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Lakers add Dalton Knecht, Kings grab Devin Carter as NBA’s Pacific Division targets seasoned players

The NBA’s Pacific Division wasn’t the destination for 18-year-old phenoms during the draft’s first round on Wednesday night.

Instead, these teams sought grown men who could hopefully help right away.

The Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns picked in the mid-to-late first round and were on the hunt for veteran college players who could be rotation players during a potentially deep playoff run next spring.

The Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors didn’t have a selection in Wednesday’s first round.

The Kings used the No. 13 selection to select Providence’s Devin Carter, a 22-year-old who averaged nearly 20 points per game during his final college season. The 6-foot-2 guard is considered a good defender, too, and could mesh well with the team’s other guards, including De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk.

The Lakers went for scoring with the No. 17 pick, adding Tennessee’s 23-year-old Dalton Knecht. The 6-foot-5 guard was one of the college game’s elite scorers last season, averaging nearly 22 points per game.

The Suns did some manuvering on Wednesday night, trading the No. 22 selection to the Nuggets for the No. 28 pick, No. 56 pick and two more future second-round selections. Phoenix took Virginia wing Ryan Dunn at No. 28, giving the team a defensive standout to play with the team’s star trio of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal.

Phoenix was the subject of rampant trade rumours prior to the first round — particularly regarding Durant. The chatter grew so loud that second-year owner Mat Ishbia felt the need to squash that speculation on social media on Wednesday.

“Phoenix loves Kevin Durant and Kevin Durant loves Phoenix, and we are competing for a championship this year because we have the team to do it,” he said.

Golden State Warriors

Team need(s): The Warriors have the No. 52 selection in the second round on Thursday.

In his second draft in charge as general manager, Mike Dunleavy is hoping to find an impact player like Trayce Jackson-Davis, who was the No. 57 selection last season. He turned into a key cog off the bench during his rookie year, averaging 7.9 points and 5.0 rebounds.

Who did the team draft: No one in the first round.

Los Angeles Clippers

Team need(s): The Clippers are a team that could be in flux with stars Paul George and James Harden set to hit free agency. Any sort of infusion of young talent would be nice for an older roster, but their lone pick is at No. 46 in the second round.

Who did the team draft: No one in the first round.

The Clippers didn’t have a first-round pick because they traded it to the Oklahoma City Thunder along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in exchange for George in 2019. It’s one of several picks they dealt for George to pair him with Kawhi Leonard in the hopes of winning the franchise’s first NBA championship. That hasn’t happened.

Los Angeles Lakers

Team need(s): A player who can contribute now as the Lakers attempt to make the most of their remaining partnership between LeBron James and Anthony Davis, particularly after they apparently whiffed last year on slow-developing guard Jalen Hood-Schifino. LA could use perimeter scoring and spot-up shooting, and it could also do with more size to help Davis.

Who did the team draft: Knecht.

The SEC Player of the Year is a prolific scorer who grew into stardom during a winding journey that began with no Division I scholarship offers and ended with three increasingly impressive seasons with Northern Colorado and then Tennessee.

Whose game does the first-round draft pick most compare to and why: Knecht was a near-consensus projected lottery pick whose outside shooting and overall style inspired parallels to everyone from Klay Thompson and Tim Hardaway Jr. to Jerami Grant and Terrence Ross.

Phoenix Suns

Team need(s): The Suns could use a point guard after struggling with turnovers last season, particularly in the fourth quarter. They also could use perimeter defence and a backup big man.

Who did the team draft: After moving down six spots in the trade with Denver, the Suns took Dunn at No. 28. The 21-year-old is considered maybe the best defensive player in the draft, which is something the Suns needed.

Whose game does the first-round draft pick most compare to and why: Dunn could be a player in the mold of New Orleans wing Herb Jones, who made the All-Defensive team last season in his third year in the league. Jones was the No. 35 selection in the 2021 draft.

Sacramento Kings

Team need(s): The Kings answered their biggest looming question ahead of the draft by resigning Monk to a four-year contract. Sacramento could use more size and athleticism and help on the wing to complement Harrison Barnes, who turned 32 in May. Keegan Murray and Trey Lyles — their other wings — are more spot-up shooters.

Who did the team draft: Carter should help plug some of their concerns. He averaged nearly 20 points per game last year and was billed as one of the best two-way players in the draft.

He is an elite rebounder for his size, grabbing 8.7 boards per game as a smaller guard. He also improved from beyond-the-arc in each of his three collegiate seasons, shooting it at 37.7% from distance last year.

Whose game does the first-round draft pick most compare to and why: Carter’s prowess on both ends of the floor could fit the mold of the Boston Celtics’ Jrue Holiday, one of the premier two-way players in the NBA.

Carter is versatile, contributes in nearly every facet of the game and could improve offensively if his college numbers project to the pro level.

Credit: AP

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