Unless you’re Helen Keller, it’s clear the Kings are terrible. Sacramento is 19-34 this season (13th in the Western Conference) and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006.
It’s apparent the current nucleus of players is talented but poor-fitting, so a breakup may be on the horizon. Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette have been involved in trade rumors, but the most valuable chip to flip would be DeMarcus Cousins.
While Cousins owns a Hall-of-Fame body and skill set, he has failed to hold himself accountable after nearly three seasons in the NBA. The 22-year-old has 38 career technical fouls (he is leading the league this season with 14), in addition to three ejections and three suspensions this season.
Cousins’ desire to win is unquestioned but his emotions seem to frequently overtake the moment. As the Kings’ centerpiece, his behavior should be more collected than the others.
Cousins’ basketball decisions also set a poor precedent, particularly his willingness to rely on jump shots (54% of his shot attempts in 2012-13, according to 82games.com). Coach Keith Smart and the veteran players have not been able to sway the 6’11”, 270 pound pivot to consistently attack the basket, so a change in mailing address may be the only way to unleash the third-year-pro’s enormous potential.
Would Sacramento’s roster collapse without Cousins? Surprisingly not. The Kings surrender 0.4 and 1.4 points on offense and defense respectively per 100 possessions when the center is sitting out (82games.com).
Furthermore, Chuck Hayes plays significantly more efficiently when slotted at the 5, with a Player Efficiency Rating difference of 15.2 compared to time at the 4 (-6.2 to -21.7, per 82games.com). Until a center is acquired (if not in the Cousins deal), steady Jason Thompson could spell Hayes at the 5 at the expense of interior defense.
The real problem with a Cousins trade is that receiving worthwhile pieces in exchange is no guarantee. The center’s actions (including his toxic relationship with Paul Westphal) have been well-documented, and almost every NBA GM would view the big man as a serious risk. The most popular rumor in recent months was a package that would revolve around the Celtics’ Avery Bradley, but the guard would have no place on a backcourt-heavy squad like the Kings.
Then again, will this even matter in six months? Sacramento may no longer have a team. GM Geoff Petrie, whose hands have been cuffed for the majority of his Kings’ tenure, could attempt to sabotage the roster as a final sendoff to Seattle. (The Maloofs have probably lost all interest in basketball at this point anyways, so a veto would be unlikely.)
Is this childish? Yes. But so is taking a beloved franchise when your own was stripped away.
Nonetheless, there is a small chance Cousins may be moved by the February 21st trade deadline, and if so, the Kings should attempt to bring back a few draft picks, prospects and/or veterans. No one should be surprised by any course of action the Kings decide to take.