The build-up to the 2018 NBA Draft was rather fascinating. Most reputable NBA Draft analysts believed that Luka Dončić was going to be as sure of a thing as you can find. The Sacramento Kings were among the teams that apparently didn’t feel the same way.
The Kings appear as if they had written off Dončić as an option to select with the 2nd overall selection quite early in the process. According to Jonathan Givony of ESPN, Sacramento came away from watching Dončić in Belgrade after he led Real Madrid to a Euroleague title wanting to favor selecting an American frontcourt player.
The growing consensus among NBA decision-makers in attendance at Stark Arena in Belgrade is that the teams drafting behind the Phoenix Suns at No. 1, the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks are likely to pass on European prodigy in favor of American frontcourt players.
Fast forward to now and Dončić is averaging 30.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 9.2 assists this season while leading a historically efficient offense. The Mavericks hold a 15-6 record and rank fourth in the Western Conference standings. Meanwhile, the Kings have looked effective with Fox and Bagley sidelined lately.
The Kings seem to have overthought their way out of selecting an elite talent. After the draft, Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac told ESPN’s Zach Lowe that they essentially didn’t want Dončić because they wanted to ‘have room to develop’ their key young players, mostly De’Aaron Fox.
“I like Luka,” Divac said. “But we didn’t want to overload with players who — maybe they don’t have the exact same characteristics, but if you want to develop the guys you have, you have to make sure they have room to develop.”
The talent level that Fox is great but he is not transcendent and making major decisions based around non-transcendent talents isn’t wise. He still needs to become a more efficient scorer within the half-court and especially as a jump shooter. Needless to say, he is still only 21-years-old and could develop into being a highly impactful player, but already isn’t on Dončić’s level.
The Kings could have selected Dončić and paired him with sharpshooter Buddy Hield. From that point on, they could have made the determination whether Fox can fit with Dončić and Hield. If the feeling was that Fox wouldn’t have been cohesive, then that’s more telling about Fox above all else and finding a trade suitor to build around Dončić and Hield would have been advantageous.
Let’s not forget that the Kings had a massive amount of salary cap space entering free agency during the 2019 offseason. There would have been great potential to add pieces around a duo of Dončić and Heild along with either Fox or whatever they could have acquired in exchange for him.
It’s safe to say that anyone who had the chance to select Luka Dončić and didn’t do what they could to pull it off should regret it.