Mock: Kemba Walker, No. 7
Point guard it is.
by Jonathan Santiago / @itsJONsantiago
The Sacramento Kings dropped two spots in the draft order following the lottery. But if you ask most Kings fans, they’re not upset with having to pick seventh in this year’s NBA Draft.
Rather, they’re just happy to still have basketball in California’s capital city.
You all know the story by now, so there’s no need to elaborate too much. The Kings had, as Mayor Kevin Johnson put it, “one foot and four toes out the door,” ready to move to Anaheim. But because the people of Sacramento and its surrounding region were so proactive during the relocation saga, the League gave them one more chance. And now, the potential of building a new entertainment-and-sports complex seems brighter than it ever has been in the last decade.
But, back to basketball.
The Kings have shown that you don’t need the top pick to find a great prospect. Last year, DeMarcus Cousins fell into their laps surprisingly at No. 5 (thanks, David Kahn). And the season before that, they netted Tyreke Evans, the eventual rookie of the year, with the fourth pick.
Amidst high expectations through massive public relation campaigns, the Kings finished last season with a 24-58 record. But they’re not as far away from relevance as that record might suggest. Evans dealt with a nagging plantar fasciitis injury much of the year, hampering him from playing to his full potential. Cousins had an up-and-down rookie season, but that’s not anything out of the ordinary for a first-year player. In fact, he displayed much more skill than expected with his ability to find teammates as a facilitator.
The Kings also found themselves with a steal at the trade deadline, picking up Marcus Thornton in exchange for Carl Landry. Thornton languished on the New Orleans Hornets’ bench under first-year head coach Monty Williams. But he thrived as soon as he unpacked his bags in Sacramento, averaging 20.1 points per 36 minutes in 27 games as a King according to Basketball Reference. And with plays like this, it’s no surprise that former King Doug Christie recently compared him to an old teammate.
“…I think (he’s) kind of a Bobby Jackson clone,” he said in an interview with ESPN’s Cowbell Kingdom blog.
Will they find a difference maker, a franchise cornerstone like Cousins and Evans at No. 7? With this year’s watered-down draft pool, probably not. But can they find a good complimentary piece?
With the seventh pick in the 2011 SLAMonline Mock Draft, the Sacramento Kings select…
Kemba Walker of the University of Connecticut.
Though small forward was the Kings most troubled position this year, I’d like to think there’s still hope with the players they currently have. Francisco Garcia missed a chunk of time this season due to injury, especially a lingering calf strain that plagued him midway through the year. Ideally, he’d be a great option off the bench for the Kings moving forward. And though they regressed last year, Donte Greene and Omri Casspi will both only be 23 by the time a new season starts (presuming a lockout isn’t too long). It doesn’t hurt that Greene is in a contract year as well, which should add extra motivation toward improving his game.
Meanwhile, their depth at point guard is sparse. Evans and Thornton are capable of playing the position, but work better from the two-guard spot. Beno Udrih is to the 1 what Garcia is to the 3. The veteran Slovenian would be best suited in a bench role like his small forward counterpart.
The Kings don’t necessarily need a playmaking point guard. Rather, they could use a one who can play off-the-ball and hit open shots, while Evans and Cousins serve as primary playmakers. And though Walker was UConn’s chief scorer en route to a national championship, he has shown he’s quite capable of playing off-the-ball. Jimmer Fredette could be an option here too. But he’s not nearly as athletic a player the Kings would need to keep up defensively with the NBA’s speediest point guards.
One of the knocks on the now former UConn Husky has been his size. There were questions as to whether Walker even cracked the six-foot mark. But at the draft combine, he measured 6-1 in shoes. He’s comparable in height to Raymond Felton, Chris Paul and Allen Iverson and bigger than guards such as Aaron Brooks, Jameer Nelson and Ty Lawson according to Draft Express. Add his amazing leaping ability, which measured at 39.5 inches and ranked him fifth best among combine participants, as another reason his size shouldn’t be a big factor.
As far as intangibles, Walker’s proven he can win. Being the leader of a national championship team has done wonders for his reputation. Also, it doesn’t hurt that one of the Kings star players thinks highly of him.
From the Sac Bee:
“Evans said Arizona forward Derrick Williams and UConn guard Kemba Walker stood out to him this season. Depending on how the lottery goes, there’s a good chance one of them could be a teammate.
‘I know Kemba real well from the AAU circuit,’ Evans said. ‘Me and Kemba are really good friends.’”
Besides, it worked out pretty well for the Kings the last time they picked a point guard seventh, didn’t it?
|2011 SLAMonline Mock Draft|