Why The Kings Are Terrible: A Decade of Draft Miscues


While perusing my usual sports news sources last week, I came across a headline that caught my eye: “Jimmer Fredette drops 51 points in China." There was a name I hadn’t heard in a while. A name that Sacramento Kings fans loathe. The name of the poster child for the team’s draft struggles during the last ten years. 

In fact, I hadn't forgotten Fredette's name, rather I had tried to block it out. I tried to remove the memory of Draft Night 2011 from my brain and forget that the Kings selected Bismack Biyombo with the seventh overall pick and traded him and Beno Udrih in a three-team deal, acquiring the 10th overall selection (Fredette) and John Salmons. I tried to block out the fact that Klay Thompson was selected 11th overall, Kawhi Leonard 15th and Jimmy Butler 30th. 

It is no secret that the front office of the Sacramento Kings has made some next-to-abysmal moves in the draft over the last decade. In the ten years prior, from 1995 to 2004, their draft results were middling, producing players like Kevin Martin, Gerald Wallace, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Williams and Peja Stojakovic. From 2005 to present day? It’s been a mess pretty much the whole time. 

2005 Draft

23rd pick: Francisco Garcia
Career w/ Sacramento: eight seasons, 462 games, 128 games started
8 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists 
Player the Kings passed on: David Lee (30th selection)

Francisco Garcia was the leading scorer for Louisville, which made it to the Final Four in his junior season, and was drafted 23rd overall by the Kings in 2005. His 462 career games as a King are more than Vlade Divac, DeMarcus Cousins and just a handful less than Mike Bibby. Garcia was never anything more than a solid role player and an energy guy with the Kings. His best season in Sacramento was 2008-09, in which he averaged 12.7 points per and shot 40 percent from distance. The Kings traded him to Houston in 2013. Today, Garcia is a free agent, as he was waived by Vaqueros de Bayamón of the Puerto Rican league last May.

2006 Draft

19th pick: Quincy Douby
Career w/ Sacramento: three seasons, 136 games, 10.8 minutes per game
4.1 points, 0.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists
Players the Kings passed on: Rajon Rondo (21st selection), Kyle Lowry (24th selection) and Paul Millsap (47th selection)

Quincy Douby became the first Rutgers player to be drafted by the Kings since 1983. He was a scoring point guard, something the Kings didn’t need with scorers like Martin and Ron Artest. Douby was immediately at the bottom of the depth chart. The best of his three seasons in Sacramento saw him average 4.8 points in 12 minutes, while being buried on the bench behind Bibby, Udrih and Anthony Johnson. Douby lasted two-and-a-half seasons before the Kings waived him in 2009. The only time he was ever back on an NBA court was on a 10-day contract with the Toronto Raptors. Douby is currently playing international ball between China and Turkey. 

2007 Draft

10th pick: Spencer Hawes
Career w/ Sacramento: three seasons, 220 games, 118 games started
10 points, 7 rebounds, 2.3 assists 
Player the Kings passed on: Thaddeus Young (12th selection)

Spencer Hawes was drafted 10th overall after just one season at the University of Washington. He was initially playing the backup role to starting center Brad Miller, until Miller was traded in 2009. He only lasted a year as a Kings starter, averaging 10 points and six rebounds per game, until he was traded to the 76ers. He has since played for the Cavaliers, Clippers and Hornets. He is wildly unpopular in Sacramento, receiving boos from the crowd whenever he visits. Hawes was vocal about his desire for the Kings to move their franchise to Seattle in 2013, a sore spot for the city and the fans. 

2008 Draft

12th pick: Jason Thompson
Career w/ Sacramento: seven seasons, 541 games, 405 games started
9.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists
Players the Kings passed on: Roy Ribbert (17th selection), Serge Ibaka (24th selection), George Hill (26th selection), DeAndre Jordan (35th selection) and Goran Dragic (45th selection)

In a draft that ended up being abundant with talented big men, the Kings selected Jason Thompson 12th overall. He would go on to play 541 games for the Kings, the most of any player in the Sacramento era, 23 more than Stojakovic. Thompson was very durable, playing in 75+ games in six of his seven seasons in Sacramento, and was one of most consistent players on the roster. Unfortunately, he was consistently mediocre, only averaging more than eight rebounds once and, in his best year, averaging 12.5 points. Thompson was traded to the 76ers during the 2015 off-season and again to the Warriors 21 days later. After playing one season in Oakland and another in Toronto, Thompson is now overseas, playing for the Shangdong Golden Stars of the Chinese Basketball Association. 

2009 Draft

Fourth pick: Tyreke Evans
Career w/ Sacramento: four seasons, 257 games, 247 games started
17.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists
Players the Kings passed on: Stephen Curry (seventh selection), DeMar DeRozan (ninth selection), Jrue Holiday (17th selection) and Jeff Teague (19th selection)

The 2009 Draft began a two-year stretch, in which the Kings front office looked as though they remembered how to draft talent. With the fourth pick, they chose Tyreke Evans, a freshman point guard from Memphis and the eventual Rookie of the Year. Evans had one of the best rookie seasons in NBA history, averaging over 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game. The only other rookies to accomplish that feat are LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson. Evans’ numbers steadily declined across the board over his final three seasons in a Kings uniform, although he was consistently one of the top scorers on the team.

This, however, is where things could have gone a little bit differently. During the 2008-09 season, the Kings finished with the worst record in the league at 17-65, giving them the best odds at acquiring the number one overall pick in the draft. There was an near consensus that Oklahoma power forward Blake Griffin would be the first player off the board, and the Kings needed a power forward. Badly. There was optimism in Sacramento, as this draft was predicted to be deep with talent and the worst pick they could possibly get was the fourth. The lottery took place, and the Los Angeles Clippers inherited the number one pick, while the Kings received the fourth. 

Before we get into the what-if’s in the next section, let me just point out the fact that the Kings selected the correct player, despite their bad luck. Evans was a better prospect than anyone left on the board. At the time, it was a toss up between him and James Harden. If the Kings had the third pick, they probably would have taken Harden, but Evans at the fourth was the obvious choice at the time. Ricky Rubio was a super-talented question mark, and Jonny Flynn was a higher rated prospect than Stephen Curry. No one saw the Curry explosion coming, probably not even Curry himself. 

Evans was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013, where he has spent the last four seasons as the team's starting shooting guard.  

2010 Draft

Fifth pick: DeMarcus Cousins
Career w/ Sacramento: seven seasons, 426 games
20.3 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals

We know how this one turned out. The Kings were fortunate to have Cousins fall to them at the fifth spot, after Evan Turner, Derrick Favors and Wesley Johnson were gone in succession, following the Wizards selection of John Wall with the first overall pick. Cousins became the cornerstone of the franchise and the first King to make an All-Star team since Miller and Stojakovic. 

But what if the Kings had gotten that number one selection the year before and drafted Griffin? Remember, Griffin had surgery during the pre-season of his rookie campaign and was out for the year. Had he been a King, it's possible that a Griffin-less and Evans-less Sacramento squad probably would end up with the worst record again, resulting in a better pick in the 2010 draft. The Kings would probably select Turner or Johnson, players who would have been even more underwhelming had they become Kings. Cousins has been the only glimmer of home for Sacramento basketball for the better part of a decade. I'm fine with how it turned out.

The Kings also selected 7-foot Hassan Whiteside in the second round of the 2010 Draft. He played 19 total games for the Kings in his two seasons, averaging four minutes per game. He now plays for the Miami Heat, where he has averaged 13.5 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.2 blocks.  

2011 Draft

10th pick: Jimmer Fredette
Career w/ Sacramento: three seasons, 171 games
Seven points, 1.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists
Players the Kings passed on: Klay Thompson (11th selection), Kawhi Leonard (15th selection) and Jimmy Butler (30th selection)

This is probably the one that stings the most. It’s not because Fredette was a failure, but because of the successes of the players drafted after him. Remember, the Kings had hit on their last two first round picks with Evans and Cousins. The 2011 Draft was their chance to add the potential third piece, and it featured solid talent where the Kings needed it most  the wings. Instead, they drafted Fredette, a 6-foot-2-inch point guard from Brigham Young University. Fredette was a lights-out shooter, setting school and conference records and averaging nearly 30 points per game during his senior season. He was the National College Player of the Year. Unfortunately, Fredette couldn’t play a lick of defense. The Kings' defense ranked 23rd in points allowed during the previous season, yet they still drafted the kid they knew was an extreme defensive liability. Jimmer played 171 games in a Kings uniform, and was in the starting lineup seven times. He averaged seven points in 15 minutes and one 3-pointer per game. He was cut in the middle of the 2013-14 season and now plays for the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association. 

Now, about those other players. The team that picked immediately after the Kings was the Golden State Warriors, who selected Thompson. Four picks later, the Spurs drafted future two-time Defensive Player of the Year and current MVP candidate Leonard. With the 30th pick, the Bulls selected Butler, who would go on to make three All-Defensive Teams.

2012 Draft

Fifth pick: Thomas Robinson
Career w/ Sacramento: one season, 51 games
4.8 points, 5.1 rebounds
Players the Kings passed on: Damian Lillard (sixth selection), Andre Drummond (ninth selection) and Draymond Green (35th selection)

I’ll admit it  I loved the Thomas Robinson pick when it happened. Robinson seemed like the best player left on the board. He was a junior power forward from Kansas, averaged 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds for a team that lost in the NCAA Championship to Kentucky and was the Big 12 Player of the Year. Robinson seemed like a solid sidekick that could run alongside Cousins. Looking back, however, I definitely didn’t want them taking this kid who I’d never heard from this school I rarely hear from. Damian Lillard from Weber State was selected immediately after Robinson. Robinson played in 51 games for the Kings before he was traded. He is currently in his fifth season and is playing for the Lakers, his sixth team after leaving Sacramento.

2013 Draft

Seventh pick: Ben McLemore
Career w/ Sacramento: four seasons, 241 games, 190 games started
9.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists
Players the Kings passed on: C.J. McCollum (10th selection) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th selection)

This was a pretty bad draft class, and I think the Kings made the correct pick based on the scouting at the time and the position needs. They chose Ben McLemore, another Kansas product. McLemore only played one year at the collegiate level, though he did average 16 points and five rebounds per contest. His shooting is extremely streaky, which is unfortunately his main asset. His numbers continue to be down across the board, including his minutes (19.2). It will be interesting to see what Dave Joerger and the front office decide to do with McLemore, as his name is consistently a part of trade rumors. 

2014 Draft

Eighth pick: Nik Stauskas
Career w/ Sacramento: one season, 73 games, one game started
4.4 points, 1.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists
Players the Kings passed on: Elfrid Payton (10th selection) and Zach Lavine (13th selection)

In the 2014 Draft, the Kings chose yet another shooter, 6-foot-6-inch guard Nik Stauskas, a sophomore from the University of Michigan. He was brought into battle McLemore for the starting shooting guard position, but it ended up being “whoever sucks less can start." Stauskas lasted one year in Sacramento, averaging 4.4 points in 15 minutes per game. His biggest claim to fame was a closed captioning mistake made on a Kings game broadcast, when the caption mistakenly read “Sauce Castillo” instead of Stauskas’ name. The mistake gained serious traction and became his nickname. He even received endorsements from hot sauce companies. After the season, he was traded to the 76ers in a salary dump. Stauskas averages 8.4 points in 25 minutes per game in Philadelphia. 

It was thought that under the new regime, with Divac and Joerger at the helm, the Kings would turn around their draft misfortunes. It has yet to play itself out fully, but there are early indications that the failures may be continuing. The Kings drafted 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein in the 2015 Draft, an ultra-athletic center that could provide defense off the bench or next to Cousins. After a semi-promising rookie season, Cauley-Stein seems to have taken a step back, and rumors have circulated lately that he may be on the trade block. Then, the Kings puzzled everyone when they traded down in the 2016 Draft and ended up selecting yet another 7-footer, this time a relatively unknown European prospect named Giorgios Papagiannis. With the pick that they received in exchange for moving down earlier in the draft, the Kings picked Skal Labissière from Kentucky. He’s just about 7 feet tall. Both players, along with their third first-round pick, Malachai Richardson, are playing for the Kings developmental team in Reno. 

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