by Brett Callahan

Last season scouts and mock draft “experts” linked Tyreke Evans to the second half of the lottery picks, saying he was too raw, wasn’t a true point guard, and didn’t have a strong basketball IQ. Most Sacramento fans ate up the Rubio pudding and were disappointed that they let him slide to TWolves for the ball-hogging Evans. Good call.

Evans ended up smashing predictions, going fourth to the Kings, winning R.O.Y. honors, and becoming the captain of this team for at least the next decade.

When it comes to Geoff Petrie, the man who took Evans and who the Maloof brothers would extend for life if possible, not a whole lot is out in the open. The guy who looks more like a hockey coach then a basketball exec, believes in the philosophy of don’t talk about it, do it.

He’s been doing it big time in the draft ever since taking over the reigns for Sactown, even while driving fans temporarily nuts. He doesn’t make the flashy pick that everyone wants, but it’s usually the smart one.

When fans wanted John Wallace, Petrie took some Serbian cat named Peja Stojakovic, when they wanted Desmond Mason, he chose Hidayet Turkoglu, when they yelled, “Petrie, take David Harrison,” he went with Kevin Martin, and when fans, enamored over the Summer Olympics, wanted Ricky Rubio, he decided on nabbing the Rookie of the Year instead. Despite his few blunders, eeh hmm, Quincy Douby over Rajon Rondo, and, uhh, Dan Dickau over Carlos Boozer (who everyone else passed on too), Kings fans hopefully have now learned to trust him.

The first instinct bumming around mock drafts and drooling over athletic outputs is to go Wes Johnson. He’s long, a pretty freakish athlete, knocks down shots and distracts opponents. “He’s going to be the next Shawn Marion,” you say. Maybe so or maybe he’ll be the next Jarvis Hayes. He seems like a good guy, smiled a lot during the draft combine interviews, and didn’t seem void of all life like Aminu. He could end up a King, but looking at the youth on the bench, I’m betting against it.

Donte Greene and Omri Casspi, 22 and 21, are at the end of that bench, both exploding with “potential,” and ready to contribute this year. If they kept playing in college/Europe, where are they in this year’s draft? My gut tells me pretty high up, and that the Kings brass isn’t ready to call it a day on these two for the wing position. Factor in the vet, Francisco Garcia, still just 29, and that’s a loaded wing area that may not have a superstar, but certainly has some pieces to pass on Johnson and make the correct draft choice. Petrie is going to break your expectations, so I might as well follow suit. So…

With the fifth pick in the 2010 SLAMonline Mock Draft, the Sacramento Kings select…

Greg Monroe from Georgetown University.

Come on? Really? Monroe fifth? My iPhone says he should go to Utah. I know. But here’s why he should go to Sacramento:

The League is getting bigger and longer every season. Monroe, measured at 6-11 with a 7-2 wingspan, brings size, but mGreg Monroeore importantly versatility to a sometimes stagnant frontline.

The mid-season acquisition of Carl Landry may have solidified an inside scoring threat in Sacramento, but he needs some help. Landry can be close to a 20-10 guy, maybe more like 18-8, but consistently productive, nonetheless.

Beyond Landry, the Kings have been experimenting with a combo of Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes (both very young) with a mild sprinkling of some Jon Brockman, who they’ll need to re-sign.

The experimentation will continue, and there really is nothing wrong in utilizing each of these guys’ talents. Thompson brings aggressive play (sometimes too aggressive), Hawes (entering the last guaranteed year of his contract) tacks on an ability to stretch the floor with his outside game and an improving running hook, and Brockman provides some beef and hustle to frustrate opponents.

All of them have talent, but Monroe’s skill, length and vision can push him past each to be the Kings full-time center in a season or two. He adds a high IQ player to the mix, a player capable of facing up or taking his back to the basket, who can rebound and handle the rock. It doesn’t hurt that he’d instantly be one of the top-five passing big men in the game or that he’s left-handed either.

As with everyone on the Kings, Monroe will need to work on defense and improve his rebounding, but the length, skill, and understanding of the game are there.

As he develops, I see the Kings using their gang of big men as matchup problems. Playing the Lakers and need to stretch them out, plug in Monroe and Hawes. Playing Phoenix and need to run the floor, go with Monroe, Landry and Thompson. Either way, a surplus of young big men is never a bad thing, creating competition in practice and advantageous mismatches in games.

More than anything, Monroe is a Petrie player. He’s cerebral, team-oriented, and will be a huge asset for Evans to make cuts to the lane or fill in on a fast break if Monroe leads, ala Lamar Odom.

Team needs wise this pick makes sense too. The Kings have a solid backcourt with Evans and the underrated Beno Udrih, only 27 and coming off a highly efficient season. As mentioned, they have a selection of wingmen to pluck from, and a lot more choices at forward and guard this free agency (where the Kings have nearly $20 million at their disposal) than they do at landing Chris Bosh or Amar’e Stoudemire.

It’s fairly safe to say Monroe has a long way to go before being named an All-Star, but the League demands being able to adapt to different styles of play, and Monroe does that for Sac.

A young and long core led by Evans and followed by Landry, Udrih, Casspi, Monroe, Greene and Thompson can have this team in place to make a strong Playoff push in a couple seasons. Much like the Thunder’s philosophy of stashing young talent and letting them develop together, it will eventually pay off for the Kings.

2010 SLAMonline Mock Draft
PickTeamPlayerPickTeamPlayer
1WashingtonJohn Wall16Minnesota
2PhiladelphiaEvan Turner17Chicago
3New JerseyDerrick Favors18Miami
4MinnesotaDeMarcus Cousins19Boston
5SacramentoGreg Monroe20San Antonio
6Golden State21OKC
7Detroit22Portland
8L.A. Clippers23Minnesota
9Utah24Atlanta
10Indiana25Memphis
11New Orleans26OKC
12Memphis27New Jersey
13Toronto28Memphis
14Houston29Orlando
15Milwaukee30Washington