Baller Mind Frame

Pre-draft Sacramento Kings workouts spark new possibilities

The Sacramento Kings have displayed supreme interest in draft prospect Aaron Gordon, a defensive-minded player with the ability to bring a fresh new skill set to a team which lacks on-ball pressure. The Kings have already invited Gordon for private workouts, and have pushed to keep in close contact with what looks like a good choice for a team that lacks transition and fast break prowess. Hoping to pair the young player with DeMarcus Cousins in the paint, the incoming rookie fits the team’s needs at both forward positions, as it’s looking more and more like Rudy Gay may be out of Sacramento by next season.

Of course, the team has been exploring all options with care, as potential selections Noah Vonleh and Marcus Smart seem to fit the Kings’ many needs. Both worked out with the team on June 2 and appear to be the frontrunners for selection if Gordon does not end up heading to Sacramento.

With Smart comes a strong point guard with the innate ability to disrupt passing lanes and keep active hands when guarding opposing players; his particular skill set could be increasingly deadly if paired with Ben McLemore and Derrick Williams, two players looking to fully come into their own games and reek havoc in transition. Coming out of Oklahoma State after his 2013-14 sophomore season, Smart was one of five finalists for the Cousy Award, an especially prestigious feat considering that he was the only freshman on the list. The most promising aspect of his achievement at the collegiate level is that Smart’s game still has so much potential to be developed and grown into something which could be potent and effective at the professional level.

Noah Vonleh worked out with the Kings on the same day as Smart, a move by the team designed to keep competitive spirits high to display the full extent of the players’ games. Vonleh fits the bill defensively as well; he finished eighth in blocked shots in the Big Ten. He also shot 52.3 percent from the floor and 48.5 percent from the three-point line, marks which should make every Sacramento Kings fan drool over the fact that an ultra-efficient power forward very well may be picked to play alongside Cousins. The key here is the second-chance opportunities and offensive efficiency Vonleh brings to the table. All this paired with his renowned rebounding and shot blocking ability, and it’s possible that the Kings could select Vonleh over Gordon in the 2014 draft.

As it currently stands, the Sacramento Kings don’t have a second-round pick in the upcoming 2014 draft. That said, the team has expressed full support of pursuing a pick, and has been exploring possible players to select if the occasion should arise. The Kings held workouts for these possible second-round selections, two of which include combo guard Xavier Thames and small forward C.J. Fair. As the team has considered both players deeply, it’s clear that the organization is recognizing missing components of its roster and intends to fill them, potentially through the draft.

Thames is the Sacramento native in a draft which features a slew of international players. He started 25 of his San Diego State team’s 30 contests, missing four of them with a back injury. His ability to create his own shot and get himself to the free-throw line is especially promising to the Kings, as the team’s offense tends to grow stagnant as the play clock winds down and the offense falls apart. His 83.4 percent free-throw percentage ranks him as one of the most efficient free-throw shooters in the draft class. Thames improved his shooting efficiency over his collegiate career, shooting 41.1 percent from the field in his 2013-14 season. He isn’t the most polished offensive player, but his ability to play both guard positions and his potential to grow alongside McLemore as an equally inexperienced player may be positive for the both of them. In any case, Thames has expressed thorough appreciation of the Kings and appears to be open to playing for Sacramento.

“If I had to chose any spot it would be Sacramento. Playing here in my hometown, my family would get to see me, and anybody that I know has grown up here. If I had a chance, I would play here,” Thames said.

With Sacramento’s main focus in workouts being defense, Thames appears more and more promising as he personally prides himself on this side of the ball. Hoping to impress the Kings organization with his defensive ability in college and in his workout, it will be noted by this team that Thames could be an option if the Kings select a forward in the first round rather than Marcus Smart who will likely be available. Thames can play both guard positions, allowing his defense to stretch to either position.

“It’s just reading my man. There’s a lot of quick, athletic defenders at the next level, and even in these workouts a lot of guys are quick. So I try to use my length. I’ve got very quick hands and I try to contest every shot,” Thames explained regarding his defense.

Along with Thames is an equally promising second-round option in Fair, the senior out of Syracuse who averaged 16.5 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Orange, becoming the 58th Syracuse player to finish with at least 1,000 points in their college career. He did so his junior year, and used his final season with the Orange to raise his scoring totals as he took on more opportunity and responsibility, playing over 37 minutes at both forward positions. His efficiency dropped in both field goal and three-point percentage, a clear outcome of the extra weight put on his shoulders for his team.

If the Kings acquire a second round pick and select Fair, it will likely be to develop his game and give them a traditional look in the front court with Cousins and Fair clogging the paint. When asked to come work out with the team so that both sides could get a feel for the possibility of Fair becoming a King, he was as impressed as the organization was.

“Sacramento, they give you a chance to really show your game. They don’t really limit you. They really let you just roll the ball out and let you play,” Fair said after the workout ended.

Fair is projected to go late in the second round, and his currently full schedule of workouts for various NBA teams makes it apparent that he is an NBA-ready talent. He fits in nicely in numerous situations, including Sacramento’s, but his ultimate decider will be on draft night when all potential rookies have their fates decided.

The Kings are looking into the possibility of trades to acquire a second round pick. The most important aspect of rebuilding this team will not be the gathering of experienced veterans, but rather the construction of an athletic core of young players arriving in the upcoming 2014 draft.

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