It's time for the Sacramento Kings to move on from DeMarcus Cousins and oddly enough, it has nothing to do with the player or person. The technical fouls, bench tirades, suspensions, injuries, and social media mistakes have no influence on the decision. Simply, it has to do with timing and asset management.
In 2010 this franchise was given a gift in DeMarcus Cousins; a cornerstone that we could build around. An old-school, pound it in the paint bully who could score in a myriad of ways. Rarely, does a high draft pick result in so much production. Each year he has added to his offensive game and over the past couple of seasons, he's even begun to become a defensive threat as well. He's the best Center in the NBA. And yet, a team devoid of talent and free agency options must ship him off to a competitor.
Like a lottery winner who squanders his winnings, we have frittered away the six years afforded to us for building around DeMarcus. We wasted our first round draft picks in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Think about that fact for a moment. We had four different chances to surround our young stud with cheap, like-talented players and we did nothing with those opportunities. We have hired and fired bad coach after bad coach. Even a talented leader like Mike Malone couldn't last long under the mismanagement of Vivek Ranidive.
Now, we find ourselves on the precipice of true NBA irrelevance. In two years Boogie can walk away and leave us with nothing. At that point, we would have few future assets in place, no control over our draft pick, and we would be in the worst shape of any franchise in the league. This cannot be allowed to happen. In order to stay relevant, we must blow it up, tank, and rebuild. Here are three reasons we must trade DeMarcus Cousins as soon as possible.
His value will never be higher
Part of the reason the Warriors are now the superest super team is their lucky/smart extension of Stephen Curry in 2013. Before he began to set the league on fire with his jumpshot, he was an injury prone, smaller guard with a consistent outside shot. The better half of the splash brothers $12,112,359 salary makes him the 73rd highest paid player in the league, while performing at a top three level. Marvin Williams, Arron Afflalo, and Miles Plumlee make more per year than Steph. The affordability of his contract enabled the Warriors to pursue players in free agency such as Andre Igoudala (I often wonder what the universe would look like if the Kings hadn't pulled their offer to Igoudala as he signed with Golden State two days later) and, of course, Kevin Durant.
DeMarcus Cousins may not provide the same sort of production, and he gets paid more than Curry, but the right team with the right contracts could utilize his abilities and still afford another star. Every game in which DeMarcus Cousins dons a Kings jersey is a detriment to his value. Waiting until the trade deadline will reduce his contract by more than half of a season. Boogie has two years remaining on his screaming deal of a contract. His $16,957,900 salary makes him the 37th highest paid player in the league. Players such as Derrick Rose, Brook Lopez, Ryan Anderson, Allen Crabbe, Luol Deng, Tobias Harris, Enes Kanter, Wes Matthews, Bismack Biyombo, Evan Fournier, and Joakim Noah are all earning a larger salary than DeMarcus. His production to contract ratio is one of the best in the league and the Kings can't afford to continue to reduce his value. GMs hoping to compete in the playoffs are forced to build super teams and Boogie could be the final, affordable piece to several contenders.
DeMarcus is also a bit injury/sickness/suspension prone. Another foot problem or illness could hold him out of multiple games this upcoming season and that would again reduce his trade prospects. Teams want healthy, physically strong star players. The Celtics or Nuggets are not going to part with many assets to welcome a guy who has missed a large portion of the regular season. Cousins has only played in 79% (65 games per year on average) of available games for the past three seasons. The more recent an injury, the further it hurts trade value in the eyes of many management teams across the league. Right now, DMC is at his healthiest and therefore his highest price.
Not only are we in danger of injury and his contract length decreasing, but there is inherent risk in shopping Cousins at the deadline. A worst case scenario for management looks something like this: The Kings shop Cousins in February and offers begin to roll in to Vlade. The potential trades leak and Boogie is made aware of the situation. The pursuing organizations only make low-ball offers or a potential deal falls through. Now, we have an unhappy star who will probably demand to be moved in the offseason. At that point, we've artificially reduced his trade value by angering Cousins and causing a trade request. The Kings would end up getting even worse offers in the offseason as the trade demand would still be out there and DeMarcus would only have one season left on his contract. We would be lucky to get one young player and a late first rounder at that point.
The organization is not ready to win
As Sam Brower once said "The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior." The past behavior of our ownership and management can be described as erratic, hasty, and irresponsible. We have made almost every mistake imaginable and have probably invented some new ones. Sacramento is viewed as a powder keg of an organization. We could go off at any time and do something truly crazy. The team has shown no maturity and no growth throughout the past few years. We continuously bumble every important decision and communication. We have hired Mike Malone and fired Mike Malone. We have hired Pete D'Allesandro and fired Pete D'Allesandro. We have hired Ty Corbin, promoted Ty Corbin, and fired Ty Corbin. We have hired George Karl, decided to fire George Karl, decided not to fire George Karl, and then decided to fire George Karl. We've made bad trades and bad picks and bad lineup decisions. We've alienated players, coaches, media, and fans.
The recent signings of Ty Lawson and Matt Barnes only reinforce the organizational immaturity. Pursuing two players with domestic violence backgrounds while your starting point guard is also dealing with an abuse arrest is not the way to build character within your franchise. The weirdest part of those contracts is that the players aren't even good. At best, they are role players and we certainly could have obtained other guys without the terrible histories.
Winning takes a mature, consistent, steady organization or an overabundance of talent. The Kings have neither. We don't have any stability as we are on our fourth coach in three years. We are on our second GM in three years. We've turned the roster over each of the past two seasons. Trading Boogie for picks and young players grants the front office time to get their act together.
We can no longer build around him
It will be quite a shock to the league if the Kings manage to slip into the playoffs. Most projections have us winning between 32 and 37 games. Although that would be an improvement over last season, the Western Conference has demanded the eight seed to win 45 games on average over the past three years. In a best case scenario, our organization falls 8 to 13 games short of the post-season. We may be in a situation in which we miss the playoffs, lose our second best player, Rudy Gay, our third best player, Darren Collison, lose our 2017 first round pick, and only have one year left of DeMarcus Cousins. How terrible would this roster be without Gay and Collison producing on a nightly basis? With the clock ticking on the group, the questions become; how do we get better right now? How do we reach the playoffs this season? How do we win a playoff series next year?
The simple answer is that we can't. We simply do not have the assets to acquire more talent and our current skill level is far below that of playoff caliber rosters. There are no feasible avenues of improvement. Typically, a team that is truly in win-now mode will sacrifice some long-term assets to get better immediately. Sadly, we do not have control of our draft pick until 2020. We cannot trade a first rounder until 2021. Our young assets are not desirable enough to get back great talent. We have a lottery bust in McLemore, a young, developing player in Willie Cauley-Stein, and three unknowns in Papa G, Malachi Richardson, and Skal. No GM is going to trade away real talent for any of those prospects. We also have Bogdan Bogdanovic's rights, but I don't think there is any possibility of Vlade trading those away.
The fact of the matter is that we've wasted every opportunity to improve the team through traditional, small-market methods. An undesirable, mess of a franchise like Sacramento must cash in on the opportunity provided through the draft. As mentioned earlier, we picked horribly in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Those four drafts gave us Jimmer Fredette, Thomas Robinson, Ben McLemore, and Nik Stauskas. Only one of those gentlemen are still on the roster and we've been shopping him for the past six months. We didn't need to necessarily win all of those drafts, but simply finding a starter would have been a huge boon to the organization. Here's a rundown of the first round of past drafts:
|Kings Selected||Jimmer Fredette||Thomas Robinson||Ben McLemore||Nik Stauskas|
|Still Available||Brandon Knight
Fab Melo (he he he)
No team should expect to get the best player year after year or even get a good player each draft, but some success is expected. Let's leave the big names out and we could have still walked away with Kemba Walker, John Henson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Gary Harris. Those four are a solid core to build around with DeMarcus Cousins as your centerpiece and other acquisitions through trade or free agency. At worst, we could selected some young talent and traded them away for veterans. Instead, we picked poorly and wasted time and talent. We certainly would have been better off trading all of those picks/players and getting back prime players. Instead, we let Jimmer Fredette walk, swapped Thomas Robinson for role players, and paid someone else to take on Nik Stuaskas. Here's how it breaks down over the past few years:
|Going Out||Coming In|
|#7 overall pick (Fredette)||Patrick Patterson|
|#5 overall pick (Thomas)||Cole Aldrich|
|#8 overall pick (Stauskas)||Toney Douglas|
|2016 draft swap rights||Arturas Gudaitis|
|2017 draft swap rights||Luke Mitrovic|
|2019 first round pick|
That right there is the reason we can no longer build around DeMarcus Cousins. Four high, first round draft picks in exchange for role players and D-Leaguers. The situation is almost comical. Our chance to become a competitor in this league died during the irresponsible asset expenditures over the past few years. Now, it's time to restart, rebuild, and reassess our future.
Why it's hard (for me)
I love DeMarcus Cousins as a person. I appreciate his loyalty to this city, his genuine contributions to the community, and in some ways I wish that we had never drafted him back in 2010. Occasionally, I think about what kind of a league dominant, MVP caliber player he would be if he had been drafted by the Pistons, Clippers, Jazz, or Clippers. The organization has done nothing to support his growth as a player or as a person. We have continuously put out sub-par players and coaches around him and have expected DeMarcus to somehow put an entire team of under qualified players on his shoulders and drag them to the playoffs. We've hired and fired coach after coach. We've failed almost every single draft selection since 2010. Our free agency signings have been busts. We've traded away picks and good, young players for nothing in return. While Boogie hasn't been perfect, or anything close to it; we also cannot say that the losing seasons are entirely or even mostly his fault.
Boogie is also the most talented player we've had in a long, long time. It's sometimes hard to remember that as a Kings fan, time moves three times slower. DeMarcus Cousins is only 25 years old. Most studies have shown that players enter their playing prime between the ages of 25 and 26 and their most productive years are between 26 and 28. Boogie is a beast on offense and can dominate the defensive end of the court when he's properly engaged. DMC was the only player in the NBA last season to be in the top five in points and rebounds. He is one of the most dominant forces across the board. Let's take a look at the good:
Unfortunately, there is also the bad:
The numbers show us exactly what is already known. Boogie is a wild beast on the floor. He will crush the opponents, but sometimes he also hurts his own team with his fury. Theoretically, there should be more structure under Dave Joerger and I predict that DeMarcus' efficiency will go up while his PPG, technicals , and fouls will drop. We have a 25 year old young man who is dominating the league and he still isn't playing his best basketball. Trading Cousins and watching him truly progress would certainly hurt while we waited for our young prospects and picks to pan out.
He's also the most talented player we've had since Chris Webber and may even have the chance to be better than C-Webb. Through their first six seasons their numbers look like:
Here's the stats from their respective sixth year in the league:
A team like the Sacramento Kings shouldn't give up a player of that caliber very often. Guys with as much talent as DeMarcus aren't easy to obtain and are even harder to keep around.
As Dave Joerger said:
It's time for the cement to dry here, and lay down the foundation, and do some things consistently. . .
It's kind of a reset. Going forward, as I said earlier, between a GM and a coach who are going together arm and arm going forward, you do what you can do, what you are able to do at the time, knowing what the long-term vision is.
I wish that Boogie could join this franchise on that journey to stability and respectability. Unfortunately, the past five years have destroyed any hope of creating a team around DeMarcus. Wasted draft picks, poor hiring, terrible trades, and managerial inconsistency have created the storm that we face. I have no desire to trade Demarcus Cousins, but needs must come before wants and we cannot risk the devastating circumstance of an All-Star walking away from this franchise with no return coming back.