The Kings have been so bad on defense in recent seasons, even moving up six spots in points allowed per game didn’t get them out of the bottom third of the NBA rankings in 2013-14, as Sacramento finished 24th at 103.4 points per contest.
The Kings also finished 27th in the league with 3.9 blocked shots per game, which is especially problematic considering the team’s struggles to contain dribble penetration much of the season.
So as the Kings began hosting prospects for predraft workouts Monday, the team was looking at players whose physical gifts could improve the defense.
“We’re looking at guys with length,” said assistant general manager Mike Bratz. “Everyone’s reminded us that we need someone around the basket to help DeMarcus (Cousins) and shot blocking. We’re looking at guys like that.”
Never miss a local story.
Apart from the scheduled group workouts, Arizona forward Aaron Gordon stopped by the facility to meet with management in what is being described as in impromptu get together.
A team official said Gordon took a few shots, but the team is not classifying it as an individual workout.
Gordon is one of the top-rated forwards in the draft class after playing one season for Arizona.
The most notable player who worked out Monday was Indiana big man Noah Vonleh.
Vonleh participated in the first of two workouts along with Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, Louisiana-Lafayette guard Elfrid Payton and Oregon State center Eric Moreland.
At 6-foot-10, Vonleh played one season at Indiana and does not turn 19 until August. He has a 7-41/4 wingspan and a 37-inch vertical leap.
“He’s a really talented player,” Bratz said. “Young, but physically you can tell this guy is going to be a stud.”
Vonleh averaged 11.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks for the Hoosiers. He said he’d like to be a top-five pick, which would keep him away from the Kings, who have the eighth overall selection.
Vonleh wants NBA teams to see he is a skilled player, and not simply a great athlete.
“Just trying to show I can handle the ball,” Vonleh said. “I can play away from the basket, I’m real versatile, can rebound the ball out of my area.”
Smart is the other player worthy of consideration by the Kings in the first round. At 6-4, Smart has a 6-91/4 wingspan and a 36-inch vertical leap, even though his build (227 pounds) is more like that of a football player.
The belief is Smart’s size and strength would translate well, defensively, to the NBA. The Kings also like Payton’s measurables (6-4, 185, 6-8 wingspan, 351/2-inch vertical leap).
The Kings’ second workout was headlined by Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis, a projected first-round pick.
Ennis, 6-2 and 180 pounds, has the kind of athleticism the Kings want on the perimeter defensively along with being more of the pass-first point guard the team covets. He has a 36-inch vertical leap and a 6-71/4 wingspan. He averaged 12.9 points and 5.5 assists as a freshman.
Bratz said Ennis has “good speed and quickness” and is a “good athlete, true point guard.”
Also joining Ennis in the second workout were UTEP center John Bohannon, St. Mary’s guard Stephen Holt and center Brendan Lane, who was a star player at Rocklin High School and finished his college career at Pepperdine after transferring from UCLA.
Lane said he’d like to show he has the ability to be a big man who can shoot from the perimeter, similar to another local product, New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson.
The Kings like that the 6-10, 235-pound Lane averaged 2.4 blocks at Pepperdine.
“We’re going to look at all the players who can protect the rim,” Bratz said. “He’s a local kid, and we wanted to take a look.”