The Kings have a foundational piece, arguably the best true center in the game in DeMarcus Cousins, a guy who scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds a game last season — and new coach George Karl is trying to force him out the door. Because Karl isn’t sure he can coach him, and because Karl wants to chase the all-time coaching win record, and he isn’t going to be patient with rebuilding. Plus, he just doesn’t seem to like Cousins. The problem for Karl is, the Kings’ owner does like Cousins. A lot. And he is not green lighting a trade.
We delve into the Kings mess — and where Cousins might land if Karl gets his way — in this latest PBT Podcast. In it PBT’s Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman, plus NBCSports’ Dominic Ridgard also get into talk about Monta Ellis, Dwyane Wade, LaMarcus Aldridge and a host of other NBA rumors and stories leading into the draft.
Kevin Love was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers this season because LeBron James wanted it to happen.
More than just going home, LeBron’s return to Cleveland was a return to power — he has sway in Cleveland that Pat Riley would never have surrendered in Miami. LeBron doesn’t want to look like he’s pulling the strings, but he can make the Cavaliers franchise dance any way he wants. And he wanted Love, so the promising Andrew Wiggins was sent to Minnesota (where he was the Rookie of the Year), and Love was a Cavalier.
Now, after a rocky year that ended early after a shoulder separation in the playoffs, Kevin Love has opted out of his contract. This makes Love an unrestricted free agent.
Love has repeatedly said he plans to remain a Cavalier, opting out was simply about the money (he can make $2.3 million more next season by re-signing with the Cavaliers).
But this time around LeBron is not going to recruit Love to stay with Cavaliers, reports Chris Haynes of the Plains Dealer.
LeBron James won't be re-recruiting Kevin Love, I'm told. He believes Love understands he can be a part of something special. It's his call.
It’s a player profile that often scares fans come the NBA Draft: A European big man who can shoot the rock, has some skills, is loaded with upside, and prefers to play on the perimeter.
Fans hear that and picture another Andrea Bargnani. On the other hand, scouts will assess those same skills and see potential in an NBA where teams are going smaller and spacing the floor.
Enter the 2015 mystery man, Kristaps Porzingis.
The Latvian big man is the guy shaking up the top of the draft board — he’s got a lot of fans in NBA front offices. They see a guy already more than seven feet tall and incredibly long, who has shooting range out to the NBA three-point line, and who is a fluid athlete.
Porzingis could go to the Sixers at No. 3, Sam Hinkie is considering it (but we hear leaning toward D’Angelo Russell). Then it’s the Knicks at No. 4 and they are willing to trade the pick if a Porzingis fan in another front office has some veterans who can help New York now. If Porzingis is on the board at five, the Magic reportedly will grab him.
Why all the love?
“The appeal of an agile seven-footer who can shoot the ball and possibly be a rim protector is why so many are high on him,” PBT’s draft expert Ed Isaacson of Rotoworld and NBADraftBlog told us. “Add that he is just 19 years old with time already spent getting good minutes in the Spanish ACB, and there is plenty to like.”
But what exactly will the team that drafts him be getting?
Any discussion of Porzingis starts with his shooting.
“His shooting is a lot more versatile than for most stretch four types, meaning he’s not just a spot-up shooter,” Duncan told PBT. “He can shoot off pick and pop, or even coming off pin downs to the three-point line. One big question though is just how often that’s going to go in ultimately?Is he going to be a 35 percent guy from three or a 40 percent guy that you absolutely have to stick to in pick and pop?”
“At worst, he could still be a pretty good spot shooter at the NBA level, though the speed and physical nature of the NBA game could be a bigger adjustment than many seem to believe,” Isaacson added.
Porzingis brings other skills to the table as well — he’s got decent handles and can finish inside very well.
“Other than shooting, the big attribute is his height/wingspan, reported by ESPN’s Chad Ford as 7’1 and 7’6, respectively,” Duncan said. ” You see that wingspan a ton out on the court, especially when he goes to dunk.He’s not really athletic in a traditional sense of jumping or even lateral movement at this stage, but those long arms allow him to make a lot of plays that athletic guys can make.So it’s the combination of the shooting skill and the long arms that people really like.”
The question isn’t can he shoot the ball, the concern for fans is the other end of the court.
“His ability to defend at the NBA level is a big question mark heading into this draft,” Isaacson said. “His length is helpful, but he doesn’t have great defensive instincts or strength, and can be slow to react, so he will have a rough time defending out on the perimeter or in the post, at least early on his career.”
“I am not sure how good he will be at the power forward position on defense due to what I perceive as his lack of quickness, although in fairness most people see him as more athletic than I do,” Duncan added. “He is good blocking shots when he is in position, but his speed getting over for the block and defensive awareness are a little suspect at this point.He’s doing to need to improve both of those to play power forward, be able to defend on the perimeter, and still be effective blocking shots.”
Porzingis is going to be a project at the NBA level. Outside of his shooting, his other skills are not fully ready for the big stage. He’s got work to do.
“The three biggest issues are strength, lateral quickness, and awareness,” Duncan said. “I think he’d ultimately be amazing as a center — if he can fill out physically to that level.He certainly has the size and length.While he has the shooting to play PF on offense, I don’t see him as a guy who is going to drive to the basket or score one-on-one for quite awhile, if ever, due to his quickness. Maybe that can be improved, maybe it can’t, but it will take time.
“Same with his awareness, both on help defense and passing the ball, at which he is remarkably poor given his high usage rate.Maybe that improves, maybe it doesn’t.”
And there’s an added hurdle to Porzingis’ development.
“Even if he were a U.S. player, he would have a lot of development, both physical and skill-wise to do, but to do it while trying to adjust to the NBA-style of game, could add at least another season,” Isaacson said. “With the size and skill he has now, we’re looking at a decent role player, but learning to defend at the NBA level could be a big challenge, and maybe having him go to a team situation where he has that adjustment time will be important. Also, with NBA defenders, he probably won’t be able to do much of what he did in Spain on offense right away.”
But for the team that drafts him, there are reasons to be optimistic about him reaching that incredibly high ceiling for his game.
“By all accounts, Porzingis is a very hard worker, so I’m not concerned about his effort to try and improve as quickly as possible, but I think those expecting a player who will make a quick impact could be disappointed,” Isaacson said. “By the end of his first season, he could be a guy who can stretch the floor as a spot shooter or pick-and-pop guy, but it’s probably another two seasons after that before he is up to speed as a more versatile offensive player and defender. Even if it takes that long, that will still make him just 22-23 years old.”
“Overall, I understand why a lot of people love him, as the combo of shooting ability and that crazy wingspan and shot blocking potential is nearly unique,” Duncan said. “I think he’ll definitely be a valuable player, but he needs to make massive gains in those three areas I highlighted to be a star level guy.”
George Karl gives tepid endorsement of DeMarcus Cousins, says it’s about committment
Of course, Karl denied there was anything to all the reports.
“I think it’s just a lot of crazy, crazy fibs and lies. You know, it’s just a situation where we won 29 games last year and for us as a basketball organization, we want to get better. I mean, Cuz is our best player, we know that. We want him committed and dedicated to being in Sacramento and playing and leading us to our first playoffs in Sacramento in six, seven, eight, nine years.”
It’s nine years.
Now is where the interview gets fun because the reporter was direct and asked Karl if he was interested in trading Cousins — and there should have been some tap dancing music for Karl’s answer.
“My interest right now is commitment, trust and building a team that’s excited about being in Sacramento, excited and committed to being a good basketball team and representing the city of Sacramento.”
So… does that include Cousins?
“If he comes committed, I’m 120 percent into making him the best basketball player he could ever be.”
Is there some question about Cousin’s commitment?
“The 30 games I coached him, I mean, we were all frustrated with losing. I was only here for 30 games, and so the frustration I’m sure was double that for Cuz and all the players who were here for the whole season.”
Notice what’s missing in all this? “No, I don’t want to trade DeMarcus Cousins.”
And the drama continues in Sacramento. The only thing that could make this more interesting is adding JaVale McGee to the mix.
Because things are not crazy enough, Kings reportedly interested in JaVale McGee
Obviously this is another sign of George Karl trying to remake the Kings’ roster to his liking. McGee was one of his guys when he coached Denver to 57 wins a few years back. It’s part of the ongoing power struggle in Sacramento.
Not that on the court getting McGee is terrible idea — last time he played for Karl he scored an efficient 9.1 points a game, mostly off the bench — it’s simply the questions of cost, and if you think your locker room can handle his big personality.
For all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, McGee remains an athletic big man who can be solid in a limited role. He can block shots, and he runs the floor well, getting points in transition. Off the bench behind Cousins he has value. But he needs to get paid like a backup center.