How to Trade Your Star Player

I don't consider myself to be pro-Cousins or anti-Cousins. I am simply pro-Kings. My wife and I both own DeMarcus Cousins' jerseys and in fact recently took our maternity photos in those jerseys. I have greatly appreciated everything that DMC has done for this franchise, but I have also come to recognize his flaws. Although Cousins has been our best player since Webber, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for us to trade him and begin a true rebuild. This decision really has nothing to do with Cousins at all. It has everything to do with the continuous ineptitude of this franchise. We have infighting (the 600 minority owners), inexperience (Vlade as GM and President of Basketball Operations), and indecision (Vivek's tinkering over the past few years). Unfortunately, these issues aren't going to resolve themselves in a few days, a few weeks, or a few months. At best, we will fire Karl in the offseason, hire a real GM, who hires a real coach, who has to instill another offensive gameplan and another defensive philosophy.

In the meantime, we have an odd roster that can't find a defensive or offensive identity. We have a point guard who is going to leave in the offseason, which will oddly better the team. We don't have a shooting guard. Our small forward is solid, but can be wildly inconsistent on both ends of the floor. Our best defensive player is a rookie who plays hard, but can't find consistent minutes. Our star player can put 40 and 20 on you or he might get frustrated with a ref or a player or a coach and go for 13 and 7 on 15 shots. This roster isn't making a playoff push anytime soon and we don't have any realistic paths to improving this mess. Sacramento is either the worst or second worst (thanks Suns!) organization in the NBA. We aren't attracting any serious free agents. We have also given away multiple draft picks or the rights to swap picks for multiple years. We also have very few movable assets that won't destroy the little bit of talent that we have. Our bad players are too bad to move for anything that moves the needle and our good players (Rudy, DMC, and WCS) are too good to move without blowing things up. Essentially, we are stuck on the island of NBA mediocrity unless we do something drastic. Let's first take a look at what has caused Sacramento to fall into this ugly situation:

Small market teams rarely sign a star free agent. Small market teams can acquire solid players and stars through two methods, drafting well and crafty trades. In 2010 the Sacramento Kings made the correct decision to draft DeMarcus Cousins with the fifth overall pick. Unfortunately, since that point the Kings have either misdrafted or traded away valuable assets for pennies on the dollar. Let's take a look at the draft picks after Boogie:

Hassan Whiteside (waived)

Bismack Biyombo (traded for Jimmer Fredette on draft night, Jimmer was later bought out)

Tyler Honeycutt (traded

Isaiah Thomas (traded)

Thomas Robinson (traded

Orlando Johnson (traded)

Ben McLemore (on the trade block)

Ray McCallum (traded

Nik Stauskas (traded)

Willie Cauley-Stein

I believe you sense a recurring theme here; the Kings have not been able to acquire and retain talented players throughout DeMarcus' career. Some years it has been poor drafting (Thomas Robinson, Jimmer Fredette, and Nik Stauskas) and some years it has been because of poor asset management (Isaiah Thomas), but either way we have screwed up too many times to help out DMC with this roster. The Kings also regularly cycle through GMs, assistant GMs, analytics, coaches, interim coaches, assistant coaches, etc.

Essentially, the Kings are a wildly unstable organization wasting the prime of the most talented big man in basketball. We cannot afford to pretend that things will get better through minor trades and late lottery picks. We have to make the move that every professional team fears to make and trade away our star.

We also cannot afford to screw up the DMC trade and get fleeced by a more experienced GM (Danny Ainge). Let's take a look at some other stars who have been traded by small market teams. We'll start with the basics of the trades and explore the success or failure of the Nuggets trading Carmelo Anthony, the Rockets trading Dwight Howard, and the Timberwolves trading Kevin Love.

Here's a quick player-to-player comparison for everyone involved (all stats are from the final season with their original team):








Carmelo Anthony







Dwight Howard







Kevin Love







DeMarcus Cousins







Disclaimer: I didn't track down all of the conditions of the draft picks as some of those picks were later traded for other picks and players.

2011 Carmelo Anthony Trade (3 team deal)

Knicks received: Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Corey Brewer, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter

Nuggets received: Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mosgov, Raymond Felton, 2014 first round pick, two 2nd round picks, cash considerations

Timberwolves received: Anthony Randolph, Eddy Curry, cash

Context: Carmelo Anthony was unhappy in Denver. Many of the veteran players had contracts expiring and it looked as though the Nuggets were moving towards getting younger. Carmelo was in the last year of his contract and could have waited until the off season to join the Knicks. Instead, he requested/demanded a trade and the Nuggets obliged.

The Haul: The Nuggets received multiple picks and young players which is standard when dealing an All-Star caliber player. Gallinari was an up and coming player at the time as was Wilson Chandler. Timofey Mosgov was a solid Center and Raymond Felton could fill in while Ty Lawson was coming back to the rotation. They also received one first round pick and two future second rounders.

The Result: The Nuggets were a pretty successful team with Melo and continued to be successful without him. Unfortunately, Gallinari's injury derailed the team for over a year and they have continued to slide since that point.

Season Record Win Percentage
2010 – 2011 (with Melo) 50-32 0.61
2011 – 2012 38-28 0.576
2012 – 2013 57-25 0.695
2013 – 2014 36-46 0.439
2014 – 2015 30-52 0.366
2015 – 2016 22-32


The Nuggets one error in the trade was not receiving a high enough draft pick or a potential star player. Gallinari and Wilson are good players, but they aren't top 50 talent. The Nuggets didn't receive a high draft pick that could net them a future star. Five years later the Nuggets have good pieces in place, a good coach, and in a couple of years may make some noise in the league.

2012 Dwight Howard Trade (4 team deal)

Lakers receive: Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, Chris Duhon

Magic receive: Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Christian Eyenga, Josh McRoberts, Romero Osby, Moe Harkless, 2014 first round pick, 2017 first round pick, 76ers future first round pick

Sixers receive: Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson

Nuggets receive: Andrew Iguodala

Context: The Dwightmare. Dwight Howard committed to the Orlando Magic and then famously changed his mind. He requested a trade and the Orlando Magic took a while, but found the right trade for their organization. The Lakers were looking to form a super team while the Sixers thought they had their Center of the future.

The Haul: The Orlando Magic won this trade by a wide margin. They took home three solid, young assets in Vucevic, Afflalo, and Harkless (who was up and coming at the time). They also took home multiple first round draft picks. A trade like this would be ideal for the Kings. Unfortunately, there aren't too many GMs out there that would make a mistake as big as the Lakers and Sixers made.

I also thought this quote by the Magic GM was brilliant at the time of the trade, "Are we taking a step back? Absolutely, we are. But we're taking a step back with a vision."

The Result:



Win Percentage

2011-2012 (with Dwight)



2012 0 2013



2013 - 2014



2014 - 2015



2015 - 2016

36 - 46


The Magic's winning percentage expectantly dropped after trading Dwight Howard. Each season since the trade they have gotten better and acquired additional assets. At this time, they have about seven or eight young guys that could make up an exciting future core. The Magic have drafted the best player available over the past few years which has created some redundancy within the core. The team is shopping a couple of its young up and coming players to try and create that right balance of young players and experienced veterans. I expect the Magic to be regular attendees of the playoffs in the next 2-5 years.

2014 Kevin Love trade (3 team deal)

Cleveland receives: Kevin Love

Minnesota receives: Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thad Young

Philly receives: 2015 Miami first rounder, Luc Mbah-A-Moute, Alexey Shved

Context: Kevin Love put up big numbers in Minnesota, but they could never attain a winning record or seem to make the playoffs (sound familiar?) LeBron James returned to Cleveland and wanted to win now. The 76ers lurked as always to gain possible assets.

The Haul: Minnesota received a future star in Wiggins, a possible bust in Bennet (which has turned out true) and a solid young player in Thad Young. No picks were received by Minnesota.

The Result: As this trade was not very long ago I won't look at the record of Minnesota right now. However, the Wolves do have one of the most exciting cores in the NBA with players like Wiggins, KAT, Rubio, and LaVine. I expect them to be in the playoffs within two years.

Potential Kings Trades

All of that data tell us that if the Kings are going to reset, they need multiple young players and a high pick or a future star and solid players in return. We have multiple veterans that can return young players and picks for our rebuild. We also have some good pieces in Collison, Casspi, and Willie Cauley-Stein to begin to build a core. We need to hire a GM who will hire a young coach that can grow with the team. If we look at a team like Boston or Utah we can see how that can help an organization to grow organically. The best teams to make a deal with Sacramento are Orlando, Philly, and Boston. You may disagree with my valuation of Cousins, but if you think I overvalue him look to the trades above to gauge my level of insanity. If you think I undervalue him, same thing. Feel free to also add in your ideas in the comments.

Orlando - Sacramento

Sac: Vucevic + Hezonja/Oladipo + 2016 first rounder (top 8 protected)

Orl: Cousins + McLemore + Butler

Why? Orlando is looking to shed young players and get veteran presence to make a push for the playoffs. DeMarcus Cousins would instantly become their best player since Howard and McLemore gives them a backup SG. Orlando is looking to trade for a star and the Kings can provide them with one. In return, the Kings get a SG of the future to pair with Collison, Casspi, and WCS as well as a solid Center in Vucevic. They also get a mid first round draft pick to fill any other positions of need. This would give the Kings two first rounders in 2016 assuming that they keep the pick from the Bulls.

Boston + Sacramento

Sac: David Lee + Avery Bradley + Marcus Smart + 2016 Brooklyn pick

Bos: Cousins + Belinelli + Butler

Why? Danny Ainge is looking for a star to make a push in the playoffs. He has acquired all of these assets over the years to spend them and this is his opportunity. The Celtics go all in on their core of Thomas and Crowder to make the push with Cousins. The Kings get a starting SG and a great defender in Bradley, a future starting PG in Smart, and a top four draft pick. This, or something similar, would be the ideal trade for the Kings.

Philly + Sacramento

Sac: Okafor + Landry + 2016 first rounder

Philly: Cousins + McLemore + Butler

Why? Like Boston, Philly has been hoarding these assets for a reason. They cash in a few of those assets for a star in Cousins. The Kings get a potential future star in Okakfor and a top four pick. Hopefully, that pick would turn into a Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn, or Buddy Hield.

In the end, the trade of DMC would probably involve three of four teams and many more players. The point of this article is that it's time to move on from the circus that has been the past six years and start a true rebuild. Kings fans have been patiently waiting for ten years on a decent product. We can wait a few more as long as there is a clear vision to reaching the playoffs.

(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)