The NBA Draft is just three days away, yet you won’t sense any anxiety on the part of Sacramento Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro. He feels more at ease today compared to where he was a year ago.
At around this time last June, D’Alessandro was still new to Sacramento. He had just turned 45 when he was officially announced as the Kings’ new front-office chief. Ten days later, he made his first major decision when he chose Ben McLemore out of Kansas with the organization’s No. 7 pick.
“I can’t even believe it’s been a year ago,” D’Alessandro said following Monday’s pre-draft workout in Sacramento. “It’s amazing, but a lot better (this year)…”
Despite very little prep time, D’Alessandro was confident heading into his first draft as Kings general manager. That confidence, however, has doubled this second time around. However the draft plays out, D’Alessandro has faith in all the work he and his staff have put into evaluating this year’s prospects.
“While we were prepared last year, we were preparing for a later pick,” D’Alessandro said of where he and Kings assistant general manager Mike Bratz were in regards to preparing for last summer’s draft. “And then we jumped into the seven(th) pick, so it was a little bit different for us.
“This year, we knew what we had,” he added. “We were preparing for this pick. And so like I said, if I seem pretty calm right now, it’s a lot calmer than last year because I think we’ve done the work.”
D’Alessandro points to his scouting of Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane as an example. The 6-5 guard is unlikely to be selected in this year’s draft, but the 46-year-old GM noted that he watched Kane play live in person at least three or four times this past season. He and his whole staff have spent this year scouring the country and world for basketball’s best talent, preparing themselves for what’s to come this Thursday and beyond.
On the surface, it seems like the Kings have had a slow pre-draft process. Only four players who are projected be selected in the top 14 of this year’s draft came through and visited Sacramento. In total, the Kings have held just six workouts with a very slim chance of more to come just two days ahead of Thursday’s draft. However, D’Alessandro says there has been plenty of activity happening behind close doors before NBA Commissioner Adam Silver officially puts the Kings on the clock.
“I think of all drafts I’ve been involved with, it’s been the most activity telephone-wise and I think that’s not just us,” D’Alessandro said. “I think it’s a very interesting draft… There’s a few teams that have multiple picks. There’s a few teams that have none and that always creates a lot of noise, so it also makes it a lot of fun and fun for us.”
The Kings have not wavered on the idea of making a splash on draft day. Though they only own the No. 8 pick, the Kings have looked closely at mid-to-late-first-round as well as second-round talent. It’s possible that they’ll make a deal to move down in the draft and acquire multiple picks to add depth to the roster. Sporting News reported yesterday that the Kings and Bulls are engaged in talks for the No. 8 pick. Chicago owns two first-round picks (16 and 19), as well as the 49th overall pick in this year’s draft.
With Rudy Gay opting in for another year, the idea of adding another veteran to their roster might be a higher priority for the Kings. Bringing in a player with experience would help head coach Michael Malone’s continued efforts to change the Kings’ culture. Leading up to the draft, the Kings have emerged as a dark horse in the sweepstakes to acquire the services of Kevin Love.
“I think that people know that we’re (a) team that’s ready to make moves and we’re really strongly evaluating things with that pick,” D’Alessandro said.
If they keep the pick, the Kings are more than comfortable to make a selection. He wouldn’t name names, but D’Alessandro said yesterday that there are three players whom he believes will be available when they’re on the clock that he’d “feel really good about.”
The Kings have gotten a chance to see prospects like Noah Vonleh, Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon, Nik Stauskas and Doug McDermott up close in person. All five players could still be on the board when the Kings are up to make their selection. On Sunday, Yahoo! Sports reported that if available, Gordon would be unlikely to slide past the Kings at eight.
“I’m at a point though where I could look at this draft and say, ‘Ok, realistically, who are the guys that are gonna be there?’” D’Alessandro said. “None of us really know because unfortunately there was a little bit of a shakeup this week. But I have a fairly good idea of where I think it’s going to be and I’m honing it down to players that I like.”
Whether the Kings keep or trade their pick is anyone’s best guess at this point. However, don’t be surprised if a deal comes to fruition ahead of Thursday’s draft. D’Alessandro isn’t one to wait until the last minute to make a move. Like the trade for Gay, which happened two-and-a-half months before the league’s annual trade deadline, the Kings GM won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on a trade if it feels like the right thing to do.
“It’s like if a deal’s right, you do it and you don’t have to wait,” D’Alessandro said. “If you feel good about it, get it done. Because it can go away too, so you don’t always like to wait. I do think you’ll see a majority of things this year done like every year on draft day, but I wouldn’t make any promises for us.”
D’Alessandro on how Joel Embiid’s injury might impact the draft order
The major news of last week was the shocking revelation that Joel Embiid, one of the top prospects in this year’s draft, suffered a stress fracture in his right foot. Embiid underwent surgery on Friday and is expected to be out for the next four to six months.
Before the injury, Embiid was strengthening his case to go first overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In his latest mock draft at ESPN.com, Chad Ford currently has the 20-year-old center falling no further than sixth to the Boston Celtics.
D’Alessandro doesn’t know exactly how the draft will unfold following Embiid’s injury. He’s had conversations with other teams about what they think could happen. But of course, other executives are remaining mum on their plans.
“I think a lot of people are speculating,” D’Alessandro said. “In any event, you really feel good about the overall talent in this draft and that includes him and a number of other guys. I don’t know if it shakes it up as much as it jumbles it maybe a little.”