For our last NBA draft preview team we head out to Sacramento aka bumblefuck. The Kings pick at both #5 and #10 overall not because of a coherent plan like the Sixers, but because they are the most incompetent NBA Franchise this side of the Knicks. The #5 pick is their own, which would’ve been #3 had they not agreed to a pick swap with the Sixers just to unload the contract of Nik Stauskas, who had been drafted just a year before.
The #10 pick is also the product of an incomprehensible trade with the Kings receiving Buddy Hield & this pick for Boogie Cousins. And while that trade may never look good in retrospect, the Kings can at least soften the blow by landing an impact player at #10. Look at the Thunder’s James Harden trade for a parallel; while it’s still an abysmal trade at least OKC landed Steven Adams with the first rounder they received. So, there’s even more pressure on Sacramento to get these picks right and salvage something from 2 horrific transactions.
Luckily, at #5 the Kings have perhaps the best spot in the draft. Especially considering the years of mismanagement the Kings can simply sit on their hands and select whichever top prospect falls to them. The most likely is De’Aaron Fox who I love, and @Gates thinks may be the #1 player in the draft.
The Kings haven’t been a team known for making rationale decisions for years now, so there is a possibility they pass on the ready made PG they’ve been starving for since the halcyon days of White Chocolate.
(Yes, that was just an excuse to post Jason Williams filth. Sue me.)
Let’s say the Kings blow it for the umpteenth time and pass on whichever of the top 5 prospects falls to them. Who else might they target?
Jonathan Isaac, Florida St.
Isaac might just be the most athletic prospect in this class. Standing at 6’10” with a 7’1″ wingspan, Isaac projects as a versatile 3/4 with the ability to possibly guard all 5 positions effectively. He looks like a perfect fit in today’s small ball NBA with the length to defend bigs and superb foot speed to check guards. While he’s extremely raw and needs to be coached up on both sides of the ball, its hard not to see star potential when he’s erasing human flesh from the face of the earth:
But while that’s all well and good, Isaac is far from ready on the offensive side of the ball. While he sometimes flashes some intriguing moves off the dribble or strokes the occasional 3, he fades into the background far too often. You’ll be watching Isaac play and after 30 minutes realize you haven’t heard his name once. He tends to make the “wow” play, but far more often he’s nowhere to be found.
Drafting Isaac this high is entirely predicated on potential and this is too much of a projection to draft in the top 10. He’s definitely going to fool some GM into drafting him that high, but I see his ceiling as a more athletic and longer version of Trevor Ariza/Otto Porter. While those guys are solid starters, no one is confusing them for all-stars. He may also just go the way of an Aaron Gordon, never finding his niche in the league (although there is time for Gordon yet).
Lauri Markkanen, Arizona
True 7 footers with the purest 3 point stroke in the draft don’t often come in a single package, but that’s exactly what you’re going to find in Finland’s Markkanen. Lauri balled out in his single season in Tuscon, immediately turning the Wildcats into a bonafide national title contender with his 42.3% marksmanship from deep. Markkanen has an offensive game complete with great handles for a 7 footer, is comfortable shooting off the dribble, and can deftly fin(n)ish in traffic.
Most scouts have compared him to Kristaps Porzingis and there certainly are similarities. However, Markkanen doesn’t have the same length or athleticism that Porzingis has and thus will be exposed defensively. Furthermore, where Porzingis has the desire to battle down low Markkanen is SOFT AS FUCK. Watch how easily Markannen gets pushed out of the way as Xavier scores a go ahead layup, which ultimately cost Arizona its season:
I actually really like Markkanen as a prospect and he should be an offensive mismatch at the next level. If the Kings can swoop him up at 10 that’s nice, but 5 is way too big of a reach with some of the other names on the board.
If the Kings do end up going big at #5, what guards might they take at #10?
Frank Ntilikina, France
The best international prospect in this years class looks to be in play as high as the Knicks pick at #8. If the Kings eschew a PG at #5, Ntilikina is a high upside play that could certainly pay off down the road. Now I’m not going to pretend I’ve watched any of Frank’s games live, but I have done extensive YouTube scouting the past few weeks and I like what I see. Most of us, myself included, are wary of these international prospects. When the Knicks drafted Porzingis everyone and their mother booed lustily simply because he was a hardly known international.
Frankie the Freak looks to at least have some role in the NBA with the potential for much much more. He’s a tall combo guard at 6’5″ and his real asset is his length which reaches to an absurd 7’0″. He can give you everything De’Aaron Fox offers defensively and might even have more upside on that end with his propensity for steals & blocks. Ntilikina has the potential to be the best defensive guard prospect in this class, as his lateral quickness and size will allow him to seamlessly guard both 1s & 2s. And to top it off Frank seems to have the dog in him to want to compete on that end of the floor every time down. Watch the hustle he shows here:
Even with this incredible defensive potential Frank also shines on the offensive end. He possesses a great drive & kick game and shot 39.1% from distance this past season in France. He has a nice little floater game and has plus athleticism to throw it down in traffic. Frank can shoot off the dribble and the thing I like most about his game is that everything he does is just so damn smooth.
On the downside Frank has a suspect handle for someone who is being projected as a PG. He’s definitely going to have some turnover struggles at the start of his career. Frank is pretty thin which will allow bigger guards to bully him out of position. Young players also don’t get much playing time in Europe and thus his stats leave you wanting more as he only averages 5.3 points & 1.5 assists in 19 minutes per game.
All in all Frank has a bit of fellow European PG Dennis Schröder in his game and his career path may look quite similar. Schröder has come on huge this past year and has the look of a future potential superstar at just 23 years old. With Ntilikina only 18, it may take him a few years to blossom but I’m betting on him becoming a legitimate franchise PG down the road.
Donovan Mitchell, Louisville
Another combo guard that is shooting up draft boards of late is Donovan Mitchell from Louisville. Donovan balled out this past year for Rick Pitino becoming the go to scorer for the Cardinals. What’s intriguing scouts even more than his impressive game, is that while he only stands at 6’3″ he also has a 6’10” wingspan. Those long arms and 40.5″ vertical should allow him to become a defensive pest and have the versatility to defend both guard positions.
While he has significant defensive potential, Mitchell already looks the part on the offensive end. He has a wealth of moves to get to the bucket and has no fear of finishing amongst the trees in traffic. Take a look at this beautiful spin into an up & under for just one example:
Mitchell has a knack for making highlight plays and is unlikely to be overwhelmed by NBA athleticism. The few knocks on Mitchell include his height (or lack thereof) and a shaky 3 point shot as evidenced by his 35.4% shooting from behind the arc. However, he has a fundamentally pure stroke and should be able to improve on his shooting as he progresses in his career. He’s also comfortable shooting off the dribble and that confidence will allow him to improve on that facet of his game.
Mitchell is one of the most overlooked prospects by the general public but NBA front offices are catching on so don’t be shocked if you see him drafted in the top 10. I see Avery Bradley type potential in him and he should be a force in the NBA for years to come.