NEW YORK — The Sacramento Kings had better not mess this up.
When the Kings leapfrogged the draft order in Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, the dark cloud hovering about the city’s Golden 1 Center lifted, at least for a moment, as the team secured its best chance at ending a 16-year playoff drought.
The basketball gods agreed and saw to it that the Kings’ 7.5% chance to move up in the draft would pan out: Sacramento lucked out and now owns pick No. 4, behind Orlando, Oklahoma City and Houston.
But assuming Duke’s Paolo Banchero, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Auburn’s Jabari Smith are all off the board at pick No. 4, the Kings’ best move is to trade their first-rounder for a star-level player, of which there should be many available this summer.
That’s because the time for developing young players in Sacramento has passed, and the Kings let us know they’re here to win now when they made the unpopular decision to trade second-year guard Tyrese Haliburton to the Indiana Pacers, along with Buddy Hield, for All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis.
Not to mention that was their biggest stipulation, according to ESPN, in their hiring of Mike Brown as head coach: Bring the city of Sacramento’s 16-year playoff drought to an end.
With Walton out, Brown in, and both Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox leading the charge, the table is set for the Kings to make their most competitive playoff push in more than a decade
But that’s only on the table if they don’t muck this up by contradicting their win-now edict with a move that adds a young, inexperienced, in-need-of-development talent to a team that wants to compete in meaningful basketball games. The Kings are not the Warriors, a team with veteran stars and a ready-made infrastructure built to incorporate a James Wiseman or a Jonathan Kuminga into a championship system.
They are a team that’s a piece away from competing for their first playoff spot in nearly two decades, and they should treat their draft pick as their biggest bargaining chip in order to obtain that player this summer.
Some ideas include trading pick No. 4: