Duke’s Zion Williamson is the first pick in the NBA Draft
Thirty-nine players had already been selected by the time the Kings made their first pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Most of the players analysts expected Sacramento to choose were still available when the Kings made the first of three second-round selections, but they selected a player who did not show up in many mock drafts.
The Kings used the 40th pick in the draft to select 22-year-old Justin James, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard who was considered an unranked prospect by some prognosticators. James averaged 22.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.5 steals as a senior at Wyoming last season, shooting 40.9 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from 3-point range.
Kings pick, No. 40: Justin James
Position: Shooting Guard
Points per game: 22.1
Shooting %: 40.9
Assists per game: 4.4
James participated in a predraft workout in Sacramento on May 30. He was a two-time First Team All-Mountain West Conference selection who scored 2,061 career points. He was No. 96 in the cbssports.com prospect rankings but was unranked by nbadraft.net and The Sporting News.
Shortly after the pick was announced, James tweeted: “BEYOND GRATEFUL! God is great.”
Sacramento traded the 47th pick to the New York Knicks. In exchange, the Kings received the 55th pick, which they used to select 21-year-old Kyle Guy, a 6-2 combo guard who averaged 15.4 points per game while shooting 42.6 percent from 3-point range last season.
Kings pick, No. 55 (via trade): Kyle Guy
Position: Shooting Guard
Points per game: 14.4
Shooting %: 44.9
Rebounds per game: 4.5
Guy tweeted: “So blessed to be a part of the @SacramentoKings.”
With the 60th pick, the Kings selected 22-year-old Vanja Marinkovic, a 6-7 shooting guard from Belgrade, Serbia.
Kings pick, No. 60: Vanja Marinkovic
Team: Partizan (EuroCup)
Points per game: 12.4
Shooting %: 39.5
Kings general manager Vlade Divac held a news conference following the draft late Thursday night.
“We are so happy to welcome Justin, Kyle and Vanja to the Sacramento family,” Divac said. “I think it was a great night for us. . I’m happy with the outcome, so exciting to have those kind of players, who fit our style of basketball, and happy for the future of the Kings.”
Divac said Guy was among the best shooters in the draft.
“His shooting is just exceptional,” Divac said. “I’m very confident he’s one of the best shooters in this class. He’s just unbelievable. When we had him first time, it was like everybody, we were so excited, like, ‘We’ve got to bring him again to see if he was just lucky,’ and, no, he was making a lot of shots the second time, too. If you talk about Kyle’s game and say one thing that is elite, it is definitely shooting is an elite weapon for him.”
The Kings waited hours to make their first pick while other teams scooped up the top talent in the draft. That included No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, whose extraordinary combination of size, speed, strength and athleticism were too good for the New Orleans Pelicans to pass up.
Williamson was sharply dressed in a cream-colored suit when he joined NBA commissioner Adam Silver on stage. He was the presumed No. 1 pick for months leading up to the draft, but he was overcome with emotion when he talked about his mother during an interview with ESPN after he was selected.
“You can hear people say things like, ‘Oh, that it was likely I was going to go No. 1,’ but I guess you don’t know until you actually go through it,” Williamson told reporters in Brooklyn. “Hearing my name called, and I was able to make it on stage without a tear, but in the interview my mom was standing beside me and my emotions just took over.”
Williamson comes into the league as the most-ballyhooed young star since LeBron James made the leap from high school to the NBA in 2003. Williamson, 18, is an incredibly rare and unique prospect at 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds with quickness, agility and explosive leaping ability. He averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds to earn national player of the year honors as a freshman at Duke last season.
“He may be an All-Star right away,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told Yahoo! Sports in the days leading up to the draft. “There’s no ceiling, really. He doesn’t have a weakness. … He wants to be special. He’s a gift from God, really, for a coach.”
The Memphis Grizzlies selected Murray State point guard Ja Morant with the No. 2 pick. The New York Knicks took Duke shooting guard RJ Barrett with the third pick.
David Griffin, the new vice president of basketball operations in New Orleans, extracted a wealth of young talent and draft assets in the trade that sent star big man Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Pelicans received Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and the fourth pick in Thursday’s draft.
Griffin then traded the No. 4 pick, the No. 57 pick and a future second-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 8 pick, the No. 17 pick, the No. 35 pick and a protected first-round pick in 2020, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported. The Hawks used the No. 4 pick to select Virginia forward DeAndre Hunter.
Sacramento’s first-round pick, the 14th overall selection, will go to the Boston Celtics as a result of a 2015 trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. This is the first time the Kings have not had a first-round pick since 2003 and the first time they haven’t had a lottery pick since 2006.
The Kings have found value in the second round before. In 2011, they used the final pick in the draft to select Isaiah Thomas, who averaged 20.3 points per game for the Kings in 2013-14 and was an MVP candidate for the Celtics in 2015-16.
The Kings selected Pervis Ellison with the No. 1 pick in 1989, the only time they have held the top overall pick. Ellison spent only one season in Sacramento and never fulfilled expectations during an 11-year NBA career.
“We found out, as did other teams that had Pervis, that he didn’t love the game,” former Kings coach and color commentator Jerry Reynolds told The Sacramento Bee last summer. “Good guy, easy to be around, but he didn’t have that competitive spirit, that drive, and that’s why he had the career he had. We were not lucky in a bad draft. … That draft crushed us.”