Kings’ Chris Duarte trade rationale explained by GM Monte McNair originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
Chris Duarte entered the NBA in 2021 with high expectations and he lived up to hype during his rookie season with the Indiana Pacers, landing on the All-Rookie Second Team.
But a reduced role and injuries set Duarte back during the 2022-23 NBA season, as he only averaged 7.9 points and 2.5 rebounds in 46 total games.
Despite that regression, Kings general manager Monte McNair felt Duarte was worth taking a chance on, so he made a move to acquire the former first-round draft pick from the Pacers in July, sending a 2028 second-round draft pick and a 2030 second-round draft pick to Indiana.
The trade reunites Duarte with Domantas Sabonis. They were teammates for the first half of the 2021-22 season before the Kings acquired the All-Star center in a blockbuster trade that sent Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield to the Pacers.
While Sabonis’ relationship with Duarte played a part in the move, McNair explained to NBC Sports California’s Kyle Draper on the latest episode of “Kings Central: Offseason Review” why he traded for the 6-foot-6 wing.
“The fact that he’s played with Sabonis and has had success certainly added to that comfort level there,” McNair told Draper. “But [he’s] somebody with size, with shooting, with the ability to defend, can make a play, I think he’s going to fit in with how we play on both ends of the court. He’s going to have to fit in with some other teammates besides Domas but we think he will.”
Duarte was the No. 13 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, going four selections after the Kings took Davion Mitchell at No. 9. Even though Sacramento didn’t draft the Oregon product, they did their homework on him.
As McNair explained to Draper, Duarte is someone who has been on the Kings’ radar for a while.
“Our evaluation of a player starts before they get into the league and even though we may draft one, two, three guys in a given year, our group’s doing work on guys for years before that and then certainly during the draft process,” McNair said. “So that was really the base for us on Chris, somebody we liked in the draft and had been tracking.”
Following the announcement of the trade over a month ago, Duarte spoke with reporters and opened up about his bond with Sabonis.
“Domas took me under his wings since Day 1,” Duarte said. “When I got to Indiana, he just walked me through … This is what it’s like to be in the NBA. Make sure you do this, make sure you do that.
“So I really appreciate him and great dude, great person. I met his family. I can sit here and talk about him for hours. So just so you know, we have a good relationship.”
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That should help Duarte’s transition from Indiana to Sacramento, and the Kings are hoping the 26-year-old will be another weapon off the bench for coach Mike Brown as they try to get back to the NBA playoffs for a second straight season.