One of the main storylines to emerge from the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery was the fact the Sacramento Kings leapfrogged into the highly coveted realm of the top-four to receive the 4th overall pick in next month’s draft.
That’s because it was a rare instance of good fortune for a franchise embarking on a mission to stick a fork in their sixteen-year playoff drought as they landed three spots ahead of their projected number-seven position.
Despite the long dry spell of losing that’s been a gaping wound since 2006, this is only the third time Sacramento landed a pick higher than their pre-lottery position in that dreaded span. In fact, in five of those sixteen years, Sacramento drew a lower pick than their initial positioning.
Even when the Kings landed a pick ahead of their projected spot, luck was hard to come by.
The first time occurred in 2017 when the 8th position yielded the number-three overall pick. However, with the flavor of fortune distinct to Sacramento, it wasn’t even the Kings that got to use that pick, but rather the Boston Celtics, who took Jayson Tatum with it. In 2015, the Kings sent a salary-dumping package to the 76ers that included a first-round pick swap that ended up granting the Sixers the third pick and Sac the 5th pick (which was used to draft De’Aaron Fox). With Boston owning the right to swap picks with the Nets after Brooklyn finished with the worst record in the league that year, the Celtics drew the number-one overall pick before trading back two spots with Philly and landing what ended up being the best player in that draft with what was originally Sacramento’s pick.
The second time further underlined the apparent shortage of luck within this organization, and to an even more emphatic degree. In 2018, much like this year, Sacramento entered the lottery projected to have the 7th pick. With what seemed like unbelievable fortune, they landed the second overall selection in the lottery instead. Looking back, though, that glimmer of hope quickly subsided when Sacramento got cute and ignored the best player available in Luka Doncic, choosing to go with the “better fit” in Marvin Bagley III.
As is apparent, it’s more than just luck that has escaped the grasp of the franchise. Luck, as was illustrated in the 2018 draft, can only get a team so far.
Therefore, this year, it is beyond important for the Kings to nail this pick without casually riding the massive break granted to them.
It just so happens that the organization is in a prime position to do that.
The most commendable contributions Monte McNair has made in his time as general manager has been, without question, his draft choices. First, he snagged Tyrese Haliburton with the 12th pick in 2020, then he drafted Davion Mitchell 9th overall last year, and both have proven excellent selections. Haliburton instantly found a place in this league, and even if his future is no longer in Sacramento, his value was used to land a two-time all-star. And of course, Davion Mitchell was one of the most underrated rookies this last season after making great strides on top of the fact he’ll play a key role for this club next year.
It’s his “take the best player available” approach that has generated such satisfying results, the exact opposite philosophy used in the blunder that sent Bagley to the Kings, and that same approach will presumably be featured in this year’s draft. Just this time with a top four pick.
With this newfound luck coinciding with the existence of McNair’s drafting track record, the Kings could really have a breakthrough moment come draft night on June 23.
Of course, drafts are tricky, flops and disappointments seem as common as losing lottery tickets, and anything can happen, but the current front office has more than delivered in the 9th-12th pick range. So, with the opportunity to let McNair pick 4th overall, the Kings could really conjure up something special.