after hitting just 24.6 percent of his 3-pointers last season.
Fox boosted his stock when he outplayed UCLA’s Lonzo Ball in the Sweet Sixteen, scoring 39 points in a Wildcats win. But Ball still went ahead of him at second overall to the Los Angeles Lakers.
“It’s going to be night in and night out you’re playing great point guards,” Fox said. “We’re cool off the court but on the court we’re competitors. I’m definitely going to welcome that challenge.”
Jackson, who played on an AAU team with Fox, gives the Kings a wing scorer to replace Rudy Gay, who declined his $14.3 million option to become an unrestricted free agent. Jackson averaged 18.3 points and 4.7 rebounds as a junior for NCAA champion North Carolina last season.
After shooting under 30 percent from 3-point range his first two years, Jackson opted to stay in school and worked at improving his outside shot and made 37 percent last season.
“I didn’t feel I was ready maturity-wise last year and physically playing the game,” Jackson said. “I think I matured a ton. I got a whole lot better in my basketball game. Hopefully I can come in right away and make a difference and help the team.”
Giles was once one of the top prospects in his class before being hobbled by knee injuries. He played sparingly in his only season at Duke, missing the start of the season recovering from an injury and averaging just 11.5 minutes per game in his 26 contests. He averaged 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
The Kings worked Giles out and were confident in his health.
“I’m so excited he was there for us,” Divac said. “At 20, that kind of talent, you can’t pass.”
Mason was a four-year player at Kansas and won numerous player of the year awards last season, including from The Associated Press. He averaged 20.9 points and 5.2 assists per game as a senior and finished sixth all-time at Kansas in both points (1,885) and assists (576).
The Kings need plenty of help after going 32-50 in coach Dave Joerger’s first season. They are trying to build around a core led by young players like Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and Hield in hopes of developing a team worthy of the fancy new downtown arena that opened last season.
The roster figures to be extremely young next season with only three players signed who are not on rookie contracts. Guards Arron Afflalo and Garrett Temple and center Kosta Koufos are the only veterans on the roster.
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