SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – The Sacramento Kings took Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox on Thursday night with the fifth pick in the NBA draft and then traded their second lottery pick for two more first-round selections.
Sacramento had a glaring need for a point guard with Darren Collison, Ty Lawson and Langston Galloway all headed to unrestricted free agency next month and general manager Vlade Divac pounced when Fox was available in hopes of finding a leader who can help end an 11-year playoff drought.
“I know it’s going to be tough to change a team, but for me I wanted to come in and be able to affect the game right away,” Fox said. “A lot of people say I could be a franchise changer, and that’s what I really want to be.”
Divac then moved down from the No. 10 spot in a deal with Portland for the 15th and 20th selections. Sacramento took North Carolina forward Justin Jackson with the 15th pick and Duke big man Harry Giles at No. 20.
Fox is extremely quick and a skilled ball handler who showed the ability to get to the basket in his one season at Kentucky. He averaged 16.7 points, 4.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. His biggest weakness is his outside shot after hitting just 24.6 percent of his 3-pointers last season.
Fox boosted his stock when he outplayed UCLA’s Lonzo Ball in the Sweet Sixteen, scoring 39 points in a Wildcats win. But Ball still went ahead of him at second overall to the Los Angeles Lakers and another point guard, Washington’s Markelle Fultz, went first to Philadelphia.
“It doesn’t matter what order we get picked in, the motivation is already there,” Fox said. “We’re all going to the NBA. There’s motivation every game. You’re always playing a great point guard.”
Jackson gives the Kings a wing scorer to replace Rudy Gay, who declined his $14.3 million option to become an unrestricted free agent. Jackson averaged 18.3 points and 4.7 rebounds as a junior for NCAA champion North Carolina last season.
After shooting under 30 percent from 3-point range his first two years, Jackson worked hard at improving his outside shot and made 37 percent last season.
Giles was once one of the top prospects in his class before being hobbled by knee injuries. He played sparingly in his only season at Duke, missing the start of the season recovering from an injury and averaging just 11.5 minutes per game in his 26 contests. He averaged 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
This marked the fourth time since 2010 that the Kings came out of the draft with a first-round player from Kentucky. They drafted center DeMarcus Cousins in 2010, big man Willie Cauley-Stein in 2015 and swapped picks last year to end up with center Skal Labissiere.
The Kings are once again looking to rebuild after missing the playoffs for an 11th straight season. They traded away star Cousins during the season to New Orleans and stumbled to the finish in a 32-50 season under first-year coach Dave Joerger.
By cutting ties with Cousins, Sacramento is trying to build around a core led by young players like Cauley-Stein, Labissiere and Buddy Hield in hopes of developing a team worthy of the fancy new downtown arena that opened last season.
The roster figures to be extremely young next season with only three players signed who are not on rookie contracts. Guards Arron Afflalo and Garrett Temple and center Kosta Koufos are the only veterans on the roster.
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