Seated at circular tables in the conference center inside the Westin New York at Times Square and surrounded by a sea of cameras, smartphones and recorders, 20 top-ranked collegiate and international prospects fielded questions from journalists across the globe at Wednesday’s NBA Draft Media Availability session.
Envisioning an exciting opportunity to flourish with the Kings, numerous candidates in contention to be selected with Sacramento’s No. 8 pick spoke favorably about the organization and eagerly anticipated the possibility of joining DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Co. in purple and black. “Oh my goodness – that would be incredible,” said Arizona forward Aaron Gordon, who earned First-Team All-Pac-12 and Third-Team Sporting News All-American honors last season. “(Cousins and Gay) are very, very talented players at different positions, so if I could take a (few) pieces from each one of them, it’s going to be a monster.”
An explosive athlete capable of guarding multiple positions, the energetic 6-foot-9 forward ranked among the conference leaders in rebounding (8.0 per game), blocks (1.0) and field goal percentage (49.5), drawing frequent comparisons to four-time NBA All-Star Shawn Marion.
“I believe I’m a high-character person. I believe I’m a good teammate – that’s the main thing,” said Gordon. “(I bring a) high motor and defense – everybody can use defense.”
Forward Julius Randle – who earned Third-Team All-American and First-Team All-SEC honors en route to guiding the Wildcats to the national championship game – believes he and fellow Kentucky product Cousins would form one of the League’s most formidable frontcourts. “DeMarcus is extremely talented – a really good player – so I think that frontline could be pretty good,” he said.
The bruising big man raved about Sacramento’s play-calling and history of player development.
“(The Kings) do a good job with their forwards – I see how they let Cuz and Rudy Gay play,” said Randle. “I think they do a good job with young guys, too – letting them work through mistakes.”
A terrific inside-outside scorer, as well as an outstanding rebounder and shot-blocker, Indiana big man Noah Vonleh similarly pictures joining No. 15 to form a multifaceted Sacramento frontline.
“I’m a really versatile guy,” said Vonleh. “I can pull guys away from the basket, face up and I think I would really complement him.”
Following his recent workout in the River City, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Third-Team All-Conference selection came away impressed with Sacramento’s front office and the ownership’s long-term vision.
“I thought they were a pretty well-organized organization,” he said. “They had nice facilities and I just liked everything about them. They said they’re building a new arena, so that would be really nice to (play in].”
Oklahoma St. guard Marcus Smart – who’s drawn high praise for his all-around game and passionate leadership – likewise came away excited by the organization’s direction and upbeat outlook after his Sacramento workout.
“The coaching staff, everybody was great – great attitude and everything’s positive,” said the two-time First-Team All-Big 12 selection.
“It’s a young team that’s competing – (they’re) just looking for more guys to come in, compete and help the team any way they can.”
Louisiana-Lafayette guard Elfrid Payton – a terrific two-way player who stuffed the stat sheet with 19.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals per outing – explains his playmaking and sound defensive instincts are among his strongest assets.
“(I’d bring) defense and my ability to run a team, try to get people shots when it’s needed and get those big-time stops when we need it, too,” said the 2013-14 All-Sun Belt Conference selection and League’s Defensive Player of the Year.
“A lot of guys in the NBA are great at scoring, and I think my length could help affect that.”
Syracuse freshman guard Tyler Ennis – who averaged an ACC-leading 5.5 assists and 2.1 steals to go along with 12.9 points per game last season – reveals Sacramento’s high-octane offense would perfectly suit his skill set.
“I think (playing for) the Kings is a great situation for whatever point guard is in there,” said the 6-foot-2 dynamo. “They have so much talent on the wings. They have a bunch of young bigs who are really good. To go in there with that kind of talent and have that roster to pitch to … I think it would be a great fit for me as a pass-first guy.”
The Second-Team All-American and All-ACC Defensive Team member received plenty of positive feedback from team personnel during meetings in Chicago and Sacramento.
“They’re really cool – they were my first interview at the (Pre-draft) Combine, so they just seem so down to Earth,” said Ennis. “You’re there with the G.M. and the owner was there to watch me work out, so I think it’s better when you have owners and front office people (who) kind of have a relationship with you.”
Possessing unlimited range and excellent court vision, Michigan guard Nik Stauskas – who connected on 44.2 percent from behind the arc while leading the Wolverines in both scoring (17.5 points per game) and assists (3.3) – anticipates his outside touch would be a welcome addition.
“I know they have DeMarcus Cousins down low – obviously he’s one of the best bigs in the League – they have Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay,” said the Big Ten Player of the Year. “They have a really talented group over there, so if I can come in and help space the floor, make shots for them, it would be key.”
Duke forward Rodney Hood – who knocked down an ACC-leading 42 percent of his attempts from behind the arc – believes Sacramento would benefit from his efficient long-range scoring, as well.
“I think their team needs shooting and I think I’d fit well with any team that needs shooting,” said the Mississippi native, adding he struck an immediate rapport with Kings General Manager Pete D’Alessandro. “Whether I come off the bench or get a little bit of playing time, I think I can contribute to the team.”
One of the Draft’s most impressive high-flyers and above-the-rim finishers, as well as an adept ball-handler and outside scorer, UCLA guard Zach LaVine pictures getting plenty of good looks by playing alongside Sacramento’s top scorers.
“(Players) like that who draw so much attention, you get a lot of open shots, (plus I’d) be able to get in there and get them shots, as well,” said Pac-12 All-Freshman Team selection. “Playing off of them as a rookie would help me immensely, so I would be in a great situation.”
Creighton forward Doug McDermott – a polished scorer who notched an NCAA-leading 26.7 points per game on 52.6 percent from the field and 44.9 percent from downtown last season – notes the Kings are loaded with remarkable, young talent at every position.
“(There are) a lot of great fans in Sacramento, and they’re definitely building their team around DeMarcus Cousins, who’s obviously one of the best players in the League,” said the AP Player of the Year. “They have a good group of young guys, too – Ben McLemore, I think he’s going to be a superstar. So, I think that would be a great spot.”
- Find out who will be Sacramento’s selection in the 2014 Draft on Thursday, beginning at 4 p.m. PDT on ESPN. Plus, be sure to visit the Kings Draft Viewing Parties at Firestone Public House downtown and Bistro 33 in El Dorado Hills Town Center!