SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Without a first-round pick for the first time since 2003, Sacramento Kings general manager Vlade Divac loaded up in the second round of the NBA Draft and went for potential and depth in their backcourt over need.
The Kings added a pair of scorers in Wyoming’s Justin James and Virginia’s Kyle Guy, along with a project player in Serbia’s Vanja Marinkovic who may not even play in the NBA immediately.
All three, Divac says, fit into Sacramento’s long-term plans.
“It was more the best player that can fit the way we want to play in the future. The outcome was perfect for us,” Divac said. “A lot of work in front of them and they have to earn it. We got three top kids that we felt like they have the ability to be an NBA player. The way we want to play, they fit perfectly for us.”
The Kings took James with the 40th overall pick. James led the Mountain West Conference with 22.1 points a game as a senior. The 6-foot-7, 190-pound wing also averaged 8.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists for the Cowboys. James finished his four-year career with 2,061 points, fourth-most in conference history.
Of the three players the Kings added, James is likely to make the biggest impact. Sacramento was looking for scoring help from the wing after Harrison Barnes opted out of the final year of his contract.
“He’s a combo guard, very strong, very smart basketball IQ,” Divac said. “He can definitely keep up the way we want to play. I think he’s a ready NBA player.”
The Kings are looking for perimeter scoring after Harrison Barnes opted out of the final year of his contract and became a free agent.
James joins a Kings team that made significant strides last season but finished ninth in the crowded West.
Sacramento’s 39-43 record was its best in 13 seasons and a 12-game improvement from the previous year. But it wasn’t enough to save Dave Joerger, who was fired after three seasons.
Luke Walton was hired to replace Joerger in April, two days after being fired by the Lakers.
In Los Angeles, Walton often found himself overshadowed by the presence of four-time MVP LeBron James, who turns 35 in December. With Sacramento, Walton will oversee a team whose core players are still in their NBA infancy. Buddy Hield is 26, De’Aaron Fox is 21 and Marvin Bagley III, the second overall pick in 2018, is 20.
And that was before Divac added three more young players to the roster.
Sacramento obtained the rights to Guy after drafting Michigan freshman Ignas Brazdeikis with the 47th overall pick then shipping Brazdeikis’ rights to the New York Knicks in exchange for cash considerations and Guy, who was the 55th overall pick.
Guy was the MVP of the Final Four after leading the Cavaliers to the national championship. He averaged 15.4 points and made 120 3-pointers during his final season at Virginia.
The hope is that Guy can complement Sacramento’s perimeter shooting in the backcourt.
“His shooting is just exceptional,” Divac said. “I’m very confident he’s one of the best shooters in this class.”
With the 60th and final pick of the draft, Sacramento selected Marinkovic, the Serbian guard who averaaged 11.7 points for Partizan Begrade of the Serbian League.
Marinkovic may stay in Europe for another season, although Divac sounded optimistic that the 22-year-old will be in Sacrament this year.
The three newcomers add more youth to a team that was already one of the youngest in the NBA. The hope is that the trio can also upgrade the Kings’ perimeter shooting while adjusting to Sacramento’s fast-paced offense.
“You saw last year so basically we’re just going to continue to play that way,” Divac said. “We need the players that can fit on our style. All three of them are good fits for us.”
The Kings had three picks in the second round but didn’t have a first-rounder. The selection was traded to Philadelphia in 2015 as part of a salary dump when the team was attempting to clear cap space to sign Rajon Rondo.
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