Sacramento proves the point that insanity is defined by doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result each time. The Kings haven’t been a .500 club in a decade of futility and even superstar DeMarcus Cousins hasn’t been able to change that. However, general manager Vlade Divac may still have time to blow up this mess and start over as his team moves into Golden 1 Center and offer the Kings long suffering fans at least some glimmer of hope for the future.
“General manager Vlade Divac should have gutted the roster during the offseason, dangling Cousins as a tantalizing trade asset,” writes Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee. “Starting over isn’t a bad thing, especially given the circumstances. Season tickets are sold out. Golden 1 Center soon will be christened. The fans are worn out and eager for change.
“Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead of recognizing that fans are more excited about the building than the on-court product, principal owner Vivek Ranadive made it very clear he wants his two best players on the court, at least for the start of the inaugural season in the arena.”
DeMarcus Cousins is recognized as a franchise-changing type player, it just isn’t happening in Sacramento. While he fits in smoothly on a team of players and coaches he respects when playing for Team USA in the summers, on the sad-sack Kings with a revolving coach’s door, virtually no stability and little hope of winning, he’s been less than a solid citizen. The scary thing for team ownership has to be what Cousins would do in a winning environment with solid ownership, management, coaching and a couple of stars to play with.
There is possibly no bigger indictment of the Kings as an organization than when Rudy Gay made it known he wasn’t going to pick up his player option for 2017-18 in the hopes Divac would hurry up and trade him before the season started. Gay is the team’s second best player averaging 17.2 points and 6.5 rebounds in what Voisin accurately described as a “miserable” season.
Gay isn’t happy and why would he be? The 30-year-old combo forward could be an impact player on a contender, but instead he sees himself wasting another one of his prime years playing for a dysfunctional lottery team.
The Kings were rumored to be trying to move Gay this summer, but nothing happened despite his reasonable $13.3 million salary. The only explanation is Divac’s (or Ranadive) expectations were way too high. Gay isn’t going to return a younger version of himself with similar stats. This is going to be something of a fire sale for prospects, but with the Kings history, starting a genuine rebuild isn’t just not a bad idea – it’s the only idea.
Cousins on the other hand would return players and picks that would unquestionably help the Kings down the road if not immediately. A player that put up 26.9 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks – even on a bad team – is going to command a lot of interest and major league return. Especially since Cousins is under contract for $17 million this season and $18 million next year.
It might be embarrassing to tank when heading into a new building, but this is the year to do it. The Kings owe their 2017 first round draft pick to Chicago if it falls outside the top 10, otherwise the Bulls get a second round pick instead. The 76ers can swap first round picks with Sacramento in 2017 if it’s in the top 10, but somehow swapping picks with Philly just doesn’t feel like that big of a risk.
If Divac shopped Cousins, he should be able to land a young rising star and a couple of first round draft picks – if not more. This wouldn’t be a fire sale and the Kings GM wouldn’t have to show up to his new arena wearing a paper bag over his head afterwards.
These moves should have been entertained in August, but apparently someone in the Kings organization still wasn’t ready to accept the mess that’s been created. However, there is still time to make changes. No one except Cousins is going to bring back a surefire return that can be sold to the fans as good for now and the long term, but if they use the time between now and the trade deadline effectively, there will be teams that need the pieces the Kings can offer and Divac should be able to get useful, if less than equal, value back – even for Gay. If Cousins is gone, the Kings don’t really have to worry about winning too many games and losing their opportunity to tank for a top draft pick in the meantime.
I’m sure Divac would love to hear about trade proposals for Cousins and/or Gay from the fans of every other team in the NBA?