The Sacramento Kings selected former Wyoming men’s basketball standout Justin James 40th overall in Thursday night’s NBA draft.
James is the first Wyoming player drafted into the NBA since the Los Angeles Lakers took Larry Nance Jr. 27th overall in 2015. Before Nance, a Cowboy had not been picked since Theo Ratliff in 1995 (Detroit, 18th overall). James is the 29th UW player drafted into the NBA, according to UW athletics.
James, the 10th pick in the second of two rounds, was the second Mountain West player drafted, following Cody Martin of Nevada (Charlotte, 36th overall). San Diego State’s Jalen McDaniels was taken 52nd overall by Charlotte (via Oklahoma City).
The pick may have come as a bit of a surprise given that most mock drafts leading up to Thursday didn’t include James, but Wyoming coach Allen Edwards wasn’t caught off guard. Edwards said Sacramento, which brought James in for a pre-draft workout, was one of a handful of teams that contacted him during the pre-draft process to inquire about the 6-foot-7, 190-pound guard, who primarily played the point during his senior season but projects as a wing at the next level.
Edwards said he also heard from the Denver Nuggets, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Houston Rockets, but “my conversation with Sacramento was really good,” Edwards said.
“Very strong and a very smart basketball IQ,” Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac told media members during a post-draft press conference in Sacramento. “He can definitely keep up with the way we want to play. I think he’s a ready NBA player.”
A senior in 2018-19, James led the MW in scoring at 22.1 points per game. The Port St. Lucie, Florida, native also led the Cowboys with 8.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. James finished his career with 2,061 points, third in program history. He was a first-team all-conference selection by league media as a senior and a second-team selection by coaches.
He participated in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament.
James was Sacramento’s first pick in the draft, as it did not have a first-round selection. With their second pick, the Kings traded back with the Knicks to take Virginia guard Kyle Guy 55th overall. At 60th overall, the draft’s final pick, the Kings took Serbian guard Vanja Marinkovic.
Sacramento went 39-43 last season, ninth in the Western Conference. The Kings finished nine games and one position back of the conference’s final playoff spot. Sacramento has not made the NBA playoffs since 2005-06 — the longest playoff drought in the league by four years. The team hired former Lakers coach Luke Walton as its head coach in April.