I am amazed by how non-plussed I am over the exodus of DeMarcus Cousins. Franchise cornerstone, all-star, one of the top fifteen players in the league, the only top 100 player that the Kings had on the roster (the injured Rudy Gay notwithstanding), and probably the 3rd best player that I have seen in a Kings uniform, behind Mitch Richmond and Chris Webber (feel free to add Peja Stojakovic to that list if you so desire). When a player of this caliber takes his leave, there should be a sense of loss, a rush of good memories, seminal moments. And…I…got…nuthin’.
DeMarcus Cousins was the lightning rod during the most tumultuous time in Sacramento Kings history. Two ownership groups, three general managers, six coaches, and roughly six dozen (!!!) teammates. 188 wins and 345 losses, for a “winning” percentage of .353, which would prorate to a full season record of 29-53. Drafted into quite possibly the worst situation in NBA history, he did little to help his cause or his team over the years, as his petulance more often than not offset his immense talent and potential. In the end, his attitude once again cost the Kings, this time at the trade table. For clarity, I’m not completely blaming Cousins for what the Kings received for him in trade. Much like his time here, he was a contributing factor but far from the lone cause. It took a coddling, overmatched, naïve ownership and front office to get the Kings to this point.
In retrospect, new Kings ownership should have probably retained Geoff Petrie. Full disclosure: I would have been disappointed at the time had the Ranadivé group retained Petrie, as I felt that his time had passed. But in hindsight, this ownership group could have certainly used a veteran presence in the front office, at least for the first couple of years. And as Petrie’s golden age coincided with a team that had money to spend, it would have been interesting to see what he would have done. And nowhere would his presence have had a larger potential impact than as it pertained to DeMarcus Cousins.
Check that. That last paragraph is completely wrong. Because what does not change in this scenario is that Vivek Ranadivé is still ultimately calling the shots, so more than likely nothing really changes. Purge that last paragraph from your database and replace it with this: Nothing changes as long as the whims of Vivek Ranadivé set the course for the basketball operations of your Sacramento Kings.
Be that as it may, what the Kings were faced with was being a 24-33 team at the all-star break, unable to really on-board any immediate talent to improve the team. The organization was faced with the very real possibility of going into the off season with DeMarcus Cousins entering his expiring contract year, further diminishing his market value. And with the new CBA (which ironically was meant to aid small market teams), the Kings were now faced with mortgaging the franchise to extend their mercurial star or further enraging him by not extending him. Word was apparently out about Cousins’ attitude, and the market cooled considerably. The Kings painted themselves into a corner, and they wound up taking a trade offer that is being almost universally ridiculed across the national media.
I’m not here to try to justify the trade, as I don’t know that this can be done. But I do want to look at the pieces and see what it might do for the Kings.
Let’s start with the first round pick, which reportedly has 1-3 protection for the Pelicans. The Pels are currently tied for the 8th-9th worst record in the league, and it would be a little surprising to see them back-slide after this trade. It would be more likely that they would at least overtake the Kings (one game ahead of NO at the moment) and Portland (a half-game ahead). The odds would probably place them out of the top 10, meaning that there would be little chance of the Pelicans vaulting into the top three this season. No doubt, to even have protections on this pick seems overwhelmingly ludicrous, and it sure would be a lot nicer if the Kings did not have to worry at all about ping pong balls. But the odds are greatly in the Kings favor that they will get this pick, this year.
The trade also strengthens the Kings ability to retain their own top ten protected pick, which would then convey into a second round pick for the Bulls. Pure dart throw: The Kings wind up with the 5th-6th worst record in the league, while the Sixers wind up around 7th-8th. The Kings wind up retaining their pick, but the Philly trade will bite them in the ass to an undetermined extent.
The second round pick from the Pelicans backfills the pick lost to the Bulls.
Buddy Hield. Hield has certainly been a disappointment for the Pelicans. The only question is whether he is overmatched at the NBA level, or was he in the wrong system for him? He had a lower usage percentage than Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, which is in no way inappropriate. But as a guy that had success at Oklahoma with the ball in his hands a bit more, it will be interesting to see what he does in a different environment, and what the Kings do for/with him. There is no cause for confidence here, based on the Kings’ recent track record of selecting and developing young talent. But Hield was a consensus top eight pick in last year’s draft. Had the Kings traded Cousins for the Pelicans #6 pick in 2016 and a top three protected pick in 2017 this past off season, it still would not have seemed like enough, but it might have given the appearance of being at least a little better than what we are seeing right now, and I attribute most of that to Hield’s lackluster performance in New Orleans.
We will have to wait a few days to see if Tyreke Evans or Langston Galloway amount to anything asset-wise for the Kings, either via subsequent trades of them or other Kings personnel.
I will miss Omri Casspi. Good King.
This trade also apparently spurred the release of Matt Barnes, which has me putting my Kings fan hat back on.
When I digest all of this, this is what I get: Last week the Kings possessed a roster that I simply could not root for or get excited about (to be fair, Barnes was the huge part of the problem for me, not Cousins). They have taken care of that, making the team significantly worse in the process in the short term and perhaps for the next several years. They have closed the door on the DeMarcus Cousins era, which was doomed to fail in Sacramento for reasons both including and independent of Cousins himself. The error is less in the trade of Cousins than it is that it should have happened one or two summers ago. What a missed opportunity to see what Cousins could have fetched in the summer of 2015 and what George Karl could have done with it. Ranks right up there with what Michael Malone might have been able to accomplish had he been given the chance, which leads us right back to ownership and the front office.
The end result? I ain’t even mad. I will follow this team with interest, but with no real sense of passion. I will root for them and hope for exponential growth from the youngsters. I think that watching this young team will be both a bit of fresh air and a reaffirmation of how inept ownership/front office is.
I won’t miss DeMarcus Cousins, and I won’t care one bit when he comes to town and dominates an overmatched Kings team. I hope that he figures it out in New Orleans and can become the type of team player that we all hoped that he would become during his 500+ games as a Sacramento King.
The losses are going to continue to pile up, and the frustration of that will crest in 2019 when Philadelphia cashes in our unprotected pick. Being a Kings fan is going to continue to be tough, and the organization will retain its laughingstock status at least into the immediate future.
I’m happy that Matt Barnes is gone, and I’m happy to be rooting for this team again. Ownership/front office is still a huge, huge problem.
And for the folks that had a deep appreciation for Cousins, my sincerest condolences. If he was one of your favorite players, this sucks to no end, and there is nothing that can rationalize it or justify it. It sucks to be a fan with that level of passion and commitment to a player, only to see him go, and go for what may be pennies on the dollar. I can see the Kings losing some fans over this, probably many, many more than they regain by sending him on his way. I hope that you will stick around StR at least until the dust settles, as your viewpoint – as vastly different as it is from mine – is sorely needed and greatly appreciated.