The NBA fans in Sacramento are surely focused on everything that's happening involving the Sacramento Kings' potential move to Seattle. It's different for the team's front office, however, which is turning its attention to the upcoming NBA draft.
Coming down the home stretch of what's surely another disappointing season, the Kings are likely to be picking towards the top of the draft once again. It's a situation with which they're familiar. After all, Sacramento has selected in the top 12 every year since 2007.
Making this year's draft lottery even more intriguing for the Kings is whether or not they'll be able to keep their own selection. That's because Sacramento owes its first-round pick to Cleveland if it doesn't fall somewhere in the top 13.
If the season were to end today, the Kings would be tied for fifth in terms of odds at winning the draft lottery. That means barring an unforeseen surge down the home stretch, the chances are they'll keep their selection in the first round.
In subsequent years, the Kings' pick is top-12 protected in 2014 and top-10 protected in 2015, 2016 and 2017. So the odds are that at some point Sacramento will relinquish its first-round pick to the Cavs. That's why it's imperative the team makes good on this year's draft and finds another piece it can build around.
Despite picking towards the top of the draft for years, Sacramento doesn't have a ton to show for it. With the exception of DeMarcus Cousins, none of its top picks have panned out into difference makers. Even then, there are plenty of questions about Cousins' character and ability to maximize his huge talent.
Tyreke Evans, while showing worlds of promise as a rookie and even garnering Rookie of the Year honors, has failed to make big strides. Now a restricted free agent following the season, it's unknown whether or not he'll be back. If he is, it's unclear what steps he'll take in his game.
Jimmer Fredette, the team's top pick from 2011 (although technically not the Kings' pick since they traded for him in a draft-day trade) has improved in his sophomore campaign. Still, it's unknown whether he'll ever be a starting-caliber player, and his defensive rating is ranked an atrociously bad 453rd out of 455 qualifying players, per basketball-reference.com.
Jason Thompson, picked No. 12 overall in 2008, has proven to be a solid player. He's certainly not spectacular, but he's consistent. He's also been a starter for much of his career with the Kings. The same can be said of Spencer Hawes, picked 10th in 2007—he's a steady NBA player, but nothing to write home about.
In fact, other than Cousins, arguably the Kings' best selection since 2007 was Isaiah Thomas, who was drafted with the last overall pick in the 2011 draft. He's ascended to the starting lineup for the team and even if he never plays another game, Sacramento's got more than a return on its investment.
The lack of success in recent drafts, coupled with the possibility of losing its top pick to Cleveland in the coming years, makes having a successful 2013 draft a necessity. Given the composition of the roster, it will be interesting to see what Sacramento ends up doing.
Seemingly, there are two schools of thought here. One is that you draft to fill a need and the other is that you pick the best player available regardless of position. In the past, the Kings have opted to go with what they deem the best player available. But what if the best player available also happens to fill a need?
The most glaring weakness on the roster, especially in the long term, is small forward. John Salmons is the incumbent starter there now, but he's on the wrong side of 30 and his contract only has two years remaining on it. That means the Kings should upgrade the position.
His ability to play on the wing makes him a good choice for Sacramento. Muhammad's also shown the ability to score in a variety of different ways. He can utilize his strength to overpower opponents, his ever-improving ball-handling allows him to go around defenders and he's also starting to show a more consistent jump shot, allowing him to space the floor.
One knock on Muhammad is his inability to create for his teammates on offense. He's also shown a propensity for drawing fouls on the offensive end. Lastly, his 6'6" height is less than ideal for a small forward. In fairness, he has an incredible wingspan which should help mitigate a lack of height.
Overall, drafting Muhammad could be an ideal scenario for the Kings. His skill set on offense should allow him to have some impact right away. His strengths and weaknesses also play well with those of John Salmons, allowing the Kings to really upgrade the position.
Furthermore, by having Salmons still on the team, the Kings would have someone to alleviate the pressure on Muhammad. Salmons is still a capable player, meaning Sacramento wouldn't need the rookie to start from the get-go.
Still, the most important thing for the Kings is to get the pick right. Whether they think Muhammad's the answer or someone else, whoever they select needs to pan out. They've got themselves in this mess—with no playoff appearances since 2005-06—because of bad drafting. Now they must use the 2013 draft as a way to start climbing out.
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