Back in 2015 there was already a push from people inside the Sacramento Kings organization to move on from the DeMarcus Cousins era. There were groundwork talks with a number of teams, but a lot of rumors circulated around the Lakers, where Jim Buss was trying to land a star for his franchise that would lead to a quick turnaround. While the deal was never finalized, reports had the Lakers offering both their first round picks that year, which became D'Angelo Russell (No. 2) and Larry Nance Jr. (27th), plus a few other pieces.
Kings owner Vivek Ranadive shot the deal down then — as he did with every deal until Sunday night.
By the tine Ranadive came around to the idea of trading Cousins, the market had changed. And dried up. All the Kings landed was last draft’s No. 6 pick Buddy Hield (who Vlade Divac has been higher on than most), the Pelicans pick this draft in the mid-teens, a high second round pick, and some pieces such as Tyreke Evans that are not part of the Kings’ future.
The deal has been widely panned for the Kings, but what they got may well have been the best offer available right now. A lot of teams have concerns about Cousins’ impact on their locker rooms — teams that liked their rosters didn’t want to add drama. Plenty of teams would not talk trade. Also, there is a glut of bigs on the market right now. If teams wanted to give up multiple first-round picks for a center, they could have already because Nets have Brook Lopez on the block — not as talented, but also not a challenge in the locker room. Jahlil Okafor, Tyson Chandler and other centers also are available.
The Kings went back to the Lakers, but when they asked for the young guy the Lakers are highest on, Brandon Ingram, it fell apart, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report added this interesting tidbit about the Kings and Lakers talks in recent days.
Then Buss, in particular, was sorely tempted to shift course yet again Sunday, break from those plans and trade whatever youth it took in the hopes of landing DeMarcus Cousins, according to a team source.
It wasn’t just the Lakers who would not go in big on Cousins.
Calls to Boston found even worse offers, with Danny Ainge worried about Cousins’ impact in the locker room and if they could/would want to retain him. The Booklyn picks were never close to on the table.
Philly is no longer really interested thanks to Joel Embiid (even with the health concerns there).
There were talks with the Suns, but Sacramento didn’t like Brandon Knight as the best player they would get back.
And so it goes down the list, teams were hesitant to give up much and the Kings were left to take the best of bad options. Part of the reason for the Cousins market being dry is that since he is traded, Cousins is no longer eligible for the “designated player” supermax deal, and the difference between what the team that has his Bird rights in 2018 can offer and what other teams can offer is not that great. Which is to say, a lot of teams think they can take a swing at Cousins as a free agent in two summers if they really want him, and they don’t have to give up assets to get him.
The Pelicans were never going to get a seat at the table in those free agent conversations, so trading for him makes a lot of sense for New Orleans.
But for most teams, they were willing to pass. Which left the Kings without good options for a deadline trade.
Of course, what a more stable organization might have done is decide the offers were terrible and hold off on a trade until around the draft or into summer free agency. The deals are not going to get worse, and they might well get a little better. But for whatever reason — concern that Ranadive would change his mind, again? — the Kings moved now.