SIERRA SCOOP: Kings must find a spark in the draft

By: Todd Mordhorst, Journal Sports Editor
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The Kings don’t need a strong draft on Thursday to improve their team as much as they need it to improve their relevance. In a certain sense, the two go hand-in-hand. But a team is usually intriguing before it becomes really good. The Kings could use a dynamic point guard, an athletic swingman and/or another quality big man. But more than that they need a dynamic personality and some flare. Sound familiar? Sacramento was a team with little identity in 1998 before a dramatic makeover. Jason Williams was drafted seventh overall out of Florida. Chris Webber was acquired via trade and Vlade Divac came to the capital via free agency. The Kings also signed Peja Stojakovic prior to the 1998-99 season after originally drafting him in ‘96. Sacramento suddenly was the most exciting team in the NBA. The spark was Williams, who was considered a slight reach at No. 7 in the draft. But his playmaking and personality were a perfect fit for the Kings. Williams’ enthusiasm didn’t make the Kings an NBA title contender — they weren’t legitimate contenders until Mike Bibby arrived. But J-Will made people pay attention to the Kings. His jersey was one of the top sellers in the league. His no-look passes made SportsCenter highlights every other night. Arco Arena was packed for every game and NorCal was buzzing about the Kings. Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio may be the next Jason Williams. His speed and passing ability compare favorably, and while, like Williams, he’s not a great shooter at this point in his young career, at 18 years old, he’s bound to get better. But he may not be there when the Kings make their first pick at No. 4. Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn is a dynamic scorer and passer. He could be the floor leader the Kings are looking for in this draft and would be a logical choice, though he isn’t a top 5 pick according to most draft prognosticators. Kings G.M. Geoff Petrie has to be taking a long look at Davidson sensation Stephen Curry. He’s the draft’s best shooter, his passing is highly underrated and he’s a joy to watch. With three picks in this year’s draft, the Kings’ fate for the next five or six years is likely riding on Thursday’s selections. The experts are saying there aren’t many, if any, future superstars in this draft. But the Kings need quality players and lots of them, right now. Petrie should be considering any and all trade offers. The team could turn around in a hurry with a few slick moves, a la 10 years ago. If there are any duds in the Kings’ crop this year, we could see more of the same from last season’s train wreck. Sacramento basketball fans have shown over the past two years they aren’t willing to pay for mediocre hoops and dry personalities.