Deandre Ayton seems like a lock to be selected No. 1 overall by the Phoenix Suns on Thursday in the 2018 NBA Draft. The draft’s real intrigue starts when the Sacramento Kings come on the clock with the second pick.
Sacramento was positioned at No. 7 heading into the lottery before being blessed by the magical powers of the NBA’s ping-pong balls. Now one of the league’s most unpredictable franchises holds the keys to the draft, with the choice at No. 2 having the power to cause a chain reaction that will alter the rest of the lottery.
“A lot of the top guys in this draft are openly trying to avoid going there,” ESPN’s Jonathan Givony said of the Kings on recent podcast with Zach Lowe. Givony noted that Luka Doncic, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Mohamed Bamba have not sent their medical records to Sacramento.
What will the Kings do? No one knows, but in the days leading up to the draft they’re connected to three of this class’ most prominent players.
The Kings could take Michael Porter Jr.
Porter is the biggest boom-or-bust pick in the draft, a former top recruit whose lone college season was derailed by back surgery that limited him to two unimpressive games at Missouri. Porter’s health remains a major mystery on the eve of the draft, but Sacramento is reportedly believed to be considering him at No. 2.
Michael Porter Jr. to Sacramento at No. 2? There are rival teams who believe that the Kings are still strongly weighing it ...— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 18, 2018
Porter would be a cliche Kings pick: an ultra-risky upside play who would be considered a reach at No. 2. But hey, this is the organization that once took Georgios Papagiannis in the lottery, so anything is possible.
If the Kings pass on Porter, he could slide all the way to Chicago at No. 7 or Cleveland at No. 8.
The Kings could take Marvin Bagley III
Bagley has become the favorite to go No. 2 to Sacramento in most mock drafts, even if he isn’t the consensus No. 2 overall player in the minds of many analysts. Bagley is also on the record saying he loves Sacramento and would welcome being drafted there.
Bagley is a high-motor workhorse who scored inside and rebounded at an elite level during his one year at Duke. His question marks come at the defensive end, where he showed an inability to protect the rim and unrefined instincts guarding the perimeter.
The Kings already have a lot of young talent in the front court with Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, and Harry Giles. Do they really need another interior player like Bagley with a playmaker in Doncic on the board?
Bagley is likely to put up big numbers in the NBA, but it’s fair to question his impact on winning given his defensive issues. If Sacramento passes, Atlanta at No. 3 or Memphis at No. 4 are the probable landing spots for him.
The Kings could take Luka Doncic
Don’t overthink it, NBA teams. Draft Doncic. WIll the Kings listen?
Doncic should be a great fit for a Sacramento roster that needs a guard who can run an offense, shoot, rebound, and push the pace in transition. He has the type of advanced feel for the game and winning pedigree the Kings have been missing for years.
Of course, there have been rumors for weeks that the Kings aren’t enamored with him. There have also been reports that Doncic doesn’t love Sacramento. He reportedly hasn’t sent his medical records to the team, per Givony.
That could all be misdirection: Sacramento could still select him with the second pick and let the chips fall where they may. The son of owner Vivek Ranadive posted this image on social media earlier this week:
Viveks son just put this on Intagram pic.twitter.com/luC0lR9Svw— Jillian Adge (@JillAdge) June 15, 2018
The Kings passing on Doncic could trigger madness throughout the rest of the draft. There would likely be a number of teams calling Atlanta and Memphis to move up to No. 3 or No. 4 in hopes of drafting him. If you’re rooting for chaos, the best way for it to happen is Sacramento choosing anyone but Doncic at No. 2.
They could trade the pick, maybe for Kawhi Leonard?
Kawhi Leonard’s trade demand has turned the NBA on its head. If the Kings want an established star, Leonard is out there.
Another team to watch in the Kawhi sweepstakes: Sacramento. Kings have talked to teams about the No. 2 pick, per sources, and desperately want an established star.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixYS) June 15, 2018
It would be hard to beat Sacramento’s offer if the No. 2 pick is on the table. The question for the Kings: would Leonard really sign a long-term contract there, or is this just a rental? If he won’t, will they really trade a pick as good as No. 2 overall for one year of Leonard?
What will the Kings do?
Who knows! They’re the Kings! They have a reputation for doing the unexpected.
Phoenix is already on the clock with the No. 1 pick on Thursday, but the draft really starts at No. 2.