Kings Get Lucky in Lottery


The Sacramento Kings have been anything but lucky when it comes to the NBA Draft and all that goes along with it. Whether it be their ineptitude to select the correct player (Jimmer over Klay, TRob over Lillard), or their bad luck with the ping pong balls (worst record in '09, picked 4th, missed Griffin and Harden), this time of year is a struggle for the Kings and the fanbase. One can argue that the only draft pick that Sacramento got correct was the 2010 DeMarcus Cousins selection. The Kings seemed to be headed down a similar path heading into this offseason, but a couple of strokes of luck have them feeling better about this draft every day. 

It started in 2011 when the Kings sent Omri Casspi and a protected future first round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for JJ Hickson. The trade was criticized immediately, as Casspi was a crowd favorite and the Kings had plenty of front court players already. Hickson played in 35 games for Sacramento and averaged 4.7 points. Casspi would eventually re-sign in Sacramento in 2014, meaning that the Kings essentially gave up a first round pick and 3 years of Omri Casspi's cheap services for 35 games of Hickson's 4.7 per game.

That first round pick was protected, however, and had such protections that it rolled all the way over into the 2015-2016 season. It was top-14 protected for the first year, decreasing by 1 yearly until it hit top-10 protection last off season. It will remain in top-10 protection until next off season (2017), when it will turn in to a 2nd round pick should the Kings be in the bottom 10 again.  

The pick didn't stay in Cleveland, however. In 2014, the Cavs would trad the rights to the Kings pick to the Chicago Bulls, along with Andrew Bynum (yes), in exchange for Luol Deng. Aside from Kings fans, no one wanted more success for Sacramento in 2015-2016 than the Bulls: They'd get an extra first round pick if the Kings finished with a good enough record to slip out of the top 10.

As bad as the Kings were for the second half of 2016, they almost played themselves out of their pick. 

On March 24th, the Kings were 27-44, and keeping their pick in the top ten seemed likely. Their remaining schedule was soft, but they had been losing to soft teams all season long. The Kings got "hot" at the wrong time, going 6-5 over their last 11 contests, even with a semi-depleted roster. A victory against the Thunder was a feel-good story in the last home game played in ARCO Arena, but it didn't help their draft situation. The last contest of the season proved crucial, and Sacramento rested Cousins and Rondo against the Rockets who were fighting for their playoff lives. The Rockets won by 35, and the Kings finished 33-49, just good enough to remain in the top-ten and keep their draft pick. Finally, something went right. 

There was one more small wrinkle that needed to be worked out, however. Along with Kings, both the Nuggets and the Bucks finished with records of 33-49. A coin flip would be used to determine the order of selections 8 through 10 of the draft. (I'm not sure how a three way coin flip works, but it happens) 

Over the years, Kings fans have grown accustomed to bad luck, and ultimately are prepared for the worst. This coin flip was no different: We've secured our pick, and thats about all the luck we're going to get this off-season, so let's be happy with that. But lo and behold, lightning struck twice in Sacramento this April. The Kings won the coin flip, jumping two spots into the number 8 slot. They may now have a chance at a player like Jaylen Brown or Kris Dunn, instead of hoping the player they covet falls to them. Despite the struggles of the Kings, GM Vlade Divac has gotten mostly positive reviews on the moves he's made. It remains to be seen if his eye for young talent is as good as his free agent persuasion, but we will find out in a couple of months: The NBA Draft is Thursday, June 25th. 

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