The Kings could have had Damian Lillard in the 2012 draft. After messing that up, they have handed the Sixers Markelle Fultz on a silver platter – and for little return.
Heading into the 2013 season, it was rumored that the then-owners, the Maloofs, did not want to pay up for power-forward Jason Thompson as his rookie contract ended. The other options at power forward were scant for the Kings, and thus making it a palatable idea to draft someone who could play alongside DeMarcus Cousins. Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Brooks were score-first point guards already on the roster.
The Kings had a decision to make at pick five; would they take the best player available and figure out the fit – or would they just take someone to fill in for Thompson? Lillard impressed the team during a solo workout, but he was seen as surplus to needs. The Kings drafted Thomas Robinson, a power forward in the Kenneth Faried mold.
After a disappointing year, the Kings decided that they needed to enter win-now mode. Robinson was traded after being on the roster for only his rookie season in a deal with the Rockets that ended up landing Patrick Patterson. At the time, it was a questionable trade, but ultimately it did not cost the Kings. Hindsight would have it that Lillard and Harrison Barnes (who was taken at pick seven) would pan out as successes, but by looking at that trade on its own in 2017, the Kings ended up with a better asset.
It was a little further down the track that the Kings made perhaps one of the worst trades of recent times, and maybe even ever. The Kings traded Jason Thompson (was due to make $6 million per year), Carl Landry (due to make $6.5 million per year) and the eighth pick Nik Stauskas, alongside the rights to some serious picks. Those picks ended up being a pick swap this year – which ended up being pick three, as well as an unprotected first round pick in 2019.
In return, the Kings got the rights to two draft and stash players (Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic) and some cap space. That cap space was used to sign Rajon Rondo, Kosta Koufos, and Marco Bellinelli. Rondo and Bellinelli are gone, while Koufos has become difficult to play in certain lineups. The two draft and stash players may never even play for the Kings.
On the other hand, the Sixers managed to acquire the necessary assets to make a trade for pick one. It looks likely that the trade will be pick three this year, plus the 2018 LA Lakers first round selection, but only if it falls between picks 2-5. If it doesn’t, the 2019 unprotected Kings pick is sent to Boston.
If all goes to plan, the Sixers will trot out Fultz and Stauskas/Covington as their starting guards, while Kings fans will rue what happened in the past.
At least the silver lining comes in picks five and ten this year – but it could have just as easily been Sacramento selecting Fultz on draft night.