Tonight is draft night, the night that all this suspense gets put to bed.
The last few weeks leading up to this day seemed to wash back and forth like the ocean tide, pointing in one direction before another regarding what may or may not happen when the clock starts rolling in Brooklyn. With all the mystery and intrigue that accompanies the 4th pick in the draft, it makes sense.
Same is true for now, hours before the big moment: what will happen is unknown until it happens.
As far as most mock drafters are concerned, one of three things will likely happen.
To start, practically all of them have Jaden Ivey going 4th with the accompanying note that it may not be Sacramento making the pick there. In reality, none know or purport to know how things will turn out, but the primary two outcomes are either the Kings take the best available prospect in Ivey or, if they’re infatuated by the value of an offer, another team will trade up to select the Purdue standout.
The third possible outcome—which is notably deemed less likely than the other two—is the Kings stay put and rest their hat on the better fit in Iowa’s Keegan Murray. It’s still a very real possibility. Shams Charania reported that “the Kings are becoming increasingly comfortable drafting at No. 4” in light of the reality regarding the “steep price” other lottery teams will need to pay in order to make the jump. And Jonathan Givony of ESPN also made note in a mock draft that drafting Murray “might be gaining steam” with new head coach Mike Brown while owner Vivek Ranadive is also noted as “a proponent of the idea.”
However, for a moment there last week, it kind of seemed like the probability was beginning to lie with another pair of options, the first being another team paying the price to move up and take Ivey or the Kings, as Charania mentioned, feeling comfortable enough to take Murray.
Really backing up this idea, though, was the more notarized nugget in that same Givony mock draft, which which claimed that the Sacramento Kings “aren’t Ivey’s preferred destination.”
We here even went so far as to prematurely say that this report from Givony was the cherry on top of the idea that, because the playoff edict from Ranadive is such a major factor for McNair’s job security, roster improvement would be better suited for other positions. The reality, it seemed, was such that Ivey going to the Kings did not stand out as making a bunch of sense on paper, and additional reports were only bolstering that as being the potential lead factor in the ultimate decision.
After Ivey said the Kings “wouldn’t be the worst” landing spot and confirmed he hadn’t worked out for the Kings—but had worked out for Detroit and Orlando—Marc Stein upped the idea that Sacramento won’t take the high upside talent when he referenced how other teams “have noted that Ivey shares the same CAA representation as Tyrese Haliburton” and presumed “that Ivey was never going to privately audition for the Kings after they dealt Haliburton to Indiana seemingly without warning in February” despite how often Haliburton described his ambition to play a major part in ending the playoff drought.
Whether or not that’s true—that Ivey never planned to work out for the Kings and might even be a little opposed to being drafted by them—it doesn’t really matter.
First of all, as Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman observed, Ivey may not have worked out for Sacramento, but neither did Tyrese Haliburton or Davion Mitchell in their respective draft years.
Additionally, this is a business, and if Ivey is to be drafted by the Kings, he’ll play for the Kings. Likewise, regardless of whoever drafts Ivey at No. 4, that team will be paying the $6.58M rookie scale baseline for the 4th pick with a possibility it could be as much as $7.90M in that first year deal. Preferences will not sway the Kings one way or the other on drafting the Purdue guard, and it’s hard to point to anyone who would walk away from that money.
Therefore, the Kings might just take Ivey tonight. In fact, for all you betting fanatics out there, it’s probably the most likely outcome as The Athletic’s John Hollinger surmises.
“So if you think there’s a 50 percent chance they trade the (4th) pick, a 75 percent chance the acquiring team takes Ivey and a 33 percent chance the Kings take Ivey if they keep it, then the overall odds still favor Ivey,” Hollinger writes.
Givony still has the Kings staying put as being “considered the most likely scenario” in his mock draft this week. So does Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo, who just doesn’t see there being the necessary value that would move Sac off of the 4th spot.
“The sense I get is that Sacramento likes the draft and may not want to move back especially far, and it’s hard to see a combination of veterans and desirable draft positioning that seems appealing,” Woo offered (and this was even before Jerami Grant was dealt to Portland, removing a commonly listed name in potential trade packages).
Woo was, however, one of the few who seemed sure Murray is going to the Kings if they stay put at No. 4, but Wasserman from B/R announced he’d “bet against” either Murray or a guy like Shaedon Sharpe going 4th overall to Sacramento.
Though he expressed that it’s “not known what the Kings think of Ivey or his fit with De’Aaron Fox,” Wasserman went on to write that, due to Ivey’s ceiling, it’s more than possible “the Kings could pick him and test his fit or post-draft trade value,” but never went so far as to bet on Ivey going to Sacramento either.
Sam Vecenie of The Athletic maybe put it best, saying that “the Kings should just take the best player and figure out the roster crunch later.” At the same time, he added that “the connection here with Keegan Murray is real, and if the team does not get an offer to its liking, Murray is legitimately in play.”
What makes that arguably the best summary of the situation is it’s a pretty straightforward code for “who the hell knows?”
As the draft crawls closer than ever, the likelihood to many is that there’s not much of a chance this pick gets traded, and what the Kings do with their 4th selection is a matter of worthy and spirited debate.
There’s a good chance it’s Ivey going 4th to Sacramento. But if there was going to be a draft night trade and thus another selection, Hollinger’s guess seems fairly believable, and it might also be the most believable scenario to take Murray.
“I haven’t heard anyone talking about this, but swapping (Detroit’s No. 5) pick, No. 46 and two future seconds to Sacramento for the fourth pick makes all kinds of sense for both teams,” Hollinger posits. “Each ends up with the guy they want, and the Kings get Murray at a lower salary; Sacramento’s leverage here is that it could trade down with another team and leave Detroit without Ivey.”
Given McNair’s philosophy for taking the best player available and figuring out the rest later, this somewhat modest trade scenario would allow McNair to do exactly that with the forward from Iowa.
After all, it’s that overarching draft strategy that leads many to believe Ivey goes No. 4 to Sacramento. And unless the Kings have real concern about his attitude or whether he’d buy in, it’s hard to say the Kings wouldn’t just take Ivey—the best player available—and figure out the rest later. A possible John Collins deal makes that all the more interesting.
Again, who the hell knows?
At this very moment, nobody, but that won’t be the case for long as 5 p.m. PST is not that far away.