What To Do With #23?

Don’t worry, everybody; this isn’t another Kevin Martin trade idea article.

The #23 I’m thinking of seems to be the forgotten Kings draft pick due to all of the interest surrounding the fourth pick in the draft. The Kings have three of the first 31 picks in this year’s draft and can do a lot in adding talent to their roster by using these picks wisely. They’ve been successful in the recent past by selecting Francisco Garcia with the 23rd pick in 2005. Other notable 23rd picks of the past 10 years are Wilson Chandler, Josh Boone, Travis Outlaw, DeShawn Stevenson, Devean George, and Tayshaun Prince.

That has to be an extremely encouraging for the Kings, knowing that the odds are in your favor in not only acquiring talent but also in acquiring a player who can be a significant contributor. The 23rd pick over the past 10 years has played in dozens of big playoff games, contributed early as a key bench player, and won numerous championships as a key contributor/starter. In fact, the only guys at this draft slot over the last 10 years who haven’t been significant are Sergei Monia and Brandon Armstrong with judgment being reserved for last year’s pick, Kostas Koufos.

The key for the Kings is deciding in which direction this franchise is going. There have been rumors of the Kings selling this draft pick in a Robert Sarver type of cost-cutting move and I think that would be a huge mistake on many levels. For one, it would really hurt the morale and trust of the fans. Selling the 23rd pick in a supposedly weak draft class probably isn’t the worst thing in the world, especially when you’re getting $3 million in return. But to show your fanbase that you’re committed to fixing a situation that hit rock bottom last year (in terms of league-wide standings), it can do wonders for the city’s morale to keep a pick like this year’s #23 and try to improve the team by adding some young depth.

If they keep the pick (which I’d almost guarantee they will), they have to decide which area of the team needs the most depth. They have intriguing options at small forward on their roster. They’re likely to settle their point guard issue with the fourth pick on Thursday night but are they comfortable trusting Beno Udrih with the full-time backup point guard position? Do they feel the need to add a solid outside shooter to complement Kevin Martin off the bench? Do they want to add some frontcourt depth?

Here are some of the rumored selections from around the internets. I scoured the majority of the mock drafts from ESPN.com, Sports Illustrated, Draft Express, and Real GM. I took down every mention and backup pick for the 23rd selection to come to a general consensus. And I narrowed it down to seven players who are the most likely selections on Thursday. Here they are in reverse order of whom I think should be taken by the Kings along with John Hollinger’s Draft Rater score:

7. B.J. Mullens, Ohio State (10.81, 28th)
Mullens is an intriguing prospect at center because there are next to no good center options in this draft and his measurements at the pre-draft camp solidified him as one of the bigger players to try to develop. He measured up as 7’1” and 258 lbs to go with a 7’1” wingspan. He has all of the Kwame Brown strengths and weaknesses wrapped in an unassuming image. He’s a great athlete with a lot of good power inside and an explosive jumper. But he doesn’t show a great basketball IQ, isn’t aggressive at all (we all remember what Michael Jordan thought of Kwame’s physical prowess), and daydreams more than a flashback episode of Saved By The Bell.

What this pick would do for the Kings is provide them with another project inside to complement Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson. This trio would not be as good as the LaMarcus Aldridge/Greg Oden/Joel Pryzbilla combination but it could be managed in the same way. Personally, I think Geoff Petrie selecting Mullens would be a mistake that doesn’t address the Kings’ bigger needs off the bench. Mullens is a 20-year old big man project that won’t be a consistent contributor for four years if ever. If he ends up being selected by Sacramento, Kings fans should be hoping that a trade follows shortly thereafter.

6. Austin Daye, Gonzaga (14.24, 4th)
Two years ago, Austin Daye was a good freshman year away from being a Top 5 pick in the draft and starting his NBA dream early. Instead, he had a very average freshman year for the Zags and his stock plummeted. He tried to improve upon that with a better sophomore year but his four factors categories were very lackluster and he once again was questioned coming into the summer. His True Shooting percentage was a mediocre (in the sense that he’s expected to do much better at the college level) 56% despite shooting 42% from three-point range as a sophomore. His offensive rebounding rate was really poor, along with his free throw rate and his turnover rate was a bit of a problem as well. He’s never been particularly bad at anything but at the same time, he hasn’t wowed us like everyone expected him to.

During the pre-draft workouts, his toughness and effectiveness inside have been questioned. He was famously punked by Omri Casspi with an elbow. He clocked in at a rail-thin 6’10” and 191 lbs that left everyone praying he’d be as tough as another rail-thin small forward, Tayshaun Prince. In my opinion, they already have a shorter, tougher version of this guy with Francisco Garcia. Cisco will give you all of the attitude, toughness, and skill on both sides of the ball that you could ever want from Daye. Drafting him would be duplicating something you already have and potentially stunt the growth of Donte Greene as you try to split time between DG, Daye and Andres Nocioni.

5. Derrick Brown, Xavier (9.55, 45th)
Derrick Brown is a guy in this draft that you’ll never want to be a full-time starter for your team over his career. At 6’9” and 225 lbs, he’s extremely undersized for a power forward option in this league. But he’s very athletic, very quick, and a smart perimeter defender who could allow the Kings to go small with quicker teams and have the confidence that he can stick with three-point shooting forwards. On the offensive side of the ball, he’s good finishing at the rim and can step back to hit long-range jumpers. However, he isn’t an aggressive player at all and almost waits for the game to come to him to his detriment. He’s a poor dribbler and will struggle to make solid moves to the basket against NBA forwards.

For the Kings, he would not only give them a nice backup forward but also allow them to save their money by passing on a move like re-signing Ike Diogu in free agency. He’s adequately active on the offensive boards and would complement someone like Spencer Hawes and/or Jason Thompson nicely when paired with either guy on the court. The Kings wouldn’t win any expert over with this non-sexy pick but the same thing happened with Jason Thompson last season and that seemed to workout for everybody. Brown would be a solid pick and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s near the top of Geoff Petrie’s board for the 23rd pick.

Two Warnings: 1) Audio NSFW and 2) You may feel the urge that I’m trying to recruit you to attend Xavier. I’m not.

4. Sam Young, Pittsburgh (9.34, 52nd)
Sam Young is a really intriguing prospect at the small forward position that should be able to score with ease in the NBA. He has a fantastic mid-range game and showed his worth as a top scorer over his final two years at Pittsburgh. He’s a good rebounder and a strong athlete. But he’s already 24 years old and in danger of being this year’s Al Thornton. Now, Al Thornton is not a bad player by any means. Both of these guys are good scorers and were prolific scorers in college. But at the same time, they were practically the equivalent of grown men playing against young college kids and should be able to score with relative ease.

This quote from John Hollinger is pretty alarming to me when he was explaining why he rated so poorly in his Draft Rater system:

Pitt’s Sam Young also graded out extremely poorly. He had the worst pure point rating of any wing player, and the other thing that hurt him is that he’s one of the oldest prospects in the pool. How old? He’s 19 days older than six-year vet Darko Milicic and a full half-decade older than Holiday.

With Young on the Kings, he would provide them with some solid scoring off the bench and allow the second unit to never skip a beat on offense. But there are two very important questions: 1) Can he ever be a competent defender? He is not very apt to shutting or even slowing down the guy with the ball in front of him. And 2) is he ever going to be better than he is now? It’s very possible that Sam Young is actually at his apex and will never improve. That could mean that the best that you ever get from him at an NBA level is roughly 12 points per game. Petrie will have to decide with Young whether it’s worth taking what you know you’ll get as opposed to someone with better potential.

3. Omri Casspi, Israel (N/A)
Omri Casspi is the most intriguing international prospect outside of Ricky Rubio because he could easily end up being a Top 10 guy from this draft. He has good size (6’9”, 211) and is a Matt Harpring clone in the sense that he is great at cutting towards the basket, moves well without the ball and can score a little in the post. He’s shown some toughness in his workouts so far that has kicked the typical Euroleague player stigma. He has a terrible jump shot that resembles a mix between a 12-year old girl and Shawn Marion. He’s suspect on the perimeter, both defensively and offensively. But all of his negatives could easily be fixed with some seasoning in Europe.

If the Kings decide to select him, he’s clearly a pick that you stow in Europe, Peja Stojakovic-style. He needs to figure out how to diminish his weaknesses while maximizing his strengths. He could do that here, developing in the D-League and in practice with pros here in Sacramento. But when you look at the development of guys like Rudy Fernandez and Peja, Casspi is probably the type of guy that needs to play more meaningful minutes in order to hone his craft. If he goes to the Kings at 23, it will be more of a rebuilding pick for a couple of years from now than immediate help but that might give Sacramento the best player available.

I chose this video simply because of the song choice.

2. Ty Lawson, North Carolina (16.34, 1st)
This is maybe the most interesting option for the Kings due to the simple fact that they’re probably already drafting a point guard with the fourth pick. So why draft Ty Lawson? Because having depth at the point guard is not a bad thing in this league and having two young players who can fly up and down the court for Paul Westphal could create big problems for the opposing team. Beno Udrih doesn’t appear to be a good enough option at the backup in a fast system because he’s not very good at creating on the secondary transition sequence. Lawson on the other hand is always a threat and having him coming off the bench means that you can stay with the pedal to the floor on offense and retain the confidence you have with your starter.

Lawson does everything well, despite his small stature (6’0”, 198 lbs). He proved this year that he can shoot the three with great efficiency (47%) and had a fantastic assist to turnover ratio of 3.5:1. He takes care of the ball, sets up teammates, and can score in the open court as well as anyone in this draft. He’s projected to be the top college contributor in John Hollinger’s Draft Rater because of his outstanding turnover rate (under 10, best in the draft) and his great True Shooting percentage (65%). Kings grabbing him might look redundant and turn Beno Udrih into another Kenny Thomas situation.

1. Nick Calathes, Florida (13.66, 6th)
Don’t let the fact that he looks like an offspring of Pete Chilcutt fool you; this guy is really good. This is a best of all worlds for the Kings if Calathes can fall to them at 23. He already has a pro contract to play in Greece so you can choose to either buy him out for relatively cheap or let him play in Europe to get some of that all important seasoning (like Saffron). Drafting Calathes would give the Kings the option to save a little money in this year and possibly the next while keeping one of the top talents that possesses such great versatility. Calathes has done a nice job in workouts defending bigger and quicker players while also showing everything he can do on offense. He’s a great shooter, a solid distributor, and uses his height perfectly against smaller point guards.

At 6’5”, he can play multiple positions and give the Kings a ton of options with either going big or going small. He’s one of the smarter players in the draft and does a great job at finding angles to get his shot off from all spots on the floor. He has great range that extends easily to the NBA three-point line. He’s a better athlete than he appears. He can get to the basket and is strong enough to finish after contact. Grabbing Calathes appears to be the savvy type of Geoff Petrie move that Kings fans seem to expect. They can’t risk him falling to the 31st pick and if they select him at 23 and add him to a backcourt of whomever is selected at number four and Kevin Martin, then you have a very good core at the guard rotation to build upon to get you back to the playoffs. For me, Calathes is the steal of the draft at 23.

Who do you see as the potential best fit at #23?

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