In addition to creating cap space by using the 24th pick to move Richaun Holmes’ contract, the Kings also walked away with two players that bring an edge to the defensive end, possess playmaking skill, have some shooting upside, and, best of all, exhibit exemplary character.
A lot of focus was directed at the trade with the Mavericks that sent Holmes and Olivier-Maxence Prosper—the 24th pick out of Marquette—to Dallas. However, GM Monte McNair made sure to keep the attention on two prospects he appears happy to have had the opportunity to select.
“The main thing tonight is that we added two guys to our team that we think can help us, not only on the defensive end, but on the offensive end,” McNair said directly after the draft, pivoting to his selections after initially being asked about the creation of cap room.
Out of Xavier, Colby Jones, a combo guard that can defend on the wing, was taken 34th overall by Sacramento. Later on, they then selected Jalen Slawson, a forward and revered defender out of Furman, 54th overall.
McNair later highlighted how both are capable of contributing as role players alongside two All-NBA guys who “do a lot of the heavy-lifting” for the team.
“Guys that can be connecting pieces, guys that can finish plays, guys that can make the intermediate play — the hockey pass — especially with the offense coach (Mike) Brown and coach (Jay) Triano have, we just want high-IQ guys that can come in here and just figure out a way to contribute no matter who they’re on the floor with,” McNair explained.
So here’s a closer look at the 34th and 54th picks in the 2023 Draft and what they’ll bring to the Kings.
Colby Jones 6’6″, 199 lbs. SG/SF Xavier – Junior, Age 21
The Kings parted with a future second round pick in order to move up four spots to select the product out of Xavier, who McNair commended for his work ethic and good character.
Thinking about an early role for him at the NBA level on this team, it’s prudent to start on the defensive end. One thing to make clear about Jones is that he is not necessarily a lockdown defender: he’s not incredibly long (only a 6’8″ wingspan) and while he’s certainly strong for his size, he still has a slim frame. However, on the back of his effort and awareness, he projects to be a plus-defender with a chance to ascend further if he ties some things up.
First of all, he’s got the instincts for that end. He’s a terrific rotator with great overall floor awareness and he should be making an impact as a rookie because of it.
Jones should be able to handle the 1 through the 3, and he’ll have a chance switching onto 4’s due to his strength. On top of natural instincts, his mobility and lateral quickness are factors, and his high motor helps bring the most out of them to put in a hell of an effort as an on-ball defender. With that, he’s very active, exhibiting high hands, a key principle on the defensive end for coach Brown.
One complaint might be his frame, which raises questions about guarding bigger wings/forwards, but one of the things about it is that it helps in his ability to navigate around screens. In truth, he’s a never-quit force on the basketball floor, so it starts with his head-down, go through the screen approach, and his slimness appears to help him slip through in order to stay with his guy like a shadow. How well that translates to the NBA remains to be seen, but his approach is there for good, and that’s all one can ask.
Furthermore, he’s a great rebounder from the perimeter. Through his three years in college, Jones average 6.2 rebounds per game. It may not sound like all that much to some, but it’s another testament to his work ethic and feel for the game. It’s also something Mike Brown will love to see.
On offense, the upside revolves around his feel for the game. Jones demonstrated terrific playmaking ability at Xavier. He was particularly impactful as a pick-and-roll ball handler and as a creator in the fast break.
To start, it feels unlikely that Jones sees much time as a primary ball handler in his rookie season, and it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s incredibly rare. McNair noted his great touch, which appears to be seen mostly on his floaters. It’s there on his mid-rangers too, but on all his pull-up’s, he converted just 27.1% of them. As a pull-up three-point threat, he’s got a lot of work to do; until then, defenders will go under the screen and dare him to shoot off the dribble.
Still, he’s absolutely sharp in transition when he has to make quick reads. A lot of it is explained in the fact Jones is a very smart player who processes extremely well. This is one of the things to like the most about his fit in Sacramento: he’ll facilitate in turning those jets on. As a connector, he can lead the break and he can also make deep passes to those who leak out; simply said, he’s decisive and quick.
And don’t get it twisted. Jones is still a good attacker of the rim. It’s mostly due to that touch on the floater as well as his finger roll, but he nevertheless converted 62.2% of his looks at the rim this season. His creation in getting downhill is also good—by means of the kick out and the dump off—but doing all of that at a high volume might require some improvement in self-creation.
While his pull-up shooting is shoddy, he’s a good catch-and-shoot guy, which is far more important given his prospective role on a talented team. On all catch-and-shoot looks this past season, he hit them at a 42.5% clip. Overall from three-point range, he shot 37.8% on 3.3 attempts in a season where he took massive leaps in terms of his shooting.
In his first two seasons in school, Jones shot 30.3% on an average of 2.0 attempts per contest. By putting in the work to refine his shot form—which has upside—he was able to increase his shooting volume and efficiency. There’s a good chance he’ll help space the floor as an adequate catch-and-shoot threat, and it will be key if he’s to earn substantial minutes.
Leading up to the draft, a lot of Kings analysts labeled Colby Jones as a nice fit. And with scout Greg Stratton watching a lot of Jones up in Ohio, the decision-makers saw and gathered a lot of information about the Xavier product to feel satisfied with him being the feature draft pick this season, and to trade up to get him, no less.
And because of that, it makes the Kings one of the winners in the draft. Jones was talked about as a potential 24th pick, so the fact Sacramento used that draft positioning to move Holmes while still ending up with Jones ten picks later speaks to the successful nature of that night.
It’ll be fascinating to see what Colby Jones brings as a rookie. His two-way effect and high-character could very well make for a productive NBA career.
Jalen Slawson 6’7″, 222 lbs. SF/PF Furman – 5th Year Senior, Age 23
Admittedly, Slawson—unlike a lot of other second-round talents—did not get a pre-draft write-up in this space. But with the Kings taking him at pick 54, here’s our opportunity to amend that.
In hindsight, it’s really no surprise that Sacramento decided on Slawson even with a guy like Trayce Jackson-Davis still on the board, who was often talked about as a suitable prospect for the Kings.
The former Furman Paladin will offer a little bit on both ends—primarily defense—while also exhibiting high character.
Starting with that, it’s important to note that Slawson chose to return to Furman for a fifth year to do one thing: win his conference tournament and make the NCAA Tournament. He managed to lead the Paladins to win not just the Southern Conference Tournament—which became the first time since 1980—Slawson also helped his team win its first NCAA tourney game since 1974 by defeating Virginia.
“His loyalty was his superpower,” said Furman assistant Tim Johnson of Slawson. “His 44-inch vertical and basketball IQ certainly helped, but the best part about his game was his deep care for others.”
On top of the loyal and disciplined personality, Slawson is also coming out of college as a great defender. Probably to start, he’ll stick to forwards, but he could project to guard some centers and some two-guards as well. That’s because he’s the perfect combination of long and strong, as illustrated by his near 7-foot wingspan and his sturdy frame.
He’s a high-motor defender who accumulated 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. He averaged 1.7 blocks per game the season prior and has shown excellent ability in that aspect of his game. Slawson is a hawk on blocking shots on the chase down, and he’s just about as effective as a rotator to the rim where his wingspan and leaping ability lend him some help.
In general, his rotations are superb. He has great awareness and reaction time to play on a string on that end of the floor.
On-ball, he displays sound and quick footwork as well as excellent use of his hands. Slawson also uses his physicality to his advantage. His status as a defender that can take either forward position with some ability—albeit not great, but certainly in a position to grow—to switch bigger or smaller will be useful to the league’s 24th ranked defense.
On offense, he was a point forward at Furman, averaging 3.2 assists per game as the hub. Slawson has excellent court vision and executes a lot of passes to cutters. He’s a great passer from the top of the key and from the elbow. With his NBA team in mind, it will benefit him that he did a lot of creating out of the dribble handoff where he exhibited a solid grasp of how to use his body in that situation to create space for teammates. And he’s unselfish enough to create a fair amount as the “shooter” on a pick-and-pop.
Similarly, he can create in transition with his good sense of pace. His energy and vision shine there.
His handles are decent, especially relative to his size, and he’s capable of attacking closeouts. He can pass on those drives, but he can also finish, which he did at the rim at a 73% clip. Along with his handles, his strength and frame help him create opportunities. Likely set to be more of that off-ball connector and finisher, Slawson will put his abilities as a willing roller, a smart cutter, and a dunker to adequate use.
Slawson took some major strides in terms of shooting this past season, converting an impressive 38.4% of his three’s (on 2.9 attempts) after posting a 30% clip through his first four years. Most of the damage he’ll do from range is on catch-and-shoot opportunities, particularly as a trailer at the top of the arc. His ability to hit those shots also gives him an opportunity to pump fake and drive, which is something he does a lot.
However, there are limitations offensively. Take, for instance, the idea of a pump and drive: there will be no surprise if you only go one way on that drive. That’s the thing with Slawson: he heavily favors his right side, which is admittedly good, but going to his left is nowhere near as effective. And he’ll try to incorporate spin moves just to get back to his right, which can lead to turnovers. Predictability this made him far from dangerous as a handler in space.
Overall, it’s hard to see him being a heavily-relied upon ball-handler at the next level. His handling is not to that requisite level yet, and when things get really fast-paced, Slawson is prone to mistakes.
Adding to it, he doesn’t possess much of a pull-up game, simplifying the guessing game, as it were, of playing defense against him. He just doesn’t create the separation, nor does he have the fluidity or body control for it.
Still, even as he comes from a mid-major program, Jalen Slawson could make some valuable contributions as a rookie who will be 24 years-old for most of the season.
And considering those weaknesses in relation to what his role would realistically be, there’s no cause for concern. Slawson just won’t come anywhere close to seeing a similar kind of usage in the NBA as he did in college.
While his weaknesses won’t surface, all his strengths—even in a minuscule role—can make a positive and palpable impact.