Even when the Kings have been at their worst, the NBA draft lottery hasn’t been kind to them.
After gutting the roster, the Kings had the league’s worst record in the 2008-09 season, giving them the best chance to land the first overall pick. Instead, the Kings ended up with their worst scenario, picking fourth.
The pick became Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans, but he’s longer with the team. Two players selected before Evans (Blake Griffin and James Harden) and one just after (Stephen Curry) have become All-Stars.
In Tuesday’s lottery, the Kings have a 4.3 percent chance of landing the top pick, a 4.94 percent chance of selecting second and a 5.78 percent chance of choosing third. The most likely scenario – at 59.96 percent – is that the Kings will remain seventh after finshing 28-54, seventh-worst in the league. Under the NBA’s lottery rules, the lowest Sacramento could fall is 10th (0.03 percent probability) if three teams with better records land the top three spots in the June 26 draft.
If the Kings are lucky and land one of the top three picks, they’ll have a shot at one of the three freshmen widely considered the top prospects: Duke forward Jabari Parker, Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins and Kansas center Joel Embiid.
This year’s draft is considered much deeper than in recent years and a contrast to last year, when there was no consensus on the top prospects.
Players who could be available if the Kings stay at No. 7 or drop lower include Arizona forward Aaron Gordon, Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, Indiana forward Noah Vonleh, Creighton forward Doug McDermott, Michigan guard Nik Stauskas and Michigan State guard Gary Harris.
The Kings would like to improve their passing, perimeter shooting and basketball IQ, but they’ve said they will take the best player available.
Many mock drafts have Sacramento taking Gordon, an athletic forward who played at Sleep Train Arena six times as a high school star for Archbishop Mitty in San Jose. The Kings want to play at a faster pace on offense and continue to improve defensively, and Gordon would fit in with those goals.
“I love defense,” Gordon said during last week’s NBA draft combine in Chicago. “I love defense just as much as I love scoring. It’s really fun to me to make sure a guy can’t score. I love playing both ends of the floor. I think that’s what makes a true great basketball player.”
Smart, a sophomore, has been asked repeatedly about an incident in which he shoved a fan and was suspended. Smart, who said he learned how to handle adversity better from the situation, might have been the top point guard in last year’s draft if hadn’t stayed in college.
“I’ve shown I can score. I’ve shown I can facilitate and get my teammates involved,” Smart said. “It’s just whatever the team needs me to do.”
The Kings are in the lottery for the eighth consecutive year, and only one of their selections in that time, DeMarcus Cousins, has played at a level worthy of All-Star consideration.
Some of the biggest misses came in recent years. In 2011, Sacramento had the seventh pick and passed on Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker, Nikola Vucevic and Kenneth Faried, electing to move down in a three-way trade and obtain the rights to guard Jimmer Fredette, who was selected 10th by Milwaukee.
Fredette failed to live up to expectations and had his contract bought out this season.
In 2012, the Kings were ecstatic to select forward Thomas Robinson with the fifth pick. Portland used the next pick to draft guard Damian Lillard, who won the Rookie of the Year honor and was an All-Star this season. With the ninth pick, Detroit selected center Andre Drummond, an emerging big man.
Robinson was traded to Houston during his rookie season and is now with Portland.
Those mistakes were made under former basketball president Geoff Petrie’s regime. In his first draft last year, new general manager Pete D’Alessandro selected Ben McLemore with the seventh pick, passing on two other guards: eventual Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams (No. 11 to Philadelphia) and Trey Burke (No. 9 by Minnesota, which traded his rights to Utah). Burke was third in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Though McLemore struggled for much of his rookie season, he eventually improved, and the team remains high on his potential.