The DeMarcus Cousins trade and the baffling way it was handled by the Kings could have a deeper impact that will hurt them for years

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive, and Vlade Divac
Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive, and Vlade Divac Rich Pedroncelli

The Sacramento Kings stunned the NBA world by trading DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans in what most have viewed as a terrible trade, and now it is starting to sound like the deal is even worse than that for the future of the franchise.

Since the deal went down, there have been three burning questions: 1) Why couldn’t the Kings get a better package for Cousins in a trade?; 2) Why didn’t the Kings wait until closer to Thursday’s trade deadline to see if a better offer came along?; and 3) Why did the Kings reportedly lie to Cousins’ agents about wanting to keep their client?

While answers to the first two may help explain the seemingly lopsided trade, it is the third question that has agents upset and may hurt the Kings for years to come.

The answer to the first question appears to be one of money. If Cousins had remained with the Kings, he would have been eligible for a $US209 million extension this summer, a deal that only Sacramento could offer under the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. By being traded, Cousins is now eligible for an extension worth approximately $US180 million, a loss of close to $US30 million for Cousins.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, teams were not offering more for Cousins because his agents were telling teams not to trade for him and that he won’t sign an extension with any team that did trade for him. Presumably, it was a move to keep Cousins in Sacramento until he could sign the larger contract.

This may have also played a factor in why the Kings did not wait until closer to the deadline.

As teams were being scared away by Cousins’ agents, they may have been lessening, or even pulling, their offers. In fact, Kings General Manager Vlade Divac said he had a better offer two days before the trade they made. The Kings may have been worried the Pelicans would do the same, possibly taking their focus off of Cousins and turning it towards somebody like Jahlil Okafor of the Philadelphia 76ers, another big man on the trading block.

DeMarcus Cousins

But here is where it gets even uglier for the Kings. According to several NBA insiders, including Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Kings lied to Cousins’ agents about wanting to trade him, and NBA agents are not happy.

“We know that Vlade Divac, their GM, had been very, publicly and privately, had been pretty emphatic that they were not going to do this,” Wojnaroski said on his podcast. “He came out publicly and said, ‘I’m not going to trade Cousins at the deadline. He’s going to be here. We want to re-sign him.’ And he told that to Cousins and he told that to Cousins’ agents, Jarinn Akana and Dan Fegan.”

Former NBA executive Bobby Marks was a guest on the podcast with Wojnarowski and explained how dangerous this move was for the Kings, saying, “If you burn an agent in this league, they do not forget.”

“You never come out and say a player is not going to get traded or ‘we’re going to sign this player to an extension,’ because anybody in this league is tradable,” Marks told Wojnarowski. “I think it can have some long-term implications here. If you look at Dan Fegan, a powerful agent. When you look at Jarinn and who he represents. When we get into free agency with Sacramento, a team that is going to possibly have some cap flexibility. When we get into the draft, we don’t know yet whom they will represent, but if you burn an agent in this league, they do not forget here.”

Others have seemingly confirmed this thought, noting that this deal has hurt the Kings in the eyes of many agents.

“Several agents have already told me that [Sacramento] has lost all credibility after assuring Cousins he would not be traded this year and extended,” Keith Smith of FanRagSports wrote on Twitter.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders also suggest that this deal did not sit well with other agents.

“[The] way Kings handled Cousins situation not going unnoticed in agent community,” Kyler wrote. “Most understand moving on but they told him they were committed.”

In the end, the deal the Knigs ultimately made may have been their best option if they were convinced Cousins had to be dealt. But it sounds like the way they went about it could hurt the franchise beyond just this one deal and well into the future.

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