The Sacramento Kings’ stunning decision to trade DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans left many around the NBA believing the Kings got fleeced.
How could the Kings trade a 26-year-old, all-NBA center for stop-gap, role players in Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway, a 23-year-old rookie in Buddy Hield, a 2017 first-round draft pick that may fall outside the lottery, and a second-round pick?
While there are a lot of pieces, none of them represent the haul that other teams, like the Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic, got for trading superstars Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard, respectively.
As more information about the trade trickles out, it sounds like the basis of the deal reflected a $US209 million decision the Kings had to make on Cousins.
Cousins would have been eligible for a five-year, $US209 million contract extension as part of the NBA’s new Designed Player Extension rule, ratified in the new CBA. It was reported in January that both the Kings and Cousins were planning on signing such an extension.
However, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Kings front office began to sour on the extension because of Cousins’ behaviour. It’s long been a chicken-or-the-egg debate around the NBA — is Cousins’ volatility to blame for the Kings dysfunction, or is the Kings’ dysfunction to blame for Cousins’ volatility? The Kings decided they had seen enough, according to Wojnarowski.
“The Kings simply decided that they no longer wanted to let Cousins’ volatility dictate the culture of the locker room, league sources said. In recent weeks, majority owner Vivek Ranadive had become more open to the front office’s willingness to trade Cousins, passing on the commitment to the $US209 million extension this summer, league sources said. Cousins’ uneven behaviour in recent weeks chipped away at Ranadive’s resolve to keep him, and he started to listen more closely to the front office’s push to trade him for assets and rebuild, sources said. Two incidents in particular — an expletive-laced remark Cousins made about Golden State after Sacramento’s overtime win over the Warriors on Feb. 4 and a 17th technical foul, resulting in a one-game suspension, against New Orleans on Feb. 12 — caused Ranadive to have serious concerns about tethering the franchise to Cousins long term.”
As the Kings began exploring trade options for him — despite GM Vlade Divac publicly declaring over All-Star weekend that Cousins was off the trade block — Cousins’ agents tried to dissuade teams for making offers for him. If Cousins was traded, he could not sign the $US209 million extension with another team.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on Tuesday said on “The Dan Patrick Show” that Cousins’ agents were telling teams that Cousins would not re-sign with any team he was traded to. A max. contract for Cousins on another team would be somewhere around five years, $US180 million. With Cousins hitting free agency in 2018, teams were understandably wary about giving up any major assets for a rental, not to mention a player with whom there are major attitude concerns.
“DeMarcus Cousins’ agents were out there telling teams ‘Do not trade for our player or he will not re-sign with your team,'” Windhorst said. “And it is the agents’ prerogative to do that because Boogie Cousins might have lost $US30 million in this trade. … The agents were rapidly working behind the scenes, saber-rattling, and trying to chill the market. And in a certain respect, it worked, because if you see what Boogie was traded for, you can see that nobody wanted to make a bona fide offer.”
It appears after deciding to trade Cousins, the Kings tried to move quickly. Many in the NBA world wondered why the Kings decided to move on from Cousins so early, trading him four days before the Thursday trade deadline. As Windhorst reported, Cousins’ agents may have successfully cooled the market.
According to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders, the Pistons had offered Andre Drummond for Cousins, a much more even deal, and the Kings said no. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported that the Pelicans had offered almost the same deal, sans-Buddy Hield, to the 76ers for Jahlil Okafor, a second-year center who hardly plays, and the 76ers said no. The Kings seemingly could have gotten more for Cousins.
On Monday, Divac spoke to reporters and admitted that he had a better offer for Cousins two days ago. He also said he learned “not to trust agents” during the process.
It appears the Kings panicked upon seeing a diminishing trade market, thanks, in part, to the work of the agents. They took the offer they could get before it, too, disappeared.
The Pelicans played this well. Windhorst suggested that the Pelicans may not have been overly interested in Cousins, but upon seeing the price, decided to make a move for the talented center. There are questions about how Cousins and Anthony Davis will fit together, but it’s possible that they have assembled the most devastating big man combination in the NBA for a bargain.
It remains asset mismanagement by the Kings, and they settled for a trade that may set them back several years if they don’t draft perfectly. However, it’s also hard to fault them if they got cold feet on such a big commitment to Cousins, then had to fight external forces trying to prevent them from moving on.
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