Sacramento Kings

Kings make surprise picks in unpredictable draft, but fans ‘shouldn’t worry about it’

Wyoming’s Justin James was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in the second round of the NBA Draft.
Wyoming’s Justin James was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in the second round of the NBA Draft. AP

Two of the players the Kings selected in the second round of Thursday’s NBA Draft were rated well outside the top 60 by most draft analysts. The third wasn’t even in the top 100.

After months of scouting, research and evaluation, Kings general manager Vlade Divac and his staff bypassed higher-rated prospects to select Wyoming guard Justin James, Virginia guard Kyle Guy and Serbian guard Vanja Marinkovic. The social media reaction was swift and fraught with skepticism, but Divac said fans should not be concerned.

“They shouldn’t worry about it,” Divac said. “Those guys are great talents.”

Divac said his staff worked hard to prepare for the draft even though the Kings did not have a first-round pick. The Kings would have had the 14th overall pick in the draft, but that pick was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2015 and subsequently dealt to the Boston Celtics.

Sacramento’s second-round selections were surprising, but much of the draft did not go as expected. Divac explained the Kings emphasized shooting, basketball IQ and the ability to run the floor while trying to identify the best available players who best fit the team’s style.

“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.”

Fans will get their first glimpses of James and Guy at the California Classic July 1-3 at Golden 1 Center. Marinkovic will “continue to develop while playing internationally,” a team source said, and is unlikely to come to the United States anytime soon.

The Kings will play three games in three days against the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat at the California Classic. The Kings confirmed Friday that Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles III will also participate. The coaching staff will determine how many minutes and games Bagley and Giles will play. Point guard De’Aaron Fox appeared in one California Classic game last summer before sitting out the remaining summer league games in Sacramento and Las Vegas.

The Kings selected James with the 40th pick, Guy with the 55th pick (after a trade with the Knicks for the Kings’ 47th pick) and Marinkovic with the 60th pick. Every draft is somewhat unpredictable, but this one was impossible to forecast with numerous trades and major surprises up and down the draft board.

Hoopshype.com released an aggregate mock draft based on mock drafts by ESPN, The Athletic, Sports Illustrated, The Ringer and nbadraft.net. Guy was No. 60 in the aggregate mock draft, but James and Marinkovic were not among the 77 players listed in the aggregate rankings. Some speculated that James might have gone undrafted if the Kings hadn’t taken him at No. 40.

At various points, the Kings passed on center Bol Bol, who was No. 21 in the aggregate rankings, power forward Eric Paschall (No. 31), power forward Isaiah Roby (No. 42) and small forward Admiral Schofield (No. 43). Terence Davis (No. 39), Jontay Porter (No. 46), Zach Norvell (No. 50) and Shamorie Ponds (No. 51) all went undrafted and Jordan Poole (No. 53) was chosen by the Golden State Warriors with the 28th pick, underscoring the unpredictable nature of this draft.

Kings pick, No. 40: Justin James

Position: Shooting Guard

School: Wyoming

Height: 6-7

Weight: 190

2018-19 stats

Points per game: 22.1

Shooting %: 40.9

Assists per game: 4.4

James, 22, is a 6-foot-7 shooting guard who 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. He is described as a fluid athlete who changes gears well and shows explosiveness around the rim.

“Very strong, very smart, basketball IQ. He can definitely keep up the way we want to play,” Divac said. “I think he’s a ready NBA player.”

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.”

Kings pick, No. 55 (via trade): Kyle Guy

Position: Shooting Guard

School: Virginia

Height: 6-2

Weight: 175

2018-19 stats

Points per game: 14.4

Shooting %: 44.9

Rebounds per game: 4.5

The Kings acquired Guy’s draft rights and cash considerations from the New York Knicks in exchange for the rights to forward Ignas Brazeikis, who was selected with the 47th pick, which originally belonged to the Kings.

Guy, 21, is a 6-2 combo guard who helped Virginia win the NCAA championship in April. He averaged 15.4 points per game while shooting 42.6 percent from 3-point range last season. He was a consensus third-team All-American.

Guy tweeted: “So blessed to be a part of the @SacramentoKings.”

Guy was one of 101 prospects who participated in pre-draft workouts with the Kings and the only player who came back for a second visit. Divac said Guy, the all-time leader at Virginia in 3-point shooting at 42.5 percent, was one of the most gifted 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.”

Kings pick, No. 60: Vanja Marinkovic

Position: Guard

Nationality: Serbia

Team: Partizan (EuroCup)

Height: 6-4

Weight: 194

2018-19 stats

Points per game: 12.4

Shooting %: 39.5

Games: 16

Marinkovic, 22, is a 6-6 shooting guard. He averaged 12.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 27.7 minutes per game over 23 games for Partizan Belgrade of the Adriatic League First Division last season, shooting 40.2 percent from the field and 32.8 percent from 3-point range. He was slightly more efficient in 16 games for Partizan Belgrade during the ULEB EuroCup and FIBA Champions League, hitting 35.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic and Marinkovic were teammates with Partizan Belgrade in 2013-14. Marinkovic is also a member of the Serbian national team. He was one of 34 players named to a star-studded list of candidates for the team that will represent Serbia in the FIBA Basketball World Cup. That list also includes Bogdanovic, Kings forward Nemanja Bjelica, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia 76ers center Boban Marjanovic.

Divac acknowledged that Marinkovic is a “project,” but he believes he will succeed in the NBA after spending more time overseas to develop his game.

“He’s one of the best prospects from Europe,” Divac said. “… I’m very confident that he’s going to be an NBA player. Great shooting ability, knows how to play, basketball IQ is off the charts.”

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