Kings ready for busy draft with 3 of 1st 31 picks |

Kings ready for busy draft with 3 of 1st 31 picks

AP Sports Writer

If last season’s 17-65 finish was the absolute bottom for the Sacramento Kings, the NBA draft on Thursday had better be the start of the climb back up.

With three of the first 31 picks and a chasm of needs to fill with them, the Kings are positioned to have their biggest impact on the draft in over a decade. Geoff Petrie, the Kings’ top basketball executive, knows a big night could get Sacramento’s fans excited about a franchise with a slim roster, another new coach and an uncertain future in California’s capital.

“In general, we need some more creativity, somebody that can break defenses down off the dribble,” Petrie said. “We need more size. We need to get more athletic, and better defensively. Right now, we have two young big guys (Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson), but we need to add more size up front. We’re not going to do that with one player, and maybe not even in this draft.”

After a pause, Petrie added: “And we need some leadership. Of course, we can’t get all this in one player. Magic Johnson isn’t in this draft.”

Yet Petrie has his eye on over 40 candidates who trekked to Sacramento over the past several weeks. While the Kings’ first pick is likely to be an offense-minded guard, with most believing Petrie prefers Memphis’ Tyreke Evans and Spanish teenager Ricky Rubio, the Kings’ other two picks could come from anywhere.

“I’ve always believed in shading towards the player that you believe can become the best player,” Petrie said. “You have to try and keep some sort of a detached perspective from all the things that fly around about some of this stuff. It’s still an inexact science.”

After finishing with the NBA’s worst record, the Kings slipped to the fourth overall pick in a disappointing draft lottery last month. Sacramento also has Houston’s first-round pick (23rd overall), along with the first pick of the second round (31st).

Although Petrie and the Maloof brothers haven’t had much luck choosing coaches in recent years, Petrie has a largely solid draft record in his 15 years running the Kings. He unearthed European gems Peja Stojakovic and Hedo Turkoglu while recognizing the potential in Jason Williams, Kevin Martin and Gerald Wallace, among others.

Petrie gets some of his perspective on Sacramento’s prospects by personally running most draft workouts, an unusual practice for front-office personnel. For example, when Evans excelled against Davidson’s Stephen Curry, Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn and several other top prospects in a recent workout, Petrie was right there on the court with them.

“You get some of your own personal sense of their speed, and some of their fundamental skills and their ball-handling,” Petrie said. “How good their right hand versus their left hand is, not that you don’t have some sense about that from watching them play. We try to put them in (offensive) sets, and some players, they understand just immediately.”

Petrie agrees with the evaluators who believe the draft class is rife with strong point guards. The Kings clearly could use help at that position, with Beno Udrih’s unimpressive effort last year.

Sacramento loves the strength and toughness of Evans, a 19-year-old who could provide scoring and a physical presence often lacked by the Kings. Yet Evans isn’t a true point guard and would have to learn the position as he matures.

That wouldn’t be a problem with Rubio, the 18-year-old Spanish prodigy who draws comparisons to Pete Maravich. Petrie has seen Rubio play in person four times in the past two years, and Rubio made two trips to Sacramento – although his workout Monday wasn’t particularly satisfying for the Kings or for Rubio.

Yet Rubio still says he would love to play for the Kings, and his flashy play might be a cornerstone for Petrie’s rebuilding project.