Since the Sacramento Kings hired Monte McNair as General Manager and President of Basketball Operations in 2020, two NBA drafts have come and gone. McNair’s first round picks, Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell, have been praised and appear to be solid NBA players with bright futures.
Haliburton, now in Indiana, earned first team all-rookie recognition for the 20-21 season, and while Mitchell was overlooked by voters, he deserved second team all-rookie for the 21-22 season.
With the 4th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, McNair has a chance once more to prove that he has an eye for first round talent.
I don’t question his first round picks. Whatever he chooses to do with the 4th pick, keep it or trade it, I expect the outcome to help Sacramento. However, McNair’s second round picks have not found the value that the Kings need.
The second round picks can be throwaways for other teams, but when your team is viewed as a joke by everyone, including many in Sacramento, you don’t have the luxury to waste second round picks like other GMs.
McNair must find value with every move he makes, and the second round of the NBA draft is a perfect opportunity to find a diamond in the rough. A perfect opportunity to find a player who can contribute with defense, hard work, or maybe even a three-point specialist.
McNair must search for players who can contribute to the team even when their shot isn’t falling. Players who can defend multiple positions or players who will dive for a loose ball and do all the dirty work a winning team needs.
Role players can be found for cheap in the second round if you have an eye for them. They can be found, and perhaps, if you have a solid development program like the Toronto Raptors, they can become more than role players.
Through two drafts, McNair’s second round picks have been disappointing. In the second round of the 2020 NBA Draft, he drafted and traded Xavier Tillman at 35 to move back five spots and pick Robert Woodard. He drafted Jahmi’us Ramsey at 43 and traded away Kenyon Martin Jr. at 52.
When the Kings traded back to 40, Jordan Nwora, Isaiah Joe, and Lamar Stevens were all available. When the Kings picked at 43, they were still available.
With the 39th pick in the 2021 draft, McNair selected Neemias Queta when Jared Butler and Kessler Edwards were still available.
While Queta still has time to develop, Woodard and Ramsey were cut at the trade deadline to open up roster spots for incoming players. Wasted picks that didn’t add value in any way.
Nwora, Kessler, Joe, Butler and Stevens have shown, in small samples, that they can contribute to an NBA team.
Would the Kings be in the playoffs if they had drafted Nwora, Joe, Stevens, Edwards, or Butler? No. But just like the New Orleans Pelicans, who drafted Herbert Jones in the second round of the 2021 draft, they could have added another contributor who brought value to the team either by playing or in a trade.
As we approach the 2022 NBA Draft, McNair once again has a pair of second round picks at his disposal. He must use them to bring value to the team either by picking prospects who can contribute or by trading the picks to move up.
McNair has been great for Sacramento, but for a team that needs assets and good defenders, the Sacramento Kings can’t afford to waste any picks, whether they are first or second rounders.