Mystery solved. Jason Thompson, power forward, Rider, the safer bet to become a good player over the project that may turn out to be really good, if the potential of matchstick Anthony Randolph ever catches up to his reality in about two seasons and 50 pounds.
It wasn't a straight Thompson-over-Randolph call Thursday night -- once point guards D.J. Augustin and Jerryd Bayless were off the board, the soft Kings had to go big and Thompson was the clear preference over some mix of Roy Hibbert, Kosta Koufos and Randolph. But the contrasts are impossible to avoid heading to the future, especially since Thompson and Randolph are both power forwards while Hibbert and Kostas are centers and at that stage it becomes Spencer Hawes' problem.
The Kings went for the practical over the possible, feeling they'll get a surer ride back to prominence with Thompson and his production on the boards to address a gaping hole, his age (22 next month, compared to 19 next month for Randolph) and experience (four years in college, compared to one for Randolph). There's some adjustment for one season with LSU in the Southeastern Conference vs. four in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference -- Canisius, Fairfield, Iona, Loyola, Manhattan, Marist, Niagara, St. Peter's and Siena along with Rider -- but nothing changes the fact that Sacramento needed a physical presence much more than the versatile offensive game of Randolph.
If Randolph turns out to be Lamar Odom with focus and Thompson is a career backup and proven reach at 12, Geoff Petrie will have a problem. Until then, Petrie has a body of work in the draft that buys the benefit of the doubt. (If Kevin McHale, Elgin Baylor or Michael Jordan make the same pick at the same spot, they're getting trashed today).
It becomes a package deal on July 12 and the first summer-league game. Thompson and Spencer Hawes. The rookie power forward and second-year center.
The positions have to complement each other anyway, only now the importance goes to new heights exactly because of the Hawes selection at No. 10 a year ago tomorrow. He isn't strong yet, he isn't athletic and he hasn't rebounded well, and getting a duplicate is asking to get crushed inside.
It would be the same thing with Brad Miller, too, except that Hawes is the future, not Miller, and Thompson is the future. So: Hawes and Thompson. They got drafted in a row and the Kings are projecting them to play next to each other for eight or 10 years. The compatibility factor is greater than how Thompson will partner with Kevin Martin or Ron Artest.
The Kings undoubtedly asked themselves the same questions about how their big men of 2012 would mesh and obviously responded with approving nods.
Though not a Randolph-level athlete, Thompson is very mobile. Hawes has never been the plodder too many stereotype him as, but he isn't particularly fast either. Thompson will beat bigs down court.
Thompson can play physical, the area Hawes needs the most improvement. Thompson won't match the 12.1 rebounds of his senior season, at least not anytime soon, but he's a hard worker and focused and should only get stronger in an NBA weight program. That's a good starting point.