The Kings' official website is reminding fans that Sacramento will make its first top-five draft pick in the last 18 years. While that's the obvious silver lining on an otherwise disastrous season, there's just one problem. I remember who the Kings drafted with the third pick in 1991, and I distinctly recall the never nervous player who Sacramento chose first overall two years before that. In fact, the team's 13 lottery picks in the Sacramento era have made a combined zero All-Star appearances... in their entire careers. The Kings' draft history reads like a who's who of injury-plagued underachievers and flat-out NBA busts, so pardon me for being just a tad skeptical.
The Kings selected Billy Owens — who, believe it or not, was projected to be the next Larry Bird coming out of Syracuse — third overall in 1991. But of course, like so many others, Owens refused to report to Sacramento and forced a trade to Golden State. I'll never understand how the Kings were able to swindle the Warriors into dealing superstar Mitch Richmond when Owens' trade value was at an absolute low (my guess is that Don Nelson and a case of Coors is a dangerous combination) but that's a whole different story.
The fact is, at the time, Sacramento saw Owens, who went on to average 12 points and seven rebounds in 10 seasons, as a franchise cornerstone. Over the course of his career, which incidentally brought him back to Sacramento in 1995, he floated through practices and clashed with coaches, battled weight problems, and never developed an outside shot. Oh, and the two players taken immediately after him were a couple of scrubs named Dikembe Mutumbo and Steve Smith (the one who didn't punch out his teammates, I'd imagine).
There was Bobby Hurley, whose pro prospects were unfortunately derailed and ultimately cut short after he suffered life-threatening injuries in a car collision during his rookie season in 1993. The only memory I have of Hurley on the Kings is incredulously finding his name on Sacramento's expanded roster in NBA Jam: Tournament Edition, which was released a full year after his tragic accident.
The sixth pick in the 1985 Draft? That would be Joe Kleine, who holds career averages of five points and four rebounds, taken by the Kings over the likes of Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, and Joe Dumars. Kleine's the reason why I repeated, "anyone but Spencer Hawes" under my breath as David Stern announced the Kings' selection in the 2007 NBA Draft. Has a slow, immobile white center with a history of knee injuries ever not panned out in the NBA? Only time will tell if Hawes can escape the shadow of the stiffs before him.