Nov. 24, 2016
DeMarcus Cousins' Time Is Up In Sacramento
On January 2nd of 2012, DeMarcus Cousins requested that the Sacramento Kings trade him immediately.
We are currently approaching the fifth anniversary of that trade request.
As Sean Deveney pointed out last week, the Bulls, Nets, Celtics, Wizards, Mavericks, Pistons, Rockets, Nuggets, Magic, Hornets, Cavaliers, Bucks, Knicks, Raptors and Lakers have all been rumored to be in discussions for Cousins since that point. That's fifteen teams! Cousins trade rumor season should just be marked on the NBA calendar at this point. From October till the trade deadline in February you will hear non-stop rumblings every season, it rivals death and taxes for certainties in life.
Despite this, DeMarcus Cousins has stayed in Sacramento. Now fourteen games into his seventh season, Boogie still hasn't donned another team's colors. For the past five years, these rumors have been nothing but smoke, Cousins has stayed put throughout every single one of them. To the untrained eye, it's hard to see why Cousins and the Kings have stayed together. After all, DeMarcus is one of the NBA's biggest stars and he's currently on a sinking ship being captained by Vivek Ranadive. Ranadive, of course, is the owner of the Kings and head of the least competent and most dysfunctional franchise in all of sports (you get a pass, Browns fans).
This is the same organization who hired their sixth head coach of the Cousins era in May. This is the same organization that hasn't made the playoffs since 2006. This is the same organization who decided to take a shooting guard in the lottery in each of the 2013 and 2014 drafts (who both stink), before proceeding to take three guys who play the same position as their best player in the 2015 and 2016 drafts. This is the same organization that hired a GM that doesn't know how the salary cap works and decided to trade away a first round pick plus two pick swaps, just so he could acquire enough cap room to sign Rajon Rondo, who by the way left after a year. As I said before, the Kings' front office and management is as dysfunctional as they come, but even that seems like an understatement. A player of Cousins' caliber doesn't deserve this.
The funny thing is, if you look at this from Sacramento's perspective, keeping this damaged relationship alive isn't that appealing either. Cousins is the man who has pushed three coaches out the door single-handedly, been ejected 10 times, amassed 92 technical fouls, started numerous locker room squabbles and pushed several teammates out the door. Vivek Ranadive and his front office aren't the only ones tearing this team apart, Boogie has to take his fair share of the blame too. He isn't exactly the calming, Tim Duncan-esque presence you want leading your squad into battle each night.
The only reason Cousins and the Kings are still together, is because of the talent he possesses. At the end of the day DeMarcus still being on this team is because ultimately, it's the front office's decision on whether to move him or not and Cousins is undeniably great at basketball. He can bang down low just as well as any player in the league, shoot it from the outside, handle the ball like a point guard, rebound like any other big man and play excellent defense (when he feels like it). He's one of the best ten players in the world when it comes to pure talent, his 27 points and 10 rebounds per night prove that. That kind of raw ability and production would be nearly impossible to give up for any team. In a vacuum, nobody in their right mind would ever trade DeMarcus Cousins.
However, basketball isn't played in a vacuum. Basketball is played on hardwood and in real life. It just so happens that in reality, the Sacramento Kings should absolutely deal Cousins, regardless of how hopeless they would be without him.
The Kings have tried just about everything to fix their team, well that is, everything short of trading the big man. The solution they come up with every season is the same: change literally everything around Cousins and hope it works this year. That strategy hasn't exactly paid off for them. Since Cousins has been around, he has had six different head coaches, three general managers, two owners, two arenas and by my count, has played with 67 different teammates. After all of this, the Kings still haven't found any sort of success. Every season their front office tricks themselves into thinking that this is the season where things are going to turn around. But just redecorating the same old house again, just with different furniture, won't solve anything. The Kings' palace needs to be rebuilt.
Of course, some critics will tell you that it's hard to win without a second star on the roster (just ask Anthony Davis) and that the Kings should attempt to find that guy before ditching the Cousins era all together. Unfortunately for the Kings, this is nearly impossible with the current pool of assets amassed by Vlade Divac. The draft pick cupboard is nearly empty and they have no young players worth anything because of their poor drafting. This means the hopes of obtaining that star for Cousins to play with are limited simply to free agency. Considering that the Kings aren't in a big market, have an unstable locker room and front office and don't look like winning anything substantial any time soon, they can block off that route to a star too.
If the Kings want to stop jogging along on the treadmill of mediocrity, a full rebuild is necessary. Losing the team's best player will hurt, especially for a club that has next to no talent outside of Cousins, but in the long-term it's absolutely the right thing to do. The Kings have no path to success the way they're currently headed and should attempt to deal Cousins for a monster haul that will replenish their draft pick supply and load the roster up with young guns, getting ready for a new generation of Kings' basketball, one that hopefully won't suck.
This situation is eerily reminiscent of the one that the Timberwolves were faced with just a couple of years ago with Kevin Love. He too was a star who had never been to the playoffs, stranded on a poor team with no second star to speak of. When the Wolves traded him to Cleveland, fans fretted, but Minnesota acquired a young star in Andrew Wiggins and had the ability to bottom out the following year. Because of that, they of course were able to snag Karl-Anthony Towns, forming easily the best group of young talent the league has seen since the early versions of the Durant/Westbrook/Harden Thunder. This is the same model that the Kings can follow.
The Kevin Love example is even more frighteningly similar to the predicament the Kings face now when you realize that Love's contract was entering its final year, just as Boogie's will next season. Despite the risk of not getting Love to re-sign, the Cavs still gave up a substantial haul for Minnesota's prized big man. Just imagine what the Kings could get in return for Cousins if they dealt him now, with still more than a year left on a friendly contract signed under the old cap.
If Sacramento waits too long though, they risk getting barely anything back for Cousins. Every team in the NBA knows Cousins will leave when he gets the chance. After 7 years of losing and being stuck right in the middle of the most toxic basketball situation in the NBA, he will ditch town as soon as he gets the chance. Other GMs aren't dumb, they know that in July of 2018, they could sign him without giving up anything. July 2018 is getting closer every day and as it does, Cousins' trade value is dropping. The Love situation I mentioned above was an anomaly for a player on an expiring contract. The Cavs only gave up such a haul because they just signed LeBron and were in 'win-now' mode, willing to do anything and everything to form a new trio for James. Unless this situation somehow forms again, the Kings need to deal Cousins now to maximize his value.
Just what they can get in return for Cousins is unclear at this point. Normally for a man with his talent, teams would throw the kitchen sink at the Kings, but Boogie's erratic personality, combined with his free agency uncertainty will cause some question marks in the trade market. In any case, the Kings should always call up Danny Ainge for a trade talk first. The Celtics are desperate for a star and have a pair of first round picks still coming in from the Nets, to go along with all of their own picks and an array of second rounders Ainge has collected. Add this to some studs they could build their future around -- like Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown -- as well as some established, quality starters -- such as Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart -- and the Kings have already got a decent offer on the table.
Other teams like the Wizards (who have Cousins' Kentucky teammate, John Wall) and the Denver Nuggets (who are coached by the 'DeMarcus whisperer', Mike Malone) could also put up intriguing trade offers for Vlade Divac to take a look at.
Regardless of what they could get for Cousins, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Kings should trade Boogie right now. Unfortunately for Kings fans, given how stubborn they have been over the past few years this season will end as it always does; firing their coach, changing the supporting cast and getting rid of their GM, giving Vivek Ranadive more excuses to restart the whole process again.
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