Should the Kings go for talent or leadership in the upcoming draft?

The title is self explanatory to me, but this draft will come down to two players for most people (if Anthony Davis is not available and in that case will be the Kings pick): Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Andre Drummond.

For me the question is: Is leadership necessary in the long run for this team, or is talent necessary and which is more important to have at this very moment?

For me, talented big men are incredibly hard to find that Andre Drummond is one of those players, that even with a dearth of real leadership on the Kings, that makes it tough to pass him up unless it’s Anthony Davis. (Who has the leadership. See what I did there?) But that’s me. There are pro’s and con’s to this debate and they should be carefully sussed out with the expectation that one is knowing what one is getting from each player.

I already discussed why the SF hole is a difficult prospect to fill given the circumstances but nonetheless I think it’s worth reminding people why I’m not convinced Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is the right answer for this Kings roster despite all the reasonable attractive qualities Kidd-Gilchrist brings (not to mention qualities that I want and the Kings roster needs no less).


Andre Drummond

Most saw Drummond’s season as a disappointment, and that I understand. Drummond did not live up to hiis hype, UConn didn’t really live up to their hype, and yet Drummond, because he’s a rare athletic specimen, will likely be a top 5 pick due to that alone. If you have time and patience to develop Drummond, he is worth it.




I get it. Drummond’s freshman season was a disappointment and it’s so terrible that he didn’t become Kevin Garnett Jr in a day. I know I know.

Some things that have gotten my attention. Drummond is not necessarily a fellow who needs touches to play. That’s rare for a big man in this day and age. Maybe that’s not necessarily true, but it certainly seems that the biggest knock aganist Drummond is that he is not always willing to assert himself offensively. That’s not something that is necessarily bad in the Kings case.

According to Draft Express, Drummond had an USG% of about 15% and a TS% of 51% (namely due to 29.5% FT shooting). My calculation of Drummond came up with a TS% of 54.6%. It could be that Drummond’s stats haven’t been updated at DX. Or I could be wrong. Either way, let’s assume Drummond had a 51 TS% no matter what. That is not exactly what the Kings need, but the Kings don’t exactly have a necessary choice.

According to Basketball-Reference, there were at least 92 players who had 500 Minutes played this season and had a USG% of 16% or less. (Look at some of the players whom are on their list. You would like some of them playing next to DeMarcus Cousins yes?)

For me, Drummond’s biggest negatives are something that don’t actually equate in the long run as a negative but a positive. Asking Drummond to rebound, play physical and terrific defense without fouling, and playing hard in the open court seem something Drummond can do right now with ease. That’s something the Kings desperately need, and in the long run Drummond has starting potential on a team that doesn’t necessarily need Drummond to have lots of touches. Some see that as a detriment; I see that as a positive.

Additionally, Drummond hedges well (the Kings need that yes?), gets at least decent position on both ends rebounding the basketball (he’s better on the offensive end but I suspect defensively he’ll do at least as well as Jason Thompson initially on the defensive end too), and can block shots. Drummond can play the perimeter fairly well considering his size, and can obviously defend the block both on and off the ball. The Kings need that too yes? Read Jonathan Givony’s writeup if you have not.

The issue then becomes do the Kings have the resources to develop Drummond? And, well, that’s an issue for a later day. In normal situations, I would probably say yes. What the Kings are going through at the moment isn’t normal machinations for any franchise, and it hurts the franchise badly that the Maloofs value their ownership more than what’s the best long term viability for the franchise and their economic status. (It would benefit the Maloofs a great deal to sell the franchise.)

Do the Kings have the coaching staff as mostly that’s the real key here: I say yes. Clifford Ray, Alex English, Jim Eyen and Bobby Jackson are all capable teachers of the game of basketball. Ray gets the most credit as he often gets young big men’s attention rather quickly, but don’t discount any of those other guys. Keith Smart is no fool even if he doesn’t hold the allure of a Jerry Sloan, Stan Van Gundy or Jeff Van Gundy for that matter. (No, JVG isnt’ stupid enough to come out of retirement to coach this team.)

So the question then becomes: Do the Kings need a big man who can play the game defensively and not necessarily need touches on that end to be effective? Or do they need a wing to fill the dreaded SF spot who can bring leadership, defense and shooting?

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist vs Andre Drummond. If the Kings can get the #2 or #3 pick (MKG won’t be there at 5), that’ll bet the question. Or, at worst trading down from a team willing to trade up to get MKG.

First, I suggest reading this exceptional profile from Bloguin’s own Ed Isaacson and his NBA Draft Blog on MKG.

Here’s the thing about MKG I like: Everything except his perimeter shot. Will it take work? Yes. Will it automatically improve? Absolutely not. But let’s ignore that for a minute.

Is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist a good fit for the Kings if they keep Tyreke Evans? Would they trade Tyreke Evans for a better SF so MKG could play SG? This is always possible I suppose.

I wouldn’t do that though myself. I’d keep Tyreke, and keep crossing my fingers that Evans can grow into something that resembles a franchise player. Because whatever trade you will get for Evans will not remotely bring that kind of player. Teams don’t trade that player under many circumstances. Certainly not for players who have stagnated, and in the case of a player like Evans regressed in reality. (If you’re not improving when you have talent like Tyreke Evans does, you’re regressing. Don’t like it? Move to a different world. But as long as you live on planet Earth, you better get used to the concept. Because that’s just the way it works on this particular planet.)

An interesting point from Isaacson’s piece that merits mentioning:

Teams picking in the Top 4 or 5, if that is where there record dictates, usually need more than a 3rd option offensively on their team, and in my view, that is what Kidd-Gilchrist will be in the NBA, a great 2nd or 3rd guy, but not a team’s top guy or the guy you build your future team around.

This is an excellent point, and I imagine this type of thing a lot of Kings fans are saying: “What’s the problem.” There isn’t one really. I actually like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, believe it or not, and unlike Isaacson, I think MKG is one of the four best players in the draft. Maybe not one of the four best talents conceivably, but there are plenty of players who have real talent who have trouble implementating just a reasonable fraction of that talent. A player who maximizes his talent, a player potentially like MKG, is a player who will always be more valuable to NBA teams for precisely the “maximization of talent” factor alone.

The other issue, and I imagine we will find out a bit about this after the Chicago compound, is can MKG play defense at the SF spot at the next level? I have no doubts about his size being fine for a NBA SG (very good even), but a very good SG does not necessarily mean a very good SF. They are two different positions, and as two different positions the Kings have a real need at one of those two positions, and possibly two positions.

Here’s the problem with MKG: From a fit standpoint, starting MKG and Evans together seems difficult to pull off unless Evans dramatically becomes reliable at anything other than making bad decisions with the basketball. Even though MKG is not especially turnover prone, part of that is because he is so good without the ball. Part of the reason MKG did turn the ball over 2.2 times a game in an average of 31 MPG is that MKG is not a great ball handler as of now. He can do it decently, but it is not his great strength. Unless that improves (and history says this is unlikely; you either have the talents to handle the ball or you don’t), it’s unlikely that MKG will be seen as a guy whom you wish to give the ball to create with the dribble. When it comes to turnovers per minute, MKG turn the ball over roughly every 14 minutes of play during Kentucky’s season. (Marquis Teague was about once every 11 minutes,  Terrence Jones once every 17 minutes, and Anthony Davis once every 32 minutes. In case you needed a translation, Davis on the season turned the ball over 3 times less than Teague did. Yowzah…..Any questions on why Davis is the guaranteed 1st overall pick? I thought so.)

That said, guys who can play off the dribble and finish well at the rim are something the Kings absolutely need in spades. The Kings also need players who will take good shots consistently, and players who will work to get good shots. (That’s the biggest thing ailing this group.)

Here is a nice writeup by Sam Amick describing a rough consensus of NBA GM’s on who the top 4 players in the draft are (Davis, MKG, Thomas Robinson of Kansas and Bradley Beal of Florida). Here is an excerpt on the part about MKG:

It’s hard to tell how good he can be offensively because of the deep surrounding talent at Kentucky, but he has been compared to New Jersey’s Gerald Wallace in terms of his athleticism and attacking mentality. Kidd-Gilchrist had two of his best offensive games in the NCAA tournament, scoring 24 points on 7-of-15 shooting against Indiana in the Sweet 16 and 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting against Baylor in the Elite Eight.

He might have the best motor in the draft, and nothing makes scouts happier than a player who never stops. Kidd-Gilchrist is also a tenacious defender with a 6-10 wingspan. His inconsistent perimeter game is a concern, but his work ethic and approach have NBA teams drooling.

“He has all the intangibles,” one assistant general manager said. “And he plays extremely hard.”


This is the deal pretty much. It’s athleticism, talent, and a real need for interior defense, shot blocking and an hyper athletic guy who can do things that complement the current Kings bigs. This is vs a competitive, well heeded kid who has all the intangibles (things so many love about Isaiah Thomas for example) and the talent to merit a top 5 pick. While this isn’t quite the same level of things, Shane Battier went 6th in the 2001 draft to Memphis for a lot of the same reasons MKG would go top 5 in this draft. As teams have gotten younger and younger, players like MKG become important for a team to build a winning fabric that weaves itself at some point into a winning culture.

From my vantage, this is what the deal is pretty much: Do you value what MKG can give, likely at a reduced value if only because the likelihood of MKG being as good at SF as SG is reduced due to size, or do you value the potential talent of an Andre Drummond who does fit a need and has all the upside necessary in a big to give you the necessary reason to pull the trigger on using a top 5 pick on him as well?

Here’s how I see it: Do you think SF is that big enough of a hole that you pass a harder and greater need (in my opinion) to fill in the long run? If the answer is yes, you probably take MKG and figure out a way to make Tyreke Evans/Michael Kidd-Gilchrist work defensively as a tandem at the SG/SF spots.

If the answer is no, taking Drummond becomes a no brainer depending on where the Kings end up in the draft. The higher the Kings get in the lottery, presumably two or three, the prospect of trading down seems at least reasonable if only that the Kings could get something from a team willing to trade their selection to get Kidd-Gilchrist. And if the Kings get the #1 pick, you can assume that there isn’t much likelihood of who the Kings will take. Many Kings fans will celebrate by buying Anthony Davis jersey’s.

Scenario #1: The Kings win the lottery and select Anthony Davis. This is the ideal scenario. Davis has all the intangibles, fits a need, and will help the franchise from a selling tickets perspective. There is no downside to Anthony Davis unless unibrow’s count.

Scenario #2:  The Kings end up in the top 2 or top 3, and then trade the pick to possibly trade a bad contract or two (hopefully two) off the roster and perhaps a draft pick along with the selection of Drummond.

Scenario #3: The Kings end up in the top 2 or 3, but stay pat for whatever reason.

Scenario #4: The Kings stay at 5 (their initial slot projection) and are out of the mix for MKG. At that point, players like Drummond, Perry Jones III, John Henson and even Jared Sullinger come into play.

Scenario #5: The Kings end up dropping anywhere from 1-3 slots and ending up with the 6-8 pick. The same players will be in the mix.

I expect that in some order Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Thomas Robinson and Bradley Beal will be off the board with the top 4 selections. I can’t see any team trading down from those picks because of the value of those players will be too high to trade down to shed a bad contract. Unless you are the Kings, and then the value is at least some reasonable. Of all the players in the draft, only Andre Drummond has the ability to be a top 5 pick and meriting of one on draft night if he works out well. I could see a team taking a chance, but only if there aren’t better alternatives available. In this particular draft, better alternatives exist which hurts Drummond’s stock a bit.

At the end of the day, much of what the Kings depends on the draft position they are in. That’s nothing new, but the question of how to address some of the real issue’s that surround this team will only matter up to a point. If the Kings are going to end up turning the good ship Le Royals around, it will start with Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins. Drafting Michaell-Kidd Gilchrist, Andre Drummond or Thomas Robinson for that matter will not make a remarkable difference in that respect.

For my money, what Drummond provides as a basketball talent is especially hard to find, and teams have gambled high picks on players not as good as Drummond (see: Hasheem Thabeet). On the other hand, the Kings have a necessary need to get tougher and frankly get players who actually understand what it actually entails to play within a team concept. That said, I doubt that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can automatically change a team culture overnight. Anthony Davis can sure, but MKG is not Davis either. Unless you have the cache to flip Cousins or Evans the bird and keep walking, it’s going to be difficult to get either guys attention. Davis can do that; Kidd-Gilchrist cannot. So despite Kidd-Gilchrists leadership qualities that were clearly evident to anyone paying attention, it’s difficult to see how Kidd-Gilchrist is anything but a cosmetic fix to a deeper problem that beings and ultimately ends with DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans. You can draft a leader, a guy who will play hard and defense, but if you don’t have your two best talents on the team having the same attitude what difference does it really make?

In short, the Kings are going nowhere if Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins don’t grow up. That’s true with or without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. So if that’s true with or without MKG, the need for interior defense/rebounding/shot blocking is a greater need for this roster than a player a bit undersized and certainly not ideal to fill what is widely seen as the biggest hole on the roster. If you’re going to be weak at a position, I’d much rather be weak at SF than either PF or C. That’s me.

Feel free to disagree. Until next time then.