The Sacramento Kings could come away the big winners in the NBA draft later this month.
The Kings have the eighth overall pick and won’t have a chance to land any of the so-called marquee prospects like Ben Simmons of Louisiana State or Brandon Ingram of Duke.
But the Kings could land Kris Dunn, the fabulous point guard from Providence, and fill what is expected to be glaring hole with the impending departure of Rajon Rondo in free agency.
In a mock draft of the top of 14 selections – or lottery picks – an NBA scouting director for an Eastern Conference team and I both had Dunn falling to the Kings.
Interestingly, the scouting director who has nearly two decades of draft experience, and I were on agreement with seven of the first eight picks. Here’s our choices.
1 – PHILADELPHIA 76ers
Scouting Director – Simmons
GW – Simmons
2 – L.A. LAKERS
SD – Ingram
GW – Ingram
3 – BOSTON CELTICS
SD – Dragan Bender, PF, Israel
GW – Bender
4 – PHOENIX SUNS
SD – Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington
GW – Jaylen Brown, SF, California
5 – MINNESOTA TIMERWOLVES
SD – Henry Ellenson, PF, Marquette
GW – Ellenson
6 – NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
SD – Jamal Murray, SG, Kentucky
GW – Murray
7 – DENVER NUGGETS
SD – Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma
GW – Hield
8 – SACRAMENTO KINGS
SD – Dunn
GW – Dunn
9 – TORONTO RAPTORS
SD – Brown
GW – Chriss
10 – MILWAUKEE BUCKS
SD – Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah
GW – Denzel Valentine, SG, Michigan, State
11 – ORLANDO MAGIC
SD – Domantas Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga
GW – Sabonis
12 – UTAH JAZZ
SD – Diamond Stone, C, Maryland
GW – Poeltl
13 – PHOENIX SUNS
SD – Deyonta Davis, PF, Michigan State
GW – Davis
14 – CHICAGO BULLS
SD – Valentine
GW – Furkan Korkmaz, SG, Turkey
There are several so-called “wild-card’’ prospects in this draft and one of them is Caris LeVert. The former University of Michigan combo guard has a world of talent, but also has a well-documented history of foot injuries.
LeVert had surgery on his left foot in March and that was the third surgical procedure on the foot in the last 22 months. Understandably, it raised red-flags throughout the NBA
Whether LeVert’s foot problems are now in the past is anyone’s guess. There isn’t any doubt, though, about his abilities.
Last season, LeVert averaged 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists. If that isn’t enough, he shot 51 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point range.
The sentiment is LeVert will be a late-first to early second-round pick. One NBA executive said LeVert’s draft status will now largely hinge on the medical reports.
“I like him a lot,’’ the GM said. “If he gets the OK from the doctors, he’s a first-rounder without a doubt. He could go as high as late in the lottery, in my mind.
“He needs to get stronger, but he’s quick, he can play 1, 2 and 3, he can create his own shot, he can shoot with range … I think he’s got the whole package.’’
Moving up the charts
Since the end of the college basketball season, three players, according to several scouts and officials, have seen their stock go up.
Unquestionably, the biggest riser has been Washington power forward Marquese Chriss. Just three weeks ago, in a survey of four NBA officials, only one of them regarded him as a lottery pick. Now, Chriss, who is an exceptional athlete and who has a major upside, is being linked with Phoenix’s No. 4 pick.
Thon Maker, a 7-footer from Sudan who is just 19, has clearly solidified himself as a first-rounder. Maker, once considered a late-first to early-second round pick, recently wowed a spate of NBA officials by putting on a shooting clinic in New York.
One other prospect who has helped himself considerably in recent weeks is Cheick Diallo, a 6-9 forward who was a major disappointment at Kansas.
But Diallo has favorably impressed NBA officials during individual workouts that clearly illustrated his physical attributes.
The general consensus among several NBA scouts is Diallo and Maker will be selected in the 15-to-20 range.
picture courtesy of Louisiana State University Athletics