The Kings – with their image as “basketball hell” – struggled to get top draft prospects to work out for them in 2016 and, to a lesser degree, last year.
This year, Marvin Bagley went to Sacramento and declared, “I love it here.”
That differentiated Bagley from Luka Doncic, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Mohamed Bamba – to the point the Kings are increasingly expected to draft Bagley No. 2 overall.
Jonathan Givony of ESPN on The Lowe Post podcast:
Who even wants to go to Sacramento? Because a lot of the top guys in this draft are openly trying to avoid going there. Jaren Jackson, Mo Bamba, Doncic – no medical for Sacramento. So, if they’re going to take one of these guys, they’re taking him blindly without knowing, what is this person’s medical status going to be down the road?
The one guy who wants to go there is Marvin Bagley. He actually went out there to work out, and they have his medicals.
He’s the kind of guy that he dreamed of being the No. 1 pick his whole life. And so if he’s not going to go No. 1, then he has to go No. 2.
You earn more money, and it’s prestige thing. And so, he’s been in competition his whole life with DeAndre Ayton, his former teammate. So, DeAndre is going to go one. Bagley is going to go two. We were the first ones to put Bagley at two, and Kings fans were up in arms and said, “Oh my god. There’s no way that Vlade passes on Luka. Can’t see it happening.” And, yeah, that’s the way it’s looking right now. But a lot of things can happen.
It’s at least three or four months now that this buzz has been permeating the world, that Vlade Divac does not like Luka Doncic as a prospect.
The buzz has been so loud and so universal that it’s almost strange. So, it’s either true and Vlade has been telling everyone in the world that he does not like this guy for whatever, does not like him as a prospect, taking him at No. 2, anyway. Or it’s the greatest con job in NBA history.
All year, it’s not just Vlade, but also his staff was very openly criticizing Luka, saying he’s not athletic enough. He’s too emotional. He’s not this. He’s not that.
Some of it might be, like we talked about, who wants to go to Sacramento? The fact that Marvin Bagley went to a workout, wore the Kings jersey and did that whole thing, I think that really put him in position to be No. 2, because I don’t know if they’re feeling that same love for Luka.
It’s just not the kind of embarrassment that they want right now. They’re really trying to show people that it’s a new Kings, that they’ve changed. It’s not the same mistakes that they’ve made two, three years ago. It’s a thing of the past. So, that potential embarrassment, I think, of him coming out and saying, “Trade me. I’m not coming to training camp,” that’s enough maybe to steer them into thinking that they shouldn’t take him.
This is hustling backward. The Kings seem to care more about their reputation than the actual things that gave them that reputation in the first place. Those surface-level fixes won’t work.
Want to improve the team’s image? Draft the best prospect available and use him to get good. Attack the substance of the problem.
Sacramento has made many ownership and management missteps that indicate a chaotic culture. But nothing lowers the Kings’ prestige more than their 12-season playoff drought (which is obviously influenced by ownership and management but is far more easily identifiable).
If that best prospect is Bagley, great. But I don’t think it is, and his eagerness to get drafted high to the point he’s embracing Sacramento doesn’t change his abilities as a player.
Fear of Doncic staying in Europe seems to be overthinking. If the Suns draft Deandre Ayton, Doncic would be my choice.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Kings are right to take Bagley.
But it seems increasingly likely they’ll pick him for the wrong reasons, which only lowers the odds of him actually be the optimal choice.