Prospects roll through Sacramento, Jordi Fernandez still in running for Raptors job

Prospects, Jordi and potential California Classic news

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Outside of the NBA Finals, the summer schedule is in a lull. It won’t last long with the NBA Draft a little over three weeks away, but the news stream has been relegated to a trickle.

In a similar fashion to last summer, the Kings have made the internal decision to keep media away from the draft process. We have a few names that have rolled through Sacramento, but when they come in waves of six prospects and we learn one or two of the participants, it leaves a pretty substantial hole in the overall picture.

Sacramento currently holds the No. 24 pick in the first round, as well as picks No. 38 and No. 54 in round two. Under general manager Monte McNair, the Kings have traded away their second round selections multiple times, including last season when they traded both the 37th and 49th overall selections in separate trades.

A new change to the CBA added a third two-way contract for this season, which may change McNair’s draft strategy. The Kings currently hold two-way rights to both Neemias Queta and Keon Ellis, although neither is under contract moving forward. That means that McNair has all three two-way contracts to work with as he fills out his roster.

Two-way contracts are basically roster spots 16, 17 and 18 for an NBA squad. Players on two-way contracts are paid half of a league rookie minimum contract and they can appear in as many as 50 games with the parent club, as well as an unlimited amount of games at the G League level.

With three spots up for grabs, the Kings will do their due diligence over the coming weeks leading up to the June 22 Draft night. It started before the NBA combine, which ran from May 16-18, but the team should be in full host mode as groups of six players come through the practice facility for workouts and interviews.

So far, we have confirmation that Oscar Tshiebwe, a 6-foot-9, 260 pound Congolese center out of Kentucky has rolled through Sacramento. Tshiebwe is a Naismith Award winner with a proven track record at the NCAA level.

The 23-year-old big man averaged 16.5 points, 13.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals and a block per game in his senior season at Kentucky. If the Kings are looking for a banger near the back end of the draft where they select at pick No. 54, or even an undrafted free agent, Tshiebwe is an interesting prospect to develop at the G League level.

Our friend Brenden Nunes broke the news last week that Julian Phillips out of Tennessee visited over the weekend and added that Dillon Mitchell from Texas has also swung by for a meeting with the Kings.

Phillips is raw and he struggled offensively in his freshman season with the Volunteers after coming in as a five-star recruit. He helped himself at the combine, measuring in at 6-foot-6.75 without shoes, and with a 6-foot-11.5 wingspan. His 36-inch standing vertical and 43 max vert jump were both tops at the combine this year and show his immense athletic potential.

With his strong performance in front of talent evaluators, Phillips is projected to go in the early second round, near where the Kings hold the No. 38 pick. Still just 19 years old, this is a high-risk, high-reward type selection that could pay dividends down the road.

Physically speaking, Mitchell and Phillips have a lot in common. Mitchell measured in at an identical 6-foot-6.75, although his wingspan of 6-foot-10 is a little less impressive. He posted a 30.5 inch standing vert with a max vert of 37 inches.

Mitchell never quite put it together in his freshman year at Texas, averaging 4.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 17.5 minutes per game. In 38 games, he failed to take a single 3-point shot, which is worrisome for a player who should project as a 3-and-D wing. He’s considered a late second round selection or possibly even an undrafted player in most mock drafts at this point.

Another one of our Kings Beat friends, Sean Cunningham from Fox 40, added two more names to the list over the weekend, including Jalen Wilson of Kansas and Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis.

Wilson posted an impressive 20.1 points and 8.3 rebounds in his final season at Kansas. He helped lead the Jayhawks to a national championship as a junior and took major strides in his senior season under Bill Self.

A proven winner, Wilson measured in at 6-foot-5.5 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan at the combine. His 31.5 inch standing vert and 35 inch max vert are solid for a player of his size. At 22 years old and with 104 games of NCAA experience, Wilson might be ready to play at least a small role with a team in year one. He’s projected to go in the late first to early second round in this year’s draft.

The last prospect on the list is Jackson-Davis, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite prospects for the Kings. The Indiana product had a very impressive combine, measuring out at 6-foot-8.5 without shoes, 240 pounds with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. For a player his size, he helped himself again when he posted a 33-inch standing vert with a max of 36.5 inches.

An older prospect at 23 years old, Jackson-Davis averaged 20.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, four assists and 2.9 blocks in 34.5 minutes per game for the Hoosiers. Listed as a center, Jackson-Davis is one of the few true shot blockers in this year’s draft class. On the downside, he took a total of three 3-point shots over his four seasons at the NCAA level and missed all of them.

Jackson-Davis is projected to go anywhere from the early to late second round, putting him in the Kings’ range at both 38 and 54. Like Wilson, he is a mature prospect who could potentially play earlier in his career and at worst, would be a starting level player at the G League level in year one.

We’ll continue to track players as they come through for visits, although the information has been hit and miss.

Still in the running?

Kings associate head coach Jordi Fernandez has interviewed and been mentioned for plenty of jobs already this offseason. He made the initial list of finalists for the Phoenix Suns job, but as of Tuesday morning, it appears he is out of the running for the job as they hit the decision making stage.

According to John Gambadora of Arizona Sports 98.7, the Suns have narrowed their list to Doc Rivers, Frank Vogel and Kevin Young for the job. While the post in Phoenix is desirable, it isn’t the only vacancy remaining in the NBA.

Both the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors are still looking for head coaches and Fernandez continues to be linked to the opening up in Canada. Marc Stein had this to say on Saturday about the Raptors job.

“A name to watch in Toronto’s slower-moving-than-most coaching search, says one league source, is Sacramento Kings associate head coach Jordi Fernández.”

On Monday afternoon, our friend Damian Barling, from ESPN 1320, added this tidbit to the conversation.

Fernandez was a breath of fresh air in his first season in Sacramento. His relationship with Mike Brown dates back over a decade and the two were in lock step throughout the season as the Kings posted a 48-34 record.

If he decides to move on to a top position in the league, the Kings have plenty of capable coaches ready to step into a front of the bench position on Brown’s staff. Top on the list might be Luke Loucks, who has already been tabbed as the team’s summer league coach.

Speaking of Summer League…

From all indications, the California Classic is returning to Golden 1 Center this summer. The dates aren’t official yet, but if you are looking to reserve a few dates, keep July 2, 3 and 5 open.

According to a league source, there is a possibility that both the San Antonio Spurs and Charlotte Hornets will join in the festivities this year. The information hasn’t been verified by a second source yet, but an announcement is expected soon.

This could be a huge move for Sacramento, especially with the Spurs holding the No. 1 overall pick and Hornets holding No. 2 overall. There is no word if projected No.1 overall selection Victor Wembanyama is participating in any summer league games this season, but there is always a chance.

If nothing else, there is potential for a player like Brandon Miller or Scoot Henderson, the two prospects fighting it out for the No. 2 pick, to show up in Sacramento for some summer hoops.

Nothing is written in stone, but the California Classic is a spectacular event and a lot of fun for basketball enthusiasts and young families. We will have more information on the tournament as soon as it becomes available.

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