2012 NBA Draft: View from a Losing City

Can a player be a bust after one year? Can a 6-2 shooting guard shoot 38% from the field? Ask Jimmer! (Photo Credit: NBA.com)

I’m actually writing this post from the international terminal at the Auckland Airport so I don’t know what the view of the draft is like from here.

This Thursday evening June 28th, is the annual NBA draft.  This is the day when the hopeless get hope.  Unless, of course, you’re a Sacramento Kings fan, then you know you’re getting screwed.

Last years draft was a debacle.  The drafting of Jimmer Fredette was a last-ditch effort to attract a crowd to Sacramento home games in a ‘contract year’ for the team and city.  In case you hadn’t heard, the Kings were on the verge of leaving Sacramento at the end of the 2011 season, for the greener pastures of Los Angeles.  They were given a one-year extension to try to work out a long-term deal to keep the team in town.  Knowing that the team had a year to make a good impression, they picked Fredette to try to spark the home crowd into attendance.  He was one of the most prolific scorers in college basketball history and initially, when all of his jerseys sold out, both in stores and online, it appeared to be a success.

There were two major problems with the move, first and foremost, his play.  It was obvious that his game was going to be difficult to translate to the NBA.  He’s a natural scorer, but stands only 6’2”.  The plan is to develop him as a point guard, but he’s shown no propensity, in college or the pros, to defend or pass.  There was one, and only one, reason why he was drafted and that was to create a buzz.  And he did.  But most draft analysts considered it one of the worst picks of the draft.  What made even less sense is the maneuvring it took to acquire him (the second problem).  We started the draft with the 7th pick, but traded it and Beno Udrih’s contract for the 10th pick (used on Fredette) and John Salmons’ even longer contract.  We could have simply drafted Fredette with #7 and saved money.

A lot is being made about his eyebrow(s) but I just think he’s a good player. (Photo Credit: eurweb.com)

This year’s draft holds even less promise.  We hold the number 5 selection and that should, for a normal team, generate some excitement.  There is a clear #1 overall in Kentucky’s Anthony Davis.  According to most draftniks, there are solid picks up through the 5th spot (some have a drop off occurring after the 5th selection, while others see the depth extending deeper).  Thomas Robinson, Bradley Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes…anyone of these players would be a welcome addition to the Kings roster.  The problem is, not one of them would come for a workout.  None of them have publicly said that they won’t play for Sacramento, a la Ricky Rubio and the Minnesota Timberwolves following the 2009 draft.

Why don’t young players want to play for Sacramento?  Chris Webber famously implied that it wasn’t ‘black’ enough, saying there was no good soul food.  He has a point.  My mother is from Sacramento and I lived there during a couple of periods in my life and it’s definitely not the epicenter of ‘urban’ culture that some of the other NBA destinations might be.  Urban or not, it’s just not a destination, period.  And this is one of the big problems with the NBA.  They’ve expanded to 30 teams over the years and now you have teams in cities like Indianapolis, San Antonio, Minneapolis and Sacramento.  There’s nothing wrong with having franchises located in these places, it’s just hard to convince young players that they want to spend the winter in Minnesota.  Why would Ricky Rubio want to leave Barcelona to play in Minnesota?  With the expansion of the league into so many markets, most people worried about a dilution of talent.  What we have is a dilution of markets.  It’s hard to envision how a team can be successful in Sacramento.

Wizards v/s Spurs 02/12/11

Tim Duncan, champion of the small market team! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

San Antonio has managed to stay on or near the top of the heap since winning their first title in 1999, despite being from a smaller, more marginal market.  Now clearly, they have a superstar talent, in Tim Duncan, who has quietly led the through four title runs, is a first ballot Hall-of-Famer in my eyes, and is could be considered the best player of his generation.  They lucked into the #1 overall pick that year and the rest is history.  Success breeds success in the NBA.  More than in any other of the major sports leagues, dynasties are built and maintained on the back of the superstars.  Titles, and their possible procurement, draw veteran players to play for franchises like the Kings.  Had the Kings won a title in the early 2000’s, there’s no telling what state the franchise would be in.  By most accounts, they were robbed in 2002 in their series to the Lakers, and I view that as the turning point.  That was the high-water mark for the team.  Once the water receded there was no going back up that hill.  And like a lot of the water in Northern California, it could flow right down to Los Angeles.

More Reading:

Basketball’s version of the great train robbery, the Kings 2002 loss to the Lakers, as told though the eyes of a fan.  (roundballdaily.com)

Latest news has the Kings trading back due to lack of interest in playing for the Kings among the top 5 picks.

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