The Sacramento Kings feel like the biggest wildcard in the NBA Draft on an annual basis. It’s no coincidence that the Kings are also probably the worst run franchise in the league over the last two decades.
The Kings haven’t made the NBA Playoffs since 2006. Poor drafting isn’t the only reason the team continues to stink — bad ownership and bad coaching is equally to blame — but it’s certainly one of the biggest reasons for Sacramento’s continued struggles. The Kings have made some good picks over that time — mostly notably taking DeMarcus Cousins at No. 5 overall in 2010, and selecting Tyrese Haliburton at No. 12 overall in 2020 — but there have been far more misses than hits. The baffling selection of Marvin Bagley III over Luka Doncic in 2018 neatly summarizes the Kings’ ineptitude in the draft, but Nik Stauskas, Ben McLemore, Thomas Robinson, and Georgios Papagiannis were all lottery picks that flamed out just as quickly.
The Kings were one of the big winners of the 2022 NBA Draft lottery, jumping up several spots to land the No. 4 overall pick. This should be a major celebration considering there are four Tier 1 prospects in this draft (at least according to us), but of course things are never that easy for Sacramento. Last season’s deadline deal that sent out Haliburton for Domantas Sabonis only seemed to compound the Kings’ roster-building issues after the team went 10-17 following the deal.
While nothing is certain this far out before the draft, it seems likely the Magic will select Jabari Smith Jr. at No. 1, the Thunder will take Chet Holmgren at No. 2, and the Rockets will take Paolo Banchero at No. 3. What Sacramento does at No. 4 could determine the way the rest of the draft breaks. Here are their options.
Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue
Why the Kings could take him at No. 4: If the draft goes according to plan, Ivey will clearly be the top prospect on the board when the Kings come on the clock. The Purdue guard is an electric athlete who can break the first line of defense with his blazing first step and elite speed in the open floor. He also made significant strides as a three-point shooter this year, showing a nice step-back off the dribble while improving 10 percentage points from deep from his freshman to sophomore seasons. More than anything, the Kings need a star to build around, and Ivey has more star-power than anyone else available assuming Banchero and Holmgren are already off the board. Read our comprehensive scouting report on Ivey here featuring more than 3,000 words and 20+ clips on his game.
Why the Kings could pass on him: The Kings chose to build around De’Aaron Fox when they swapped Haliburton for Sabonis at last year’s trade deadline. Ivey is the best prospect on the board, but his skill set is pretty similar to Fox’s. Both are ultra-fast 6’4 guards who aren’t knockdown shooters on spot-ups and often struggle to defend bigger and stronger backcourt players. Ivey would have been a better and cheaper fit alongside Haliburton as opposed to Fox, but that ship has sailed. It feels like the Kings would be overthinking it by passing on Ivey, but the fit concerns with Fox are real. If the Purdue guard is the pick, there could be another big trade in the next year or two.
Keegan Murray, F, Iowa
Why the Kings could take him at No. 4: Murray seems like a great fit with the Kings’ current roster. Sacramento needs big forwards who can stretch the floor and be competent on defense, and Murray checks both of those boxes. He could slide in between Harrison Barnes and Sabonis in Sacramento’s starting lineup and provide versatile shooting, a boost in transition scoring, and solid instincts as a rotational defender. At 6’8, 225 pounds with a near 7-foot wingspan and a modern skill set, Iowa sophomore feels like one of the safest players in this class. The question if a team as hopeless as Sacramento should really go with a high-floor selection over a high-ceiling one.
Why the Kings could pass on him: Sure, Murray is a good fit with what the Kings have right now ... but should Sacramento really be concerned with a present day fix when the team just finished 30-52? Murray is probably going to be a solid player in the league for a long time, but I’m skeptical he has enough upside to warrant the fourth overall pick. Murray isn’t a plus passer and he doesn’t feel like a plus athlete, either. While his team defense is impressive, I’m less bullish on his point of attack defense, particularly when you consider the types of players he’ll likely be guarding. If the Kings want to hit a double, Murray is a solid selection, but this is a franchise that deserves to take a bigger swing.
Shaedon Sharpe, G, Kentucky
Why the Kings could take him at No. 4: Sharpe shares a lot of the attributes the NBA’s best shooting guards possess. He has good size at 6’5 with a 7-foot wingspan. He’s an explosive athlete who can make plays above the rim at both ends of the floor. He has impressive flashes of pull-up shooting with NBA range all over his high school tape. He has the tools to be a plus defensively. Of course, everything with Sharpe is theoretical because he didn’t play a game at Kentucky after enrolling midseason as the top recruit in his class. If fortune favors the bold, the Kings could hit it big by betting on Sharpe.
Why the Kings could pass on him: Sharpe feels like one of the riskier selections in this draft, largely because he will not have played a competitive game in more than a year when he makes his NBA debut. With no tape or statistics to go off of at the college level, Sharpe amounts to a big gamble for whatever team takes him, and that’s particularly the case at No. 4 overall. Even if Sharpe had gone back to Kentucky next year, there would have been some serious questions about his skill set. How consistently can he generate paint touches as a driver? How well does he see the floor as a passer? Can he translate his physical tools into defensive production? The Kings have struck out in the NBA so many times before to put themselves in this position, and Sharpe certainly could be an all-or-nothing swing.
A trade back
The Kings should have plenty of teams calling about their pick if Ivey is still on the board at No. 4 as expected. We listed the Pacers (with the No. 6 pick) Wizards (No. 10 pick) and the Knicks (No. 11 pick) as teams who could make a move up for Ivey, but that’s just the start of the list. If the Kings do trade down, who could they be targeting outside of Murray and Sharpe?
- Jalen Duren, C, Memphis: Duren is not a natural fit with Sabonis inside, but he is our No. 5 overall prospect. The youngest American prospect in the draft, Duren is a man-child big man with overwhelming amounts of length, strength, and vertical explosiveness. We like him for his ability to play any type of pick-and-coverage while possessing so much raw power around the basket. Picking Duren seems unlikely because Sabonis is already on the roster, but he’d be a great selection in a trade down.
- Bennedict Mathurin, G, Arizona: Mathurin is an explosive athlete and a very good shooter, which makes him feel like someone the Kings could fall in love with. No. 4 feels a touch high for him because his defense and passing are question marks, and he lacks great size for his position. I have a funny feeling the Kings might like him if they can find a trade down partner.
- AJ Griffin, G, Duke: Griffin is one of the youngest prospects in this class, has a great physical profile for a wing, and can shoot the hell out of the ball from deep. The main concern about him might be his long-term health after a long history of knee issues. The injuries seem to have sapped some north-south explosion from Griffin’s game as a driver and limited him a bit in screen navigation defensively. We have no idea where Griffin will go on draft night, but it’s possible he can still be on the board with the Wizards or Knicks pick if Sacramento trades down.
- Johnny Davis, G, Wisconsin: Davis might be the best two-way guard prospect in this class. The 6’6 sophomore was impressive as a point of attacker defender this past season with the quickness and tenacity to contain ball handlers on the perimeter. He was also a nasty one-on-one scorer with the Badgers, overcoming poor spacing to average nearly 20 points per game on a diet of tough pull-ups, post moves, and crafty finishes around the rim. Davis only hit 30 percent of his threes this past season, but should be a better shooter when he doesn’t have to carry such a big offensive burden. He’d be a good fit next to Fox if Sacramento decides he has enough offensive firepower to be their guy.
What should the Kings do at No. 4 overall?
Draft Jaden Ivey. He has a better chance to turn into a star than anyone else expected to be on the board. That’s what the Kings really need. If Sacramento has to move off Fox down the road to make it work, so be it.
The 2022 NBA Draft takes is June 23 in Brooklyn. Check out our latest draft work below.