COMMENTARY | The NBA draft isn't until June 27 and free agency doesn't open up until July 1, but the Sacramento Kings have already made what may end up as their most meaningful offseason acquisition.
No, it's not new head coach Mike Malone or new GM Pete D'Alessandro. It's a man who will likely remain behind the scenes, newly minted assistant GM Mike Bratz, who is coming over to the Kings along with D'Alessandro. Bratz was the head scout and director of player personnel with the Denver Nuggets during the reign of Masai Ujiri, who also recently jumped ship to return to the Toronto Raptors.
Why does this move matter so much? Because Bratz has a phenomenal track record of picking gems in the NBA draft. This move will never get much attention because it's not a flashy free-agent signing or even the hiring of a lead executive. Nonetheless, it has the potential to have huge impact on the Kings' long-term success.
Despite their early dismissal from the playoffs, the Nuggets just pulled off a franchise-record 57-win season. The national sports media pinned most of the Nuggets' success on the treasure trove of assets they got back from the New York Knicks in the mega-deal that jettisoned Carmelo Anthony from the Mile High City. But the real story of the Nuggets' resurgence lies in their huge draft successes in the back half of the first round.
Since 2009, they have taken Ty Lawson at #18 (via trade), Kenneth Faried at #22 and Evan Fournier at #20. Collectively, that's one heck of a track record. Lawson's a borderline All-Star point guard; Faried will have a long career racking up double-doubles as a starting power forward in the NBA; and Fournier, who showed flashes of brilliance in very limited action in his rookie year, could end up as the best of the bunch in the long term. After all, he's still just 20 years old.
And that brings us back to Bratz. We'll never know who in the Nuggets front office ultimately made the call on Lawson, Faried and Fournier. But we do know that the picks were made when Bratz helmed Nuggets scouting, and that's cause for incredible optimism for Kings fans. Looking back at the history of the 2009, 2011, and 2012 drafts, there were no players taken after those three that the Nuggets likely regret missing out on.
The Kings had a major whiff in the 2012 draft when they took Thomas Robinson with the fifth pick. Adding salt to the wound, Damian Lillard and Harrison Barnes went sixth and seventh. Sacramento will never be a marquee free-agent destination, and it can't afford to miss in the draft when it has a top pick.
Thankfully, the Kings scored big when Bratz joined the front office. This is just one more reason why it's great to be a Kings fan right now.
Doug Brockwell is a lifelong follower of NBA basketball who grew up cheering for the Denver Nuggets. After relocating to Northern California in 2008, he began to follow the Sacramento Kings, who remind him of the endearingly hapless Nuggets squads of the '90s that he endured as a kid.
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