In all likelihood, Purdue’s Jaden Ivey will be the best player available when the Sacramento Kings are up to pick in the 2022 NBA Draft next week. For a front office that has made it known they like to take the best prospect on the board, many were compelled to ask if Ivey might be coming to the Kings.
The answer is becoming clear. Yesterday, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony subtly reported that the Kings “aren’t Ivey’s preferred destination” in his latest mock draft, putting the Ivey to Sac narrative to rest.
But did fate really ever have Ivey coming to Sacramento?
If history has anything to say, it’s not complete insanity to have made that assumption. For several years, Kings fans have yearned for wing depth or a stretch-4 in the NBA draft, but neither of those desperate needs clouded GM Monte McNair’s belief that the best player available should be selected. It’s why Sacramento landed point guards in two straight drafts.
As much as it sounds like a recipe for roster redundancy, it’s proven a fruitful strategy thus far. Tyrese Haliburton was perhaps the biggest steal of his draft at 12th overall, and though his time in Sacramento came to an abrupt end, it was his value—the same value that was standing out on the draft night big board—that eventually landed Sacramento an upgrade at center that in turn upgraded the roster and direction of the franchise.
By taking Davion Mitchell the following year at no. 9, the Kings stockpiled value in one corner not only to have the option to use that wealth to make a roster-improving transaction, but also ensuring that there’s a worthy replacement when that transaction is made. Yes, the Kings lost a hell of a player in Haliburton, but it allowed Mitchell to flash his work ethic, lockdown defense, and shooting upside in a larger role.
Since Jaden Ivey comes equipped with elite athleticism and with a downhill scoring ability that is so dynamic and productive with an outlook to be even more effective in the spaced-out floor of the NBA where shooters are scattered around, it’s clear he’s the fourth, if not the third, best prospect in this draft.
But even well before Givony’s report, nobody could help notice the obvious similarities between Ivey’s game and Fox’s. Sure, they’d pair up to be the fastest backcourt in the game, but couldn’t another ball handling guard hurt the very specific goal for next season?
Even as Ivey will be the best overall option, Vivek Ranadive’s royal decree to McNair to get this franchise into the playoffs throws the supposed conventional wisdom aside. In other words, with a slimmer window to work with, redundancy—even if it provides longterm value—becomes an issue all of a sudden.
The need to improve this team as a whole for the here and now, more than anything else, seemed to always project a pairing of Ivey and Sacramento as unlikely, and in turn a trade of the 4th pick more likely.
Knowing what is known now only confirm that.
Despite the undeniable fact he’ll be the best prospect available and may very well be a perennial all-star in his NBA career, it just never made much sense to think Jaden Ivey would land in Sacramento, and that may not have ever been in the cards to begin with.
With the multiplicity of options at their disposal, the Kings front office will be faced with either breaking their draft philosophy or maintaining it by trading back (or forward) in order to then take the best player available.