The Kings have a chance to shape their future in the NBA draft, but if the lead up to it is any indication, they could be on their way to replacing an image that has dogged them for years.
As they navigate their visits and workouts with prospects, the process is not solely focused on whom they will draft fifth and 10th overall on June 22. It’s about erasing the perception that they’re one of the NBA’s biggest jokes and replacing it with one that instills confidence in the next generation of stars.
Washington point guard Markelle Fultz, the consensus top pick, could visit Sacramento to meet with team officials before the draft, according to league sources. That would speak to the impression the Kings made on him at the combine in Chicago last month.
Barring the unforeseen, Fultz will be wearing a Boston Celtics cap by the time the Kings are on the clock. But a good impression now could pay dividends down the road when these prospects are entering free agency; that’s why the Kings want to meet with as many as possible.
Whether or not Fultz visits, the Kings have already attracted more top-level talent than in the last two years when they also possessed top-10 picks. Only one first-round pick visited Sacramento last year, Vanderbilt’s Wade Baldwin, who would have been considered a reach as the Kings were picking at No. 8.
Projected lottery picks who have visited this year are Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox, North Carolina forward Justin Jackson and Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell. Texas center Jarrett Allen, another first-round prospect, will work out for the team Saturday.
The best teams use any opportunity to gather information about players, and in the draft process they can do it without the fear of being charged with player tampering.
These meetings are an introduction to the franchise the Kings hope to be – one that is stable with a focused plan, not one with annual coaching searches. One built on a style of basketball that takes advantage of several young perimeter players (and if all goes well in the draft, a young point guard). And one that can put 11 straight losing seasons and years of dysfunction behind it.
In the past, some prospects and their agents made a concerted effort to avoid being selected by Sacramento.
One, general manager Vlade Divac has a better grasp of the process in his third year in charge. It’s unlikely he’d make a misstep similar to when he implied in 2015 he wouldn’t draft a player unless he worked out for the Kings.
The front office is probably as strong as it’s been in Vivek Ranadive’s time as principal owner. Scott Perry came on board in April as vice president of basketball operations to add much-needed experience and the kind of league-wide connections needed to facilitate this process.
Assistant general manager Ken Catanella has more than a year with the team after joining it just prior to the Kings getting deep into the draft process.
And there is a clear plan from top-to-bottom to get the team back on track, one the Kings are able to finally share with the top prospects in the draft.