Warm up all those fantasy trade rumors, according to Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee, the Kings are sending out mixed messages about the availability of everyone’s favorite trade target at center DeMarcus Cousins. He is most definitely in play.
Within the past two weeks, three different team executives complained the Kings once again were sending mixed signals. Divac was receptive to moving Cousins, while Ranadive was still meddling and still leaning toward keeping Boogie.
The plan of attack should be obvious by now. General manager Vlade Divac should be immersed in conversations with those of his peers intrigued by Cousins and burning up his cellphone battery working over the skeptics. Celtics. Lakers. Cavs. Mavs. Suns. Magic. The list surely will expand before Feb. 23, with Boston, L.A. and Phoenix armed with an array of young assets to facilitate a prudent, deliberate, long overdue Kings rebuild.
This is the way big deals get done. The Kings have to maximize their return in any deal for Cousins as they know, on the right team, Cousins could be the difference between pretender and NBA Finals contender. He is that talented, so teams will bid against one another to get him.
As painful as it will be to part ways with Cousins, Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive and Divac must surely know by now that all the salary cap space in the world isn’t going to bring a max free agent that could take their team into contention. Not with a revolving door coaching policy, a decade in the NBA Draft Lottery, and all that bad press their organization seems to get from just about every NBA player that’s been fortunate enough to escape to another team.
While the Kings could tear this thing down to the wood and do a total rebuild through the draft, that may not be necessary. If the Kings have proven anything over the past decade it’s they aren’t very good at picking and developing talent.
Yes they will absolutely want first round draft picks, but more importantly, the players they get back in any trade for Cousins had better be young, proven, NBA level talent. They need players with potential who can be inserted into a starting lineup right now. It’s not like they don’t need upgrades at every single position outside of Cousins.
Any deal has to be a homerun.
The biggest problem the Kings will have in trying to extract full value for Cousins is his ridiculously low $17 million salary, but it won’t be hard to find parts to add in order to get that number up.
While a broken down Rudy Gay might be challenging to pawn off on another team, Arron Afflalo and his $12.5 million deal is only guaranteed for $1.5 million next year and he’s a guy another GM could be talked into taking. Divac has pieces he can use.
So NBA GMs should start looking at their starters, key rotation players, rookies and draft picks to see if they’ve got enough to make Ranadive and Divac feel like winners as they let the “best center in the game” walk out their door and in all likelihood help some other team become an NBA Finals contender. Rationally they can’t say no to a good deal and they shouldn’t have any trouble convincing other people that Cousins was never going to fulfill his promise in Sacramento anyway.