Sacramento Making the playoffs for the second year in a row, and selecting at #16 is the Sacramento Kings.  Participating in the Usenet Draft for the first time is Art Hickey.  Sacramento selects:

Desmond Mason, SF, 6'6", Oklahoma State

I. Draft History

The important draft history begins with the 1991 drafting of Billy Owens. Owens was traded to Golden State for Mitch Richmond. The Richmond led Kings reached the playoffs in 1995. Richmond was traded after the '97-'98 season to Washington for Chris Webber, who immediately became the franchise cornerstone. This piece of roster brilliancy, pulled off by GM Geoff Petrie, set the stage for two successive runs into the playoffs, each ending in the first round. Petrie was signed to a multi-year contract after the '98-'99 season as a reward for his excellence in rebuilding the perennial doormats into, arguably, the NBA's most exciting team. Now, Petrie is under the gun, and the clock is ticking. It will likely be necessary to advance beyond the first round in next years playoffs in order to keep the nucleus of Webber, Williams, and Stojakovic together.

A look at the Petrie drafts: 1995 ... Grade B- ... with the 13th pick, chose Corliss Williamson. Among current starters drafted in the lottery from 1991 through 1995, the only other players still starting for their original teams are Grant Hill, Kevin Garnett, Glenn Robinson, and Lindsey Hunter. Petrie passed up Michael Finley. 1996 ... Grade A ... Petrie shocked many NBA observers when he selected Predrag Stojakovic with the 14th pick, the King's first non lottery pick in more than a decade. 'Peja' played out his contract in Greece before signing with the Kings before the '98-'99 season. Peja appears to have been worth the wait.

1997 ... Grade C- ... Olivier St. Jean, now Tariq Abdul- Wahad, was drafted with the 11th pick as successor-in-training to Mitch Richmond. Wahad proved himself a capable defender but lacked a good perimeter game and was traded to Orlando after the '97-'98 season for veteran shooting guard Nick Anderson. Players passed over in 1997 include (in draft order) Austin Croshere, Derek Anderson, and Maurice Taylor.

1998 ... Grade B+ ... After the retirement of Michael Jordan, the league was left needing a new posterboy. ESPN quickly changed that by devoting much of their '98-'99 highlight reel to the 7th pick in the draft. Jason Williams provided the league with many electric moments, if not solid point guard play for the Kings. Players passed up by Petrie were (in order) Larry Hughes, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul Pierce. With no first round pick in the '99 draft, the only other relevant footnote in the King's draft history is the 2nd round selection of Lawrence Funderburke in 1994. Lawrence was signed before the'97-'98 season after refining his game for three years in Europe.

Overall, Petrie grades out a solid B as a draft guru.

II. Analysis of Current Team 

A. Center

Vlade Divac is the starter and is signed to a multi-year contract. Vlade was obtained in free agency before the '98-'99 season. Vlade is one of the best European type centers. He passes well, shoots well from the perimeter, nifty if not powerful post moves, block some shots. Weak points include difficulty defending big strong centers and overselling fouls to the referees. In addition, Vlade showed last season that his motivation may be fading. He appeared to be out of shape for much of the season. Scot Pollard plays backup to Divac. Somewhat of a 'tweener', Scot gets some playing time at the power forward position too. Pollard follows his shots and rebounds well. He is a very good defender and is highly coveted by other teams around the league. Scot is a free agent and will probably end up in another uniform next season. Veteran free agent Bill Wennington is unlikely to be signed after playing a bare minimum role last season.

B. Power Forward

Chris Webber is the heir apparent to Karl Malone as best power forward in the game. C-Web scores prolifically, rebounds like a warrior, passes gracefully, and plays hard-nosed defense. Chris is an outstanding team player, leading by example. Webber wants the ball and comes through. He wants to win. If Chris has a weakness it might be his willingness to settle for the perimeter shot too often. C-Web is a free agent in 2001, the teams top priority. Pollard is the primary backup, with Lawrence Funderburke third on the depth chart. Funderburke's game is soft. He likes to step back and shoot a medium range fallaway. Occasionally he slashes and he is a strong finisher, just not often enough. Defensively he is a liability, too slow to stop wing players, not physical enough to contain post players. Lawrence is under contract through 2002.

C. Small Forward

Corliss Williamson has started in this role since 1996. At times he is unstoppable, but more often is a near no- show in the box score. Corliss has good low post moves, but has trouble against taller players. The jump shot is fairly consistent. The defense is spotty. Corliss usually sees action only in the 1st and 3rd quarters and never at crunch time. Either his game is deficient or he doesn't fit the King's style. 'Big Nasty' has been very loyal to the Kings in contract matters, playing for far less than market value during the '98-'99 season. Nevertheless, he is the player fans now would prefer to trade. Interest around the league appears to have declined. Corliss can declare himself a free agent this summer. His future with the team appears to be as the backup to Predrag 'Peja' Stojakovic. Peja is one of the leagues premier perimeter shooters. He appears on the verge of stardom. He can make his own shot off the dribble and is an solid finisher. Peja has made big strides in his defensive play. He is part of the King's core for the future and is the number two or three priority for the franchise. Veteran Tyrone Corbin is a free agent. Corbin made modest contributions last season and appears to be at the end of a solid career.

D. Shooting Guard

Nick Anderson was a disappointment. Expectations for Nick were too high. Nick has bad knees and in his prime was at best a streaky shooter. Among shooting guards he has one of the lowest career free throw percentages all-time. Historically, Nick has been a good defender. He is a step or two slower now. Anderson is under contract through 2001. The Kings will be fortunate to get any quality minutes from Nick next season as they were few this past season. Jon Barry is the emotional catalyst for the team. Barry is a scrapper. 'JB' plays good spot defense and shoots well from the perimeter. Jon's health is a concern. He is troubled by back problems. The Kings were lucky when Tony Delk stepped up at the end of last season. Delk brings energy and quickness to the floor. His perimeter game improved with playing time, but 'TD' was most effective around the basket both on offense and defense. Jon and Tony are both generally considered best suited as backups. Neither is a polished point player, although both performed well in limited roles last season. Barry and Delk may test the free agent market this offseason. Losing one would be tolerable, losing both a hardship. Ryan Robertson was the King's 2nd round pick last year. He was on injured reserve all year as no roster spot was available. He is a free agent and will have to compete in training camp for a minimum contract with the Kings or elsewhere.

E. Point Guard

Jason Williams. Flashy but erratic passer. Streaky shooter. Outstanding floor vision. Questionable decision making. A liability on 'D'. Needs to mature, monster upside if he does. No way to unseat him as the starter. With Peja and C-Web (hopefully) the core of the future. Jason is under contract through 2001 with the team holding an option for the '01-'02 season. Derrick Martin started the season well and finished poorly. He was a malcontent late in the season owing to reduced playing time. His perimeter shooting is spotty. Playmaking is average. Defensive liability. In short, nothing special (although he killed the Kings when he played for the Clippers). Derrick is not in the King's plans, although becoming a free agent is his option. If he chooses to stay, the Kings may waive him eating his salary.

III. Team Needs

By position, a starting shooting guard with at least mid term career longevity, physical backups at the center and power forward position, and probably backup help at point guard. By skill, tough defense, rebounding, and athleticism.

IV. Selection

Desmond Mason. Probably the most athletic player in the draft. Very capable defender. Adequate rebounder from the wing position. He has been criticized for not being able to make his own shot, but shouldn't need to in this offense. Mason's shooting may be streaky, probably no more so than the host of others available.

V. Others Considered

Morris Peterson. Proved he could carry the load when Mateen Cleaves was out last year. Solid all around skills and big game experience.

Quentin Richardson. Q may be a rebounding machine, but he is risky. His recent sideshow at the Chicago pre-draft camp was an error in judgement and probably hurt him. He is skilled but comes along with a too big ego. A stellar third year in college would have allowed him to grow up a little and could have assured him of a high lottery pick next year.

Chris Carrawell. Well schooled in fundamentals and winning at Duke. Solid if unspectacular. Could be the sleeper pick of the draft.

DeShawn Stevenson. Ultraathletic. Potential abounds. Toobig a gamble here. He would require more time to develop than some others and the King's future seems more immediate.

Etan Thomas. He is not a good choice for the King's. In a worst case scenario where Webber does not re-sign, the Kings would need more offense than Thomas can provide.

Donnell Harvey. Smashmouth rebounder. Raw offensive skills. Has more potential to develop than most of the big bodies in this draft.

Iakovos Tsakalidis. No way Petrie goes through a protracted overseas contract dispute again. (See Peja Stojakovic.)

VI. Who the Kings Will Take

Petrie is a 'best player available' talker but has been shown to be willing to role the dice. Nothing will be too big a shock. The last draft (Williams) was for need. This one probably will be too. Depending on availability, the King's will likely select a swing player in this order: Peterson, Mason, Richardson, Carrawell, Stevenson. In the 2nd round the team will probably go for the best available player. If realtively equal in talent, then probably a forward/center before a point guard. (Local support seems to be for Pete Mickeal who worked out for the team.)

VII. Other Moves

The Kings are over the cap and have only exceptions of 2 million and 1 million. They will try to re-sign Pollard first, then Barry, then Delk. Martin should be gone by training camp. Only 7 players are guaranteed to be under contract at training camp. Add the 1st round pick to make 8. One of the King's free agents will take the 2 million exception. That brings the roster to 9 players. Two spots will have to be filled at league minimum, unless a sign and trade for Corliss is worked out where two players come back. The final spot would be for the 1 million exception. The second round pick will probably be signed to a one year rookie minimum contract and placed on injured reserve

The party line from the King's brass is that they are happy with the current roster. Petrie has shown that he is unafraid to trade, so if a deal can be done that benefits the Kings it will be. The most likely trade candidates are Williamson and Funderburke. Corliss would likely be a sign and trade. His salary would probably not be much in excess of his current salary, about 4 million. Funderburke is in the 3 million range. What's in it for the other team? In Corliss' case, instant offense, sometimes plenty. He is also a great team guy. In Funderburke's case, good fundamentals. With consistent use in the rotation, his shot falls regularly. About the only thing that intrigues me is a sign and trade sending Corliss and Funderburke to New Jersey for Kendall Gill (who would also have to be signed) and Elliott Perry. Gill should probably want out of the Net's dismal situation and Perry is under contract. Nothing else I've looked at makes the Kings better. As far as the King's exceptions go, if they can't re-sign their own free agents, players who should be considered might include (in no particular order) Anthony Miller, Popeye Jones, Bo Outlaw, Jahidi White, Felton Spencer, Hubert Davis, and Sherman Douglas. I'm not in favor of any sign and trade deals with teams from the Western Conference.

Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner
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