Sometimes, it happens. In recent NBA drafts, it happens a lot. A few of the league's top executives believe they're a little smarter than everyone else or more daring, at the very least and the entire process quickly spins out of control.
And, once again, the Kings are beneficiaries.
Thomas Robinson. At No. 5? Seriously?
These Kings needed both an emotional boost and an elite power forward, but entering the league's annual personnel feast, no one within the organization thought there was a prayer of landing the former Kansas standout. Let's face it. The basketball karma hasn't exactly been great around here these past few years.
But there Robinson sat Thursday night in an arena on the East Coast, much like DeMarcus Cousins two years ago, nervous and curious, and waiting to be picked when the Kings were allocated the five minutes to make their decision. And this one was virtually angst-free. According to sources within the organization and, surprise, surprise, suddenly everyone was very chatty it took all of about two seconds to inform the league of the team's intentions.
"We felt going into the draft, (Robinson) was one of the top couple talents, and even as of this morning, we were fairly sure he would not be there at (No. 5)," a visibly excited team basketball president Geoff Petrie said. "We had (Robinson) going (second). But the draft's the draft."
Silly us. We should have known better. This keeps happening. Mock drafts have become as obsolete as the set shot. Largely because so few prospects stay in school long enough to produce a substantial body of work or, say, a reasonably lengthy résumé, evaluating NBA talent is increasingly risky business. After the Kevin Durants and the Anthony Davis talents are gone, consensus even within organizations can be rare.
But not around here, and not regarding Robinson. With Davis sure to be plucked by New Orleans at No. 1, the Kings had the Jayhawks star written at No. 2 on their big board, otherwise known as their wish list.
Assuming the Charlotte Bobcats grabbed the 6-foot-9, 244-pound power forward, Petrie also was said to be seriously considering guard Dion Waiters, not enamored of small forwards Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Harrison Barnes, though he acknowledged that he didn't attempt to trade picks or accumulate additional first-round picks.
"The price to do that (trade back) is generally very high," he said. "We had a lot of different scenarios laid out, depending on what happened in front of us."
What happened is that Michael Jordan messed up all the mock drafts very early in the evening. The Bobcats' owner bypassed Robinson, held onto the No. 2 pick, and drafted Kidd-Gilchrist out of Kentucky. Bradley Beal then went to the Washington Wizards at No. 3, as expected. But when the Cleveland Cavaliers grabbed Waiters, another surprising selection at No. 4, Robinson was there, waiting for the Kings.
Though not a massive talent like Cousins, Robinson immediately addresses several of the Kings most glaring deficiencies frontcourt size, length (he has a 7-foot-3 wingspan) and athleticism, consistent rebounding and interior defense. Additionally, he is a lively, relentless performer, with quick, active feet. He is also one those poised, high IQ players coach Keith Smart keeps talking about.
"The maturity level he has," Smart said. "He has faced so much already. This is like a veteran (player) coming into our team."
Robinson, 21, has one of the most compelling stories in recent college basketball history. His grandmother, grandfather and mother all died during his sophomore season, his mother, Lisa, stricken by a sudden heart attack at age 37. The Washington, D.C., native currently is seeking custody of his younger sister, Jayla, who will be accompanying him to Sacramento.
Petrie said Robinson was still emotional when the two spoke shortly after the Kings pick was announced.
The Kings, of course, still need shooting, still need clarity at point guard, still have a roster in need of additions, not subtractions, as Petrie noted. But Robinson is a huge plus, a significant piece.
"It happened because this is where this guy was supposed to be," Smart suggested, with a smile. "It was his time to be here. We got a fabulous young pro."