Before I dissect Keegan Murray’s fit with the Sacramento Kings, I must say this - Thursday night, we witnessed history. The University of Iowa Men’s Basketball program had a player selected FOURTH overall in the NBA draft, a truly incredible achievement for a program that was in the midst of a nuclear winter 12 years ago. Seriously, this is historic stuff, and probably more incredible than anything the football program has ever achieved under Kirk Ferentz.
I think what Fran McCaffery just did with Keegan Murray might be as impressive as anything Kirk Ferentz has done with a player. Clark, Gallery, Greenway, and many others are in the conversation.— Andrew Downs (@AndrewCDowns) June 24, 2022
Taking a relative unknown and turning them into a legit star.
Harrison and I discussed this tweet briefly Thursday night, but honestly? We didn’t give it enough airtime. This is 100 percent true, based on what Harrison said. This is more impressive than any draft pick for the NFL. Basketball is far more global than American football can ever hope to be. The pool of players available in a 60-pick draft is exponentially bigger than it was 30 years ago. Players from all over the planet are drafted, in a two-round draft. The overwhelming favorite to be the top pick next year is a Frenchman, Victor Wembanyama. The last two MVPs have been Greek and Serbian, over a 4-season stretch. (Speaking of the Greek - ESPN’s comp for Chet Holmgren was Giannis. Can we not do that? Chet hasn’t played a single second in the NBA, whereas Giannis is a two-time MVP, won the title a year ago and would have had a shot at a second were it not for Khris Middleton getting hurt in the first round this year, and is pound-for-pound the best player in the world. I worry about Chet’s strength, despite his skill set, but can we slow down just a tad, ESPN?) This isn’t the draft of 35 years ago that was several rounds deep. Top 4 overall, in this era with so many foreign-born players making the jump to the NBA??? That is incredibly rare air and a truly amazing accomplishment for Keegan and the Iowa program.
That out of the way - I know what I said in April when Keegan declared. This was one of a handful of franchises I didn’t want Keegan to end up with. It’s an organization that has made bad choice after bad choice after bad choice and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2005-2006. They always think they are one (1) move away from the playoffs, and that’s always been 100 percent dream land for the Kings and their front office.
Then there’s this. If you follow the NBA, you surely saw this tweet:
That’s three Hall of Famers missed by a single pick and a reason to be scared that Keegan is forever compared to Jayden Ivey, assuming Ivey turns into a star. Doncic is a good bet to get an MVP award, sooner rather than later. Klay is the second-best shooter ever, has four titles and could get more since the Warriors have a title window again, and his numbers would be right behind Stephen Curry’s from a shooting/made 3s perspective had he not lost so much time to the torn ACL then the Achilles in back-to-back seasons. Lillard was on the recent NBA 75th anniversary team and probably lands in the Hall of Fame as well (Dame is great, but seriously, that is absurd that he made Top 75 and Klay didn’t).
Their ownership is, uh, interesting and doesn’t help anything. The Sacramento Bee published an article in April titled, “Basketball Hell: How Vivek Ranadive Turned Sacramento Kings into NBA’s Biggest Losers.” It isn’t the greatest endorsement of an owner I’ve ever read. He certainly stands in stark contrast to the Warriors ownership group 90 miles away that gives zero f**** about the salary cap/luxury tax, to the point that if they re-sign a few of the free agents on their roster (Kevon Looney, Otto Porter, Jr., and Gary Payton II the most likely re-signings) it could push their combined salary/luxury tax bill north of $400 million, and actually closer to $450 million. They spend a ton of money to win, which is exactly what you’d want ownership of the team you follow to do, and they’ve built an awesome culture. But hey - Vivek’s not a Russian oligarch, so that’s good.
BUT - we veer into the positives here - the Sacramento roster isn’t terrible and the fans seem to be rallying around their general manager, Monte McNair. He seems to have stuff in order and may have been able to keep Vivek out of personnel decisions. (Vivek is apparently one of two people that pushed for Marvin Bagley over Luka Doncic, per that Bee article. Very good decision there, as Doncic is an MVP and Bagley is playing in...Detroit.) Their starting 5 is probably Keegan, Domantas Sabonis, De’Aaron Fox, Davion Mitchell, and Harrison Barnes. That’s not a bad group. They don’t have a clear-cut #1, but that’s fine. Realize there is something like 8-10 of those guys in the entire NBA. They need another bench guy or two - they need more than Donte DiVincenzo, Richaun Holmes, and Trey Lyles - but it’s not a bad roster! And they have a good coach now in Mike Brown, someone that will instill some toughness and defense in a team that hasn’t finished in the top half of the league in points per possession allowed since - you guessed it - 2005-2006.
There isn’t a ton of room between them and the last play-in spot, either. The Kings were 30-52 last year, finishing 12th in the West. The Lakers were 11th at 33-49. The Spurs were 34-48 and made the last play-in spot. The Lakers are still a mess and while I haven’t had a chance to do a ton of research on this, the Spurs are trying to trade their best player for some reason. Would Gregg Popovich want to hang around for a giant rebuild? It’s kind of late for him to bail out at this point, but the Spurs might be creeping toward “blow it up” territory. At worst, the Kings will be fun to watch, a good NBA League Pass team, even if their record doesn’t reflect it.
Speaking of - NBA League Pass is $199.99 annually. If you wish to see Keegan Murray play, think about that purchase.