Forget Doncic. Damian Lillard Is The Kings Biggest Draft Regret

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 12: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers looks on in the second half against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on November 12, 2019 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 12: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers looks on in the second half against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on November 12, 2019 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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All of the talk this season is about Luka Doncic, but it is Damian Lillard who the Kings would have benefitted from the most.

The biggest roadblock for the Sacramento Kings during their decade-plus long rebuild has been their ineptitude when it comes to scouting and drafting young talent. No matter which regime has been in charge, the franchise just cannot seem to make the correct picks. So while all of the talk this season is about passing on Luka Doncic, it is Damian Lillard who the Kings might have benefitted from the most.

Yes, Doncic is very likely a generational talent and will be an MVP candidate for years to come. He is young, dominant, and is already a veteran when it comes to playing professional basketball. While his body of work is decidedly impressive, it is still rather small, and much of Doncic’s career story has yet to be written.

However, it is not as much the on-court talent as it is the off-court loyalty that would have made Lillard the perfect pick for the Kings back in 2012.

Lillard Bleeds Loyalty

“Loyal” is one of the words that gets thrown around the most when discussing Damian Lillard, and it starts with where he is from. Lillard is as Oakland, California as Oakland, California gets. He is steadfastly proud of where he comes from, particularly his small corner of the city known as Brookfield.

He says that the single “0” that he wears on the back of his jersey is not a number. Instead, it is the letter “O”. O for Oakland. O for Ogden, Utah where he played his collegiate ball. And O for Oregon, where he has made his basketball home.

The piece that he wrote for the Players’ Tribune back in December was titled “Loyalty Over Everything.” A profound quote from that article:

"“Not being a top-5 guy was the best thing that ever happened to me. Thank God I didn’t go 1,2,3,4 or 5. Because who was at six? Who was at six? Portland. My city. My people. I’m saying, you think you know how deep this goes, but you have no idea. When I say that I will never, ever switch up on the city of Portland, I mean what I say. When I say that I will never, ever switch up on this organization, I mean what I say."

How absolutely perfect would Lillard have fit in in Sacramento? California’s capital is arguably the most overlooked city in the state, apart from the Bay Area but close enough to be compared. They call this “Cowtown” and consider it a drive-through city. But we are loyal, both to our city as well as our basketball team. Just like Damian Lillard.

He would have single-handedly changed the culture and future of the franchise. With a level of loyalty as high as his, the Kings could have operated with the confidence that their superstar would remain in town to build around.

Continuing the quote from the Players’ Tribune article (skip this if you’re queasy, Kings fans):

"“I will never switch up on the city. I don’t want it easy. I’m drawn to the struggle. When I came here, we hadn’t won a playoff series since 2000. You had so many injuries to franchise guys like Brandon Roy and Greg Oden over the years, and it’s so tough to come back from that. Even going way back, you had All-Stars like Clyde Drexler and Bill Walton who didn’t choose to end their careers as a Blazer.Well, I’m going to be that. I’m going to carry that. I’m going to bring a ring to this city or go down swinging.”"

“Drawn to the struggle.” It is safe to say that he would have been drawn to Sacramento, then.

In fact, Lillard was asked what team he thought was going to pick him in the 2012 Draft:

The On-Court Product

As for the on-court product, it seems as though we are reminded every few weeks how foolish Sacramento was for passing on Lillard. This week is no different and might be the harshest reminder yet.

Lillard is on an absolute tear, averaging a blistering 48.8 points and 10.2 assists per game since January 20th. His point totals for the six games in that span are 61, 47, 50, 36, 48, and 51. He is willing his team back in to playoff contention after a brutally slow start to the season, and will certainly garner some MVP chatter should he continue to put up big numbers and should Portland continue to win basketball games.

So is Luka Doncic as loyal as Lillard? Possibly, we don’t really know. There is a lot of time left in his career and time will certainly tell. But we know about Lillard. We know for a fact that he stuff expels from his pores. Loyalty is who he is, it is built in to his DNA. He would have been the perfect Sacramento King.

Next. Kings: Top Five Moments Of The Decade. dark

But we picked Thomas Robinson, who was…fine.