What if Sacramento Trades Back A Little?

Even with all the legitimate talk about the Kings moving up in the draft to get Jabari Smith or Chet Holmgren, the fourth pick still presents the opportunity, among others, to trade back. 

Given this class, Sacramento could end up bolstering their roster with a veteran rotational player as well as a talented first round pick. 

Reports at the beginning of the week were noting Sacramento’s interest in Indiana’s Malcolm Brogdon, who has one year remaining on his deal. This pointed to a vague picture of a potential deal that would swap the 4th and 6th pick between the Kings and Pacers, providing Sac with the veteran talent in return for moving back. In that position they could still walk away with a guy like Keegan Murray, or even a project maybe worth investing in like Shaedon Sharpe.

Moving back to the 6th pick or further presents other potential names the Kings could consider in the mid to late lottery range. 

Here are a few of them.

AJ Griffin 6’6″, 222 lbs., Duke SF, 18 year-old Freshman

According to most, AJ Griffin is the best sharpshooter in the draft with the best chance to translate his college shooting success into the NBA.

Sure, he only averaged 10.9 points per game in his one and done season with the Blue Devils, but it was preseason knee surgery that didn’t let him get rolling until January. By the end of the year, he was shooting 44.7% from deep and 49.3% overall. Adding to it, according to ESPN’s Mike Schmitz, Griffin ranked third among all of college basketball in catch and shoot efficiency.

More than a jump shooter, Griffin provides some skill in his dribble moves, which if developed, could transform him into a more versatile scorer.

At over 220 lbs. and with a 7-foot wingspan, Griffin offers a great physical presence on the wing, which also creates grounded strength that can make up for the fact that he is just 6’6″. In other words, he has the physical tools to potentially be molded into a combo forward whose shooting prowess would be a mismatch nightmare.

His size also provides defensive potential, giving him ample opportunity to develop into a tenacious body on that end and a good rebounder. Though, while he possesses the tools to make that come to fruition, there is still concern regarding what he can do on defense. But his youth makes that concern less pressing.

The root of this defensive concern is primarily due to his most mentioned negative trait. Despite being considered a highly explosive athlete when he was a kid in high school, AJ Griffin’s athleticism is lacking. Watching him in transition, he doesn’t seem particularly slow and there’s no indication he’s a sloth out on the court. It’s just that he has yet to display the kind of explosiveness many thought he had.

Which leads into another concern: injury history. Griffin missed most of his final two seasons in high school due to injuries ranging from a non-contact dislocation of his knee to various injuries to his ankle and back.

Along with a spotty track record of health, he has also been called an inconsistent producer. Scanning his game log, one sees a broad range of different numbers in the scoring column. Sometimes it’s between 13 and 17, other times it’s over 20. But there are a discernable amount of instances where he drops a measly figure like 3 or 5 on a poor shooting night.

This is often due to another concern that follows him around. In February, Schmitz wrote that one of Griffin’s primary weaknesses is “trying to do too much offensively.” Schmitz elaborated, saying Griffin is obviously eager to prove he’s more than a three-point shooting, big-bodied wing. This sometimes has a tendency to negatively affect his decision making.

However, for all the weaknesses Griffin has, if he can just secure his place on the floor by showing he can shoot, he can be an impactful rookie. In fact, Griffin may benefit most from being on a team looking to compete, where he can be a rotational three-point shooter off the bench, allowing him to slowly acclimate to the game rather than putting him in a position where he tries too hard.

Bennedict Mathurin 6’6″, 210 lbs., Arizona SG/SF, 19 year-old Sophomore

Bennedict Mathurin became the Pac-12 player of the year on the back of a nice progression throughout his sophomore season that had him leading his team in scoring with 17.7 a game.

He stands out immediately as a lengthy wing with excellent athleticism that absolutely glows in transition and in the open floor, who at the same time has a solid frame.

Even as he shot just 36.9% from deep, Mathurin is regarded for his range, which is said to fit the NBA three-point distance. He can convert those looks with his feet set, running off screens, or even off the dribble.

Mathurin also provides decent passing, playmaking, and ball handling abilities. In terms of passing and playmaking, he isn’t exactly proficient, but he has the foundation to really improve those areas, especially with his competitive confidence.

On top of being a highly confident player, Mathurin is commended for his character as well. At the age of 12, he had to deal with the adversity of losing an older brother, turning to sports as a coping mechanism and relying on his older sister’s guidance. He has also been applauded for his proclivity for bouncing back.

That need to bounce back comes from some streakiness to his game on both ends. There will be moments where Mathurin is highly productive on both ends, and moments where he isn’t. And much of this is decided early, which is to say it all depends how he starts the game.

It’s also his defense that gets called into question. His athleticism and quickness give him nice tools to work with on that end, but it’s his focus and his off-ball awareness that need significant work.

As ESPN’s Jonathan Givony wrote in March, Bennedict Mathurin is “at his best when keeping things simple,” similar to AJ Griffin. In turn, this makes Mathurin a prime drafting candidate for teams like Portland, San Antonio, or even Sacramento because of their apparent intent to compete.

Ochai Agbaji 6’6″, 215 lbs., Kansas SG, 22 year-old Senior

National champion Ochai Agbaji is a guy that might sometimes be forgotten, but one that is worth being in the same discussion as Griffin and Mathurin. Agbaji may not be a name that pops, but he has plenty of assets that make him a viable pick in the lottery.

With a 6’10” wingspan, he’s another long wing that provides nice levels of athleticism which allow him to leave the floor emphatically.

Through all four years of college, he’s made steady improvements in all categories of his game.

Agbaji scored 18.8 points in his senior season and shot 40.9% from deep on 6.5 attempts per game. According to Schmitz, he was one of nine NCAA players to average over 40% from that range on a minimum of 6.5 attempts per game.

He’s only increased his defensive stock through the years, establishing himself as a high intensity defender that can use his length and athletic ability to guard players relatively well around the perimeter. 

As an older prospect at 22, Agbaji, as noted by Schmitz, is “one of the NCAA’s most consistent players, reaching double figures in scoring and knocking down at least one 3-pointer in 32 of 33 games while also converting a remarkable 75% of his shots at the rim.” 

This consistency and steady improvement makes his age less of an obstacle because his abilities seem proven to a significant degree. As a result, Agbaji could be capable of being plugged into an NBA rotation as a 3-and-D type option.

As to whether he can be anything more than that remains a bit of a question. And even in the face of decent consistency, the question has to be asked just how much better the 22 year-old can get?

At the very least, though, Ochai Agbaji probably wouldn’t be a bad pick for any team in the mid to late lottery, especially for a roster where his role can be proportional to what he offers.

Jeremy Sochan 6’10”, 230 lbs., Baylor PF, 18 year-old Freshman

Like the Kings’ first-round pick last season, Jeremy Sochan is a high-intensity defensive prospect out of Baylor.

Despite not being characterized as having a super high ceiling, he’s probably still the most enticing defensive prospect in this draft with his size and athleticism. As Mike Schmitz wrote about him in late March, Sochan has what it takes to be “an instant NBA contributor defensively as he’s comfortable switching out onto guards, tracking big wings and has at least shown the willingness to slide up to the small-ball 5.”

In addition to the defensive versatility Schmitz makes mention of, Sochan possesses natural defensive instincts. Combined with his high motor that has him flying all over the floor and defending all kinds of guys, it’s evident he can be an elite defensive player, hence his projected place in the lottery.

And for good measure, throw in his rebounding ability. Beyond just being an athletic, springy, and long dude, Sochan is well regarded for the positioning he puts himself in so as to be ever so dominant on the glass. 

According to some scouts, Sochan has in the past shown shooting potential, but he only shot about 30% from deep at Baylor and has been knocked for a slow shooting motion.

But as Schmitz has noted, Sochan was shooting 4.3 three-point attempts per 40 minutes, which is “encouraging as far as his confidence is concerned, and watching him shoot in person several times, he has touch and solid mechanics, even showing the ability to knock down pull-ups and mid-post turnarounds on occasion.” So there is potential.

Still, his offense could probably use fair amounts of improvement, but a refined shot could make him more than a mere defensive weapon.

Less forgiving, though, is his free throw percentage. Despite potential promise in terms of touch, it must have bothered coaches that Sochan was shooting just 59% from the free throw line. 

At the end of the day in regards to Jeremy Sochan, it’s clear what he is going to give an NBA team—not offer, but give. Whoever drafts him will get an active, high-energy, and versatile defender that can make large impacts from that end. Everything else that comes with him is gravy.

Tari Eason 6’8″, 216 lbs., LSU SF/PF, 21 year-old Sophomore

As a highly effective sixth man at LSU after transferring from Cincinnati, Tari Eason could do the same thing in an NBA career. 

Eason has all the potential to be an effective combo forward with defensive activity and offensive upside.

A mixture of toughness and versatility, he becomes a mismatch to various kinds of players; he can draw out larger forwards and rough up smaller wings.

Also notable for his energy and motor, he provides excellent capabilities on the defensive end. As ESPN’s Givony wrote headed into the NCAA tournament, Eason “currently ranks first among projected draft picks in steals generated per-minute, while also ranking top-10 in blocks.” It’s also this kinetic effort that allows him to fill up the stat sheet, and moreover, makes Eason an excellent rebounder.

In fact, it’s all of these things combined that caused CBS Sports’ David Cobb to call Eason “a perimeter-oriented Montrezl Harrell.”

Offensively, he has confidence with his shot. This, in spite of, as Givony noted, “somewhat awkward shooting mechanics,” which sees Eason “releasing the ball from his right shoulder.” At 35.9% from three last season, his deep range isn’t a joke, but at that clip and with his mechanics, he could use refinement to make him a legitimate threat.

His shot is still effective, and due to a good amount of his mismatches, he will play face up. When it’s all said and done, he probably won’t become a sharpshooter, but at over 50% from the field overall this past year, he possesses upside in his scoring versatility.

Eason could also use particular work in his basketball IQ as well as his proneness to committing fouls.

He’s still more of a project than any of the others mentioned thus far. And again, his ceiling is probably a sixth-man of the year candidate. However, with his high motor and defensive versatility, he already offers aspects of his game that can have an effect at the next level.

Tari Eason may not be an overwhelmingly great option for Sacramento, but Kings fans have talked for an awful long time about the need for depth at the wing behind Harrison Barnes.

Malakai Branham 6’5″, 180 lbs., Ohio State SG, 19 year-old Freshman

Ohio State’s Malakai Branham provides a high offensive ceiling and three-point shooting. Being closer to 6’6″ and with a 6’10” wingspan, he could be a solid option for wing depth. It’s those particular aspects—shooting and size—that put Branham on this list and keep Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis off of it.

The immediate thing that stands out about Branham is his three point shooting ability which sat at a 41.6% clip this past year. More than that, what stood out was his balanced ability to shoot off the dribble and in catch and shoot situations, shooting 44% and 43% in those respective scenarios.

Jonathan Givony made note of these statistics, described his high-release point, and concluded that as a whole these factors may very well “make his game look seamlessly translatable for what the NBA is looking for at his position.”

He’s also generally patient with the ball in his hands, which in turn limits turnovers, allows him to find teammates at times, and find his looks. On two-point field goals, Branham shot an amazing 53%, so in terms of offense, it goes well beyond jump shooting. In fact, his offensive ceiling could generate immense promise. 

In tandem with his length, his emphatic sense of competitiveness makes him a solid defender that always provides a good effort.

Some scouts say he’ll need a little more time, but if he’s providing three-point shooting and committing himself on defense, he has a chance to make a difference on a contending team while also holding onto his potential.

Of course, Branham could work on his ball-handling a little, though it isn’t a major liability. More of a concern, however, the former Buckeye could still improve his defensive awareness, which can be a detriment to his off-ball defense, though it has been well covered up by his length and effort.

Maybe not as much of a surefire day-one impact as some other guys, there’s no reason to say Malakai Branham can’t do positive things in a rotation as a rookie. Plus, there may be a lot of treasure to behold down the line if his full offensive game blossoms.

Dyson Daniels 6’6″, 200 lbs., G League Ignite (via Australia) G/F, 19 year-old

Dyson Daniels has all the makings to be a solid playmaker, or maybe even a productive point forward type player.

The G League Ignite is a team based out of Walnut Creek, CA that is associated with the NBA G League and was created to compete in exhibition games as part of a single-year development program for young and premiere prospects. It’s where Daniels played ball this last year.

The Australian’s primary skill is his playmaking ability. Solid ball-handling, adept passing, and truly excellent decision-making is the combination that puts him on the map.

At 6’6″—some have him listed as 6’8″—Daniels’ physical tools make him an intriguing prospect. While attending the Rising Stars Challenge in February, ESPN’s Schmitz wrote that “what stood out most was just how Daniels more than fits in physically with some of the NBA’s top young talent, not looking too far off in terms of functional size from a 6-8 rookie like Cade Cunningham.” That’s an eye-popping comparison that does a lot of explaining as to why he’s a projected lottery pick.

As a versatile perimeter player, he was able to guard four positions at the level he was playing in. With his length and springiness, Daniels also possesses good defensive instincts, which make him an effective two-way player.

Perhaps his best trait may be his commitment to attacking the glass. He is a sneaky and explosive rebounder, averaging just under 6 per game.

His shot needs a lot of work, though. If one were to watch his highlight reel, one may think it’s an asset. However, watching actual tape, reading what scouts write, and simply looking at his percentages, it’s clear that it is an area in need of improvement, especially in the modern NBA.

Last year, Dyson Daniels shot 25% from deep and 59% from the charity stripe. And Daniels may be all too aware of it. As Schmitz wrote, the guard had a tendency of “turning down rhythm looks too often” and “isn’t the most outwardly confident prospect.” However, at such a young age, that can become old news pretty quickly.

He may not have a towering ceiling, but his well-rounded skillset, physical tools, and room for improvement make him the type of prospect that could be a solid starting player down the line, maybe as a secondary ball-handler.

Will the Kings be looking for that? Probably not, but if the scenario arises where they trade back and receive enough compensation to feel confident getting more of a project in this draft—NOT saying that will or should happen—then Daniels may be worth a serious look.

Ousmane Dieng 6’9″, 185 lbs., NZ Breakers (via France) SF, 19 year-old

Talk about a project. The Frenchman Ousmane Dieng is about as raw of a talent as you can find, but his size and athleticism make him an alluring option.

Playing for the New Zealand Breakers in Australia’s NBL, Dieng got off to a horrific start before closing out the final eleven games strong, thus preserving the enticement many around the league feel about him and showcasing a fair deal of perseverance.

As a tall, lanky wing, one may be surprised just how coordinated Ousmane Dieng is on the floor. His movement and agility is tight and controlled, and is far more akin to a guard than anything.

Potentially a surprise as well, his decision-making for such an inexperienced guy is fairly remarkable. If he can improve his ball handling he can be a multifaceted offensive force.

Defensively, his size and athleticism spell out ‘promise’ in all caps, but it still needs considerable refinement. His activity on that end has reportedly improved, but there’s plenty more room to continue that enhancement.

Similar to his upside on defense, he has the potential to be a good shooter, but there may still need to be a mechanical overhaul. As Mike Schmitz observed, Dieng “thumbs the ball as a shooter, which plays a role in the fact that he’s shooting 24% from 3 and 64% from the free throw line.”

Being so raw, he could use major progressions in various areas. Consistency, physicality, and toughness all need improvement. It’s also his physical limitations to box out and his lack of pursuance at times that makes his rebounding a big liability. Not to mention he’s considered a player that relies heavily on his “finesse,” something that would only produce problems among the NBA’s stronger wings.

He just turned 19 on May 21, so the room to turn this guy into a special product definitely exists. The question is whether or not Sacramento has that patience. (Spoiler: they likely don’t, but Ousmane Dieng’s potential is still fascinating to at least consider for a hot second.)

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Alda Gulgowski
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