Stressing defense, Donovan Mitchell gets first look at Sacramento, Kings
It took a draft and two trades, but the Kings finally have their pick of shooting guards on the roster, making it a need the Kings can, for once, afford not to make a top priority in Thursday’s NBA draft.
Sacramento drafted Malachi Richardson last year and traded for Buddy Hield. Veteran Garrett Temple is under contract and the kind of player the Kings want to keep around to help mentor Richardson and Hield. The future of Arron Afflalo is uncertain, but with a $1.5 million buyout option from the Kings and the team looking to create financial flexibility, it would make sense if they parted ways.
Then there’s the wild card – Bogdan Bogdanovic – the EuroLeague standout whose rights were acquired by the Kings from Phoenix during last year’s draft.
General manager Vlade Divac has been high on the prospect of adding Bogdanovic, 24, this season since acquiring his rights. That was before acquiring Hield from New Orleans in February, but the anticipation over what Bogdanovic might add has not waned.
The Kings still need to negotiate a contract with Bogdanovic, who was drafted in 2014 by Phoenix and no longer falls under the rookie scale for a deal.
Divac views Bogdanovic as a natural shooting guard who at 6-foot-6 could also play some small forward and fill in at point guard.
For now, the Kings’ energy needs to be focused on Hield and Richardson.
Hield was a superstar at Oklahoma and averaged 15.1 points in 25 games with the Kings. He was the 3-point shooter (42.8 percent) the Kings have longed for. But, listed at just 6-foot-4, he’ll have to continue to evolve as teams throw bigger defenders at him.
Hield began showing late in the season he could be more than a scorer, but those moments weren’t often enough as he averaged just 1.8 assists as a King. He can expect teams will force him to do more than be a scorer in his second season.
Richardson’s rookie season ended just before the All-Star break with a torn hamstring, just as he’d begun to get some playing time. If Bogdanovic does arrive this season and with Hield clearly a focus of the offense, it could be tough for Richardson to find playing time unless he can play some small forward.
It’s hard for a team to develop one player at a position and give him significant playing time. Doing that with three players would be impossible.
That doesn’t even include Temple, who the Kings will still rely on to fill his role, in addition to being a much-needed defender and a calming influence on the court.
But perhaps for 2017, the search for a shooting guard can finally cease.
Kings draft glance: Shooting guards
Need level (scale 1-10): 2
Five prospects who could be available: Malik Monk (Kentucky, 6-3, 200), Donovan Mitchell (Louisville 6-3, 200), Luke Kennard (Duke, 6-6, 195), Tyler Dorsey (Oregon 6-4, 185), Terrence Ferguson (Australia, 6-7, 185).
Perfect fit: Monk is the best scorer but Mitchell is the kind of combo guard the Kings could use. His defense would be a boost to a team that has been abused on the perimeter for too long. His ability to play either guard spot would also give the Kings lineup flexibility.