Here are a few thoughts, insights and assorted observations on the Thursday's NBA Draft:
* It wouldn't be right to let Beno Udrih slip quietly out of Sacramento without mentioning his impressive rehab.
The player who once was traded by a frustrated Gregg Popovich, waived before he even got on the plane to his next destination (Minneapolis) and had another miserable Year II with the Kings, looked in the mirror and these past two seasons changed everything.
He worked himself into tremendous shape, served as a mentor to Tyreke Evans, and this past season was the Kings' most consistent player. His stop-and-pops from the foul line were money shots, and during his four seasons here, he learned to accept and absorb physical contact that routinely follows drives to the basket.
He also was the club's best decision-maker with the ball, particularly late in games. His major mistake (and one of the Kings' worst characteristics) was failing to demand the ball in those situations.
* The reports indicating that the Kings coaches were upset about the Jimmer Fredette selection (No.10) are puzzling and inaccurate.
The only coaching voice that matters - that of head coach Paul Westphal - resonated loud and clear; he wanted the BYU star all the way. In the hours leading up the draft, the front office types/coaches debated about a group that consisted of Fredette, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson and, somewhat surprisingly, USC forward Nikola Vucevic.
The Kings liked Vucevic a lot and, in fact, tried to move up to grab him before the 76ers took him at No.16. Additionally, Alec Burks also moved higher up their draft board in the final weeks.
Ultimately, and as always, team president Geoff Petrie made the call. He was said to be vacillating between Walker and Fredette before the John Salmons trade.
Thereafter, he felt Fredette - an exceptional deep shooter - was the better fit, but would have been fine with Walker. The point became moot anyway when the Bobcats drafted Walker at No.9.
* Two players the Kings were not enamored of: Brandon Knight and Kawhi Leonard.
* Westphal pressed hard for the Salmons' acquisition. While I was told some members of management share my reservations about on-court chemistry and ball movement with so many dribble-heavy players projected into the starting lineup, the theory was that Westphal, entering the final year of his contract, deserved significant input on personnel.
Citing the inconsistency of small forwards Donte Greene and Omri Casspi, along with a preferance to play Cisco Garcia as a two-three combo, the Kings third-year coach lobbied long and hard for Salmons.
* Greene or Casspi figure to be traded before the season, and the word is, the Kings believe Casspi has a bigger upside and would prefer to hang onto him.
* So while free agent Marcus Thornton is an explosive scorer, and almost sure to be rei-signed by the Kings, the intriguing question is this: How long before we see a starting backcourt of Evans-Fredette, with Thornton coming off the bench and providing instant offense?
* With minimal difference these next two years between the Udrih-Salmons' contracts, the Kings' team payroll is approximately $31 million.
As one Kings source told me earlier today, because they retained enviable salary cap room, that still leaves about $18-$20 million to utilize in free agency, or some combination of free agency and trades. The plan is to aggressively pursue a major frontcourt talent.