The Sacramento Kings became one of the best teams in the Western Conference this past season and have one of the youngest cores in the NBA. Entering a crucial offseason for the franchise, the 2023 NBA Draft could play a decisive role in determining this team’s future.
Sacramento is picking outside of the draft lottery for the first time since 2006, when it selected Quincy Douby with the 19th overall pick. Holding the 24th overall pick, this will be the first time since 2005 that the Kings held a first-round pick outside of the top-20 selections.
Related: 2023 NBA Draft order, picks by team
With some clear needs in the rotation, limited cap space and draft capital, let’s examine how the Kings can use the upcoming NBA Draft to improve.
Sacramento Kings draft picks 2023
The Kings have the 24th overall pick in the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft and two second-round picks, with two top-40 selections.
- 1st Round, 24th overall
- 2nd Round, 38th overall (via IND)
- 2nd round, 54th overall
Related: Sacramento Kings expected to shop top pick, identifying 3 targets
Sacramento Kings draft targets
Kris Murray, forward, Iowa Hawkeyes
The brother of Keegan Murray, who broke the NBA record for most three-pointers by a rookie, Kris Murray is training with his brother during the pre-draft process. Naturally, the two already have chemistry both from their time together growing up and sharing the court at Iowa.
- Keegan Murray college stats (2021-’22): 23.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 55.4% FG, 39.8% 3PT
- Kris Murray college stats (2022-’23): 20.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 47.6% FG, 33.5% 3PT
Murray, a 6-foot-8 forward, has drawn plenty of NBA comparisons to his brother. In his age-22 season, Murray proved to be an effective shooter who operated well without the basketball in his hands. He ranked fifth in the Big Ten in Offensive Win Shares (3.6) and was fourth in points produced per game (18.4).
He can be a streaky shooter. Murray shot 40.3 percent from the perimeter in November then 27.3 percent in December, 35.4 percent in February and he closed out February hitting 25 percent of his three-point attempts. However, Murray is also an effective creator for teammates (11.7 percent assist rate) and he brings a high basketball IQ that helps him on both ends of the court. Given Keegan’s success in Sacramento last season, it’s not unreasonable to think the Kings might want a left-handed version of the same player.
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Rayan Rupert, wing, New Zealand Breakers
Sacramento finished the regular season ranked 24th in defensive efficiency (1.129), defensive rating (116) and finished 26th in opponents’ effective field goal rate (56 percent). Among the biggest issues, Sacramento struggled to defend the wings with the second-highest scoring average (23.43 PPG) allowed to small forward.
Enter Rayan Rupert. The 6-foot-6 wing was one of the best defensive players overseas this past season and draws NBA comparisons to OG Anunoby. With elite athleticism and a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Rupert offers the physical tools to be a high-end defender in the NBA.
What helps Rupert even more on the defensive end is his intellect, tenacity and quick-twitch hands to be a disruptor both in the passing lanes and as an on-ball defender. Sacramento’s coaching staff would need to do a lot of work on his offensive game, which as of now is just ballhandling and raw athletic tools. Defense should be the focus and Rupert is one of the best defenders outside the top-10 picks. Rupert is among our favorite Kings draft targets.
Noah Clowney, forward, Alabama
While Brandon Miller stole the show this past season with the Alabama Crimson Tide, Noah Clowney is another first-round talent from the program. A four-star recruit in 2020, Clowney proved to be an integral part of Alabama’s success.
- Noah Clowney stats (2022-’23): 9.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 48.6% FG in 25.4 MPG
Clowney, 6-foot-10, projects into a role similar to how Sacramento used Trey Lyles in the playoff series (The Box and One). With a 7-foot-2 wingspan and upper-echelon athleticism, Clowney brings positional versatility as someone who can be a small-ball five or a quality power forward.
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Defensively, he proved capable of switching at Alabama and that is crucial when projecting him to the next level. He is also relentless near the paint, ranking fifth in the SEC in black percentage (3.4 percent) and fourth in defensive rebound percentage (21.4 percent). He turns 19 years old in July and needs to add a lot of muscle to his game, but the physical tools, work ethic and mentality all suggest he can at least reach his floor of a high-end rotational big man.
Bilal Coulibaly, wing, France
Overshadowed by teammate Victor Wembanyama, Bilal Coulibaly still found a way to attract the attention of NBA scouts. The 6-foot-7 wing offers elite length (7-foot-1 wingspan)
“He’s a project whom teams are fascinated by because of those athletic tools. If you get him out in transition, he’s a freight train. The jumper mechanics look projectable — albeit a bit hitchy with a long release — even if he’s only made 34 percent from 3 so far this season across all competitions, including in the Espoir youth league in France.”Sam Vecenie of The Athletic on Bilal Coulibaly
There is a lot of projection for Coulibaly, who is one of the youngest prospects in the 2023 NBA Draft. Turning 19 this summer, there are a lot of qualities that are similar to Rupert. Sacramento would be looking at a teenager with an All-Defensive Team upside on the wing and there’s enough athleticism for him to become a slasher who can be an interior scoring threat.
Coulibaly likely won’t be ready to handle a lot of minutes in his rookie season, but he could be a rotational defender for the Kings in 2023-’24 and eventually blossom into a starter.
Dereck Lively II, center, Duke
Dereck Lively was the No. 3 overall recruit in 247 Sports 2022 rankings and he ultimately landed with the Duke Blue Devils. The 7-foot-1 center had to earn his minutes as a freshman, but he looked a lot more comfortable once he settled in.
- Dereck Lively stats (2022-’23): 5.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 65.8% FG in 20.6 MPG
After averaging 16.6 minutes per game in his first 20 contests – 4.4 PPG, 4.05 RPG, 2 BPG – Lively took off late in the year. In his final 14 regular-season contests with the Blue Devils, Lively averaged 26.2 minutes per game while averaging 7.4 rebounds and 3 blocks per night. By the end of the season, Lively ranked first in Defensive Box Plus/Minus (6.8) and third in block percentage (12.7 percent) in the nation.
Consider where Sacramento struggled last season. It allowed the fifth-most points in the paint per game (53.5) to opponents and rebounding became an even bigger issue late in the season. Those are areas where Lively really made strides near the end of his freshman season and it’s clear he has a good feel for the game. He will need to become a more aggressive and physical player, but he should be one of the top Kings draft targets.
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Sacramento Kings draft needs
- Wing defenders
- Defensive rebounding
- Interior defense
Related: NBA Draft rumors
2023 Sacramento Kings mock draft
- Round 1, 24th overall: Rayan Rupert, wing, New Zealand Breakers
- Round 2, 38th overall: James Nnanji, center, Barcelona (ACB)
- Round 2, 54th overall: Terquavion Smith, G, NC State