Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin: Backcourt a very crowded place

Published: Friday, Jun. 28, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Saturday, Jun. 29, 2013 - 10:50 pm

Changes are coming. Scratch that. More changes are coming. The team that is happy just to be here resumed its rebuilding process Thursday night by drafting another player from Kansas, adding two guards, and further crowding a backcourt that can barely squeeze into the building.

Ben McLemore is either a steal at No. 7 or he's not. Check back in three years.

But how many guards do the Kings need? Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette are under contract. It's not like principal owner Vivek Ranadive needs a calculator – he is a Silicon Valley software whiz, after all – but McLemore and Detroit-Mercy point guard Ray McCallum stretch the list to six.

The new era thus begins. The new guys want their guys, and more specifically, they want new guards.

"Ben McLemore was our dream choice," Ranadive said after the two rounds were completed. "In fact, our GM here (Pete D'Alessandro) had told me he had a hunch that he was going to get him. We all laughed. 'What have you been smoking? Not a chance.' "

There was a lot of that stuff going around last night. This was one of those NBA drafts that expose mock drafts as the silly little endeavors that they are. Silly, unpredictable and entertaining, and actually, even more entertaining than usual.

The evening was thrown into a complete tizzy before David Stern revealed the name of the first player chosen. Pausing halfway into his announcement, and twice lifting his palms for dramatic effect, the commissioner provided the first shocker of the night: the Cleveland Cavaliers selected UNLV forward Anthony Bennett with the No.1 pick.

On and on it went. There were several trades, including the swap that sent All-Star Jrue Holiday to New Orleans. There was the usual spirited debate among television analysts. There were images of immense disappointment (Nerlens Noel) and stunned delight (Cody Zeller). And that all happened before Stern, who was presiding over his final draft, announced the Kings' No.7 selection that set off a wild celebration at Sleep Train Arena.

The fans clearly loved the choice, which should only further boost ticket sales. According to the league, as of Thursday morning, the Kings led all 30 franchises in new season-ticket sales. Ranadive, who within a matter of weeks purchased the majority interest in the franchise from the Maloofs, hired D'Alessandro and head coach Michael Malone, isn't shy about spending his own money, either.

"We liked McLemore so much that, when the draft started, we were trying to figure out ways to buy a higher pick," said Ranadive, anticipating the Kansas standout would be unavailable with the seventh selection. "We were calling people, seeing if we could pay some money and go up to five or four or three. But as the names kept getting called out and his name was still there, cheering broke out in the war room. We were thrilled to get Ben."

McLemore, a 6-foot-5 native of St. Louis, is an intriguing, if somewhat polarizing prospect. His fan base extends to the likes of LeBron James and Mike Bibby, who flew in for the festivities and praised the pick, but does not include onetime Kings center Scot Pollard. An analyst for Jayhawk basketball games, Pollard – who panned the Thomas Robinson pick a year ago – offered mixed reviews on KHTK 1140.

But the Kings obviously disagree. Clearly disagree. Though he slipped to No.7 because some teams obviously had concerns, the Kings grabbed him because of his shooting ability and athleticism, and what they perceive as a unique talent.

"Special night, special player," said D'Alessandro. "Ben is a special player. To end up here today, after that whirlwind of what we just went through, is incredible."

MEET THE NEWEST KINGS

BEN McLEMORE

• Height: 6-5

• Weight: 195

• Age: 20

• Selected: No. 7 overall

• Position: Shooting guard

• College: Kansas

• Fast fact: McLemore set Kansas freshman records in scoring (589 points) and free-throw percentage (87 percent).

• 2012-13 statistics: 15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists.

• Comment: McLemore is one of the draft's premier shooters and gives the Kings more size and athleticism in their backcourt.

RAY McCALLUM

• Height: 6-2

• Weight: 191

• Age: 22

• Selected: No. 36 overall

• Position: Point guard

• College: Detroit

• Fast fact: McCallum, a McDonald's All-American, chose to play for his father, Ray Sr., at Detroit rather than attend a big school.

• 2012-13 statistics: 18.7 points, 4.5 assists, 1.9 steals.

• Comment: McCallum adds much-needed size at point guard. He joins a crowded backcourt that figures to change before the season starts.

– Jason Jones

Call The Bee's Ailene Voisin (916) 321-1208 and follow her on Twitter @ailene_voisin.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ailene Voisin



Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNLV and a law degree from the University of San Diego before committing full time to journalism.

Her career includes stops at the San Diego Union, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and time spent as the backup beat writer for Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and NBA beat writer, sports columnist, along with numerous assignments covering international events and the Olympics. Ailene joined The Sacramento Bee in 1997.

Email: avoisin@sacbee.com
Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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