May 10, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings vice president of basketball operations and general manager Vlade Divac during a press conference at the Sacramento Kings XC (Experience Center). Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
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The Sacramento Kings have once again taken a page from the WWE. We are far removed from the respected early 2000s Kings. This regime is like the referee allowing interference with a steel chair; everyone but them knows it happened.
The Sacramento Kings and DeMarcus Cousins stole the show from the NBA All-Star Game within just a few minutes after the yearly spectacle. The trade hit like a “Stone Cold stunner.” There was no rumor of the trade, not even NBA Twitter could come up with this.
We can’t forget about the New Orleans Pelicans in this transaction. For now, the Pelicans are on the winning side of this blockbuster trade.
Before we can dive deep into the Kings’ problems of talent management, we have to look at the holes in the Cousins trade.
If Cousins doesn’t warrant at least two first-round picks, Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez might not even be worth one. The market has spoken. The pick isn’t even a guaranteed asset for the Kings, per Marc Stein.
The 2017 first-rounder going from New Orleans to Sacramento in the DeMarcus Cousins trade is top-3 protected, according to league sources
The Kings could have gotten a lot more from the Boston Celtics by just solely trading for the highly coveted 2017 Brooklyn Nets first-round pick. It’s as one-sided as it gets.
The Sacramento Kings also didn’t get a legit player in the deal either. Tyreke Evans was on the team before. He was only thrown in as an expiring contract and to help match contracts. Langston Galloway could be a decent role player, but not on this Kings’ roster.
Buddy Hield‘s 3-point shooting is promising, but there are many other question marks surrounding his game. The Kings have to bank on the Pelicans not going on a late-season run to get a lottery pick. There is a pretty good chance the Pelicans make the playoffs.
Cousins is worth more than that. Point. Blank. Period.
Cousins is no angel by any means with his time on the Kings, even so, as an organization there is a higher business standard when it comes to front office positions. So for this point on, let’s focus on some of the most questionable decisions the Kings have made in the DeMarcus Cousins era.
Feb 12, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Jimmer Fredette (7) drives to the basket against New York Knicks shooting guard Iman Shumpert (21) at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jim O’Connor-USA TODAY Sports
Trading Down for Jimmer Fredette
The 2011 NBA draft class was one of the deeper, yet odd, drafts in some time. Kyrie Irving was the first overall pick after only playing 11 games in college. After Irving, we wouldn’t see an NBA All-Star player until the ninth pick, Kemba Walker.
Following Walker, there would be four more All-Stars picked, with the Kings, almost naturally, missing on all of them.
With all due respect to Jimmer, he did have a successful college career, but thats’s where it stopped.
Fredette was known mostly for his shooting. Unfortunately not so much for his defensive ability. Even with his 3-point percentage being an impressive 39.4 percent, there was always doubt about his game not being fast and athletic enough to transition to the pros.
Klay Thompson followed right after Fredette. Per Draft Express, Klay Thompson was never projected higher than the 11th overall pick.
Besides the mock draft projections, look at the raw numbers; Thompson still gives you more with his athletic build combined with his impressive shooting.
The players picked after Fredette were amazingly slept on. Neither Kawhi Leonard nor Jimmy Butler were lottery picks. The Kings lucked out and picked up the steal of the night in Isaiah Thomas.
The happenstance that the 60th overall pick was better than their 10th pick doesn’t help the Sacramento Kings’ credibility. Jimmer Fredette is no longer in the league, while Thomas is the second-highest scorer on another team (more on that later) and the Kings didn’t benefit from it.
February 19, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone (left) argues with NBA referee Gary Zielinski (59) during the fourth quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena. The Kings defeated the Nuggets 116-110. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Constant Coaching Changes
In the DeMarcus Cousins era, the Sacramento Kings didn’t seem to value the head coach position. Cousins saw six different head coaches in his six-plus seasons with the dysfunctional Kings.
How does one sustain any real continuity with constant changes to game plans and head coach philosophies? Not only did they have an alarming amount of coaches in such a short period of time, but they also had George Karl come right in and instantly shake up the boat.
USA Today’s Sam Amick was able to get a confirmation of Karl’s multiple attempts to trade Cousins. Cousins had three coaches in one season; that is absurd.
The Kings started well (for Kings standards) with a 11-13 record. It finally looked like the Kings were getting it together, even with Cousins missing nine games due to injury. The Kings had to King it up.
The Kings went on to lose 40 games and finished with a 29-53 record. They would go on to fire Karl the next season after a season full of turmoil; so much for living up to Vivec Ranadive’s unrealistic expectations. Another reason to not take the Sacramento Kings seriously.
Dec 3, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas (22) goes up for a basket above Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) during the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Sacramento Kings 97-95. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Letting Isaiah Thomas Walk in Free Agency
Isaiah Thomas, a.k.a. Mr. Irrelevant (picked last in the draft), was the Kings’ best draft pick (maybe only good pick) since DeMarcus Cousins in 2010. To say the Kings made a good decision in general could be considered an anomaly at this point.
Thomas outlasted many players picked before him despite his height and the doubts the rest of the league had about his game.
In three seasons with the Kings, Thomas averaged 15.3 points and had a 57.4 true shooting percentage. Thomas is easily the best player Cousins ever played with on the Kings.
In Thomas’ last season with the Kings, he scored 20 points a game with a career-high 45 percent field goal percentage. More positive stats that would lead to them re-signing him, right?
When the time came for the organization to make the right decision they did the opposite as expected. The Kings didn’t feel he was worth a seven-year, $28 million deal.
The Kings did a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns for virtually nothing. Just another testament to their consistent failures in decision-making.
These are just some of the mistakes they have made in the last seven seasons. The Kings have a horrible reputation and without Cousins on the team their scapegoat is gone. They are in rebuild mode once again.
I see more of the same in their forecast considering their organization has shown nothing but disappointment.