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Top Prospects See Fit With Kings

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Top Prospects See Fit With Kings

Go all access with’s Fan Correspondent at 2012 NBA Draft Media Availability in New York. Plus, find out which draftees see great opportunity to flourish in Sacramento.

One day prior to the 2012 NBA Draft, the top-ranked collegiate prospects assembled in mid-town New York for a Media Availability session. As the Kings prepare to make the fifth-overall selection, many of the players, four of whom had workouts in Sacramento in recent weeks, spoke glowingly about the organization and potential of teaming up with DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans and Isaiah Thomas in Northern California.

“I feel like I could go there and help with perimeter scoring, and that’s the biggest attribute I have,” said North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes, a First Team All-ACC selection, who ranked third in the conference in scoring (17.1 ppg).

Renowned for his polished offensive repertoire and silky smooth outside jumpshot (35.8 3FG%), Barnes believes his skill-set would perfectly complement the slashing Evans and hard-working Cousins.

“Tyreke, he likes to penetrate and likes to get to the rack, so I think by me shooting, it could obviously help space the floor and give him better driving lanes,” said Barnes. “And DeMarcus, he sets great picks, rebounds well (and is) extremely skilled on the block, so that’s your low-post presence.”

Kansas big man Thomas Robinson, an exceptional glass-cleaner and low-post scorer with a powerful frame, explains that he and Cousins would form one of the League’s most dominant interior frontcourts.

“It would a beast (frontline),” said the 2012 Big 12 Player of the Year, who led the Jayhawks to the National Championship game. “It would definitely be a problem area (for opposing teams) down there.”

Kentucky forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who was named South Regional Most Outstanding Player at the 2012 NCAA Tournament and was considered the glue and emotional leader of the champion Wildcats, considers his relentless commitment to defense to be his greatest asset.

“It would feel great (to play for the Kings),” said Kidd-Gilchrist. “On the defensive end, I think I’d make them a lot better.”

John Henson, a two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year at North Carolina, believes his shot-blocking skill – an ACC-leading 2.9 swats per game last season – and ability to play off the ball would make him an excellent fit alongside Cousins.

“(I provide a) defensive presence,” said Henson, adding that he had one of his best pre-Draft workouts in Sacramento. “They have DeMarcus down there on the offensive end, cleaning up boards and stuff like that, so I think I could help him out.

“Most importantly, I don’t need the ball in my hands to impact the game because they have a lot of scorers anyway.”

Weber State point guard Damian Lillard, widely regarded as the best floor general in the Draft after ranking second in the nation in scoring (24.5 ppg) on 46.7 percent shooting to go along with 4.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals, came away similarly excited after his Sacramento workout.

“We did a lot of stuff off the dribble, a lot of shots – they wanted to see my athleticism,” said the 6-foot-2 guard. “I showed them everything they wanted to see, and it went as good as it could have possibly gone for me.”

Lillard, a two-time Big Sky Conference MVP and Third Team NABC All-American selection, explained that his playmaking ability would allow him to make a seamless transition to any offensive system.

“I think just the fact that (the Kings) have scoring guards on their team, I think I could play off of them, so I won’t have to always play point guard – I could play off the ball,” he said. “And sometimes, those guys can play off the ball, because I’m a point guard.”

If he were to play with one of the NBA’s best young centers in Cousins, Lillard would expect to see plenty of open looks from outside.

“I think (DeMarcus will) be an All-Star post, and anytime you have an All-Star post like him, eventually he’ll demand a double-team, and it’s always good to have a guy on the perimeter who can knock down shots and make teams pay for the double-team.”

Guard Dion Waiters, who averaged an efficient 12.6 points on 47.6 percent shooting at Syracuse, is already familiar with not only Cousins and Evans from previous workouts, but Thomas, his former teammate at South Kent School.

“I was a sophomore, and (Isaiah) was averaging like 30 or 32 (ppg), and I was averaging like 18,” recalled Waiters. “We pretty much were going back and forth – he’d come down and get a bucket, I’d come down and get a bucket, pretty much taking turns.

“He’s a great player, and just for a guy like that to go 60 (in the Draft) and come in the League and get a starting spot and really improve and surprise a lot of people, I think that’s great.”

Connecticut center Andre Drummond, a Big East All-Rookie Team selection who ranked third in the conference and 14th in the nation with 2.7 blocks per game, enjoyed his trip to Northern California and looks forward to bringing his strong work ethic to the next level.

“(Sacramento) was a great place – I love the coaching staff, and the guy I worked out against was really good as well,” said Drummond.

“With any team – not just the Kings – any team I go to, I’m going to work my hardest.”

North Carolina center Tyler Zeller, the ACC Player of the Year, believes he and Cousins could form a versatile Kings frontline.

“I think I’d fit in well – playing with DeMarcus Cousins would be very fun, and he’s a great player,” said Zeller, who enjoyed watching former Sacramento center Vlade Divac. “I think my ability to shoot the ball, run the floor, and rebound are really great abilities that can be a great asset to the team.”

Zeller believes the upstart Kings are on the rise and have the potential to develop into a future contender.

“I think they’re an up-and-coming organization,” he said. “They have a lot of great pieces that I think are going to fit together very well, and going forward, I think they have a great chance to be very good.”
Free Throws:

– While Florida guard Bradley Beal watched former Kings guard Doug Christie growing up, Robinson admired Sacramento legends Chris Webber and Bobby Jackson.

– Find out who will be Sacramento’s selections in the 2012 Draft on Thursday, beginning at 4 p.m. PDT on ESPN, and be sure to catch all the excitement live at the Kings Neighborhood Draft Parties.

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