Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins has been in trade rumors for so much of his career now, it’s starting to feel like it is never going to happen.
It would be truly bizarre if Cousins actually stayed in Sacramento his whole career. They’re arguably the league’s most incompetent franchise, and they haven’t been able to field a playoff team throughout Cousins’ entire career. But it’s starting to look more and more likely that he will just leave in free agency.
As the Kings start off another disappointing season with new coach Dave Joerger, executives from around the league, as well as Kings minority owner Shaquille O’Neal, are suggesting that this is when the rumors finally get serious.
‘I’d say they have three months, tops,’ one Western Conference general manager told Sporting News, requesting anonymity because he is not allowed to speak about other teams’ players. ‘Probably more like a month, or month-and-a-half, because the closer they get to the (February trade) deadline, the less they’re going to get back. If you’re trying to trade him the week of the deadline, it’s going to be tougher.’
“Last Thursday on TNT’s Inside the NBA, Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal, who does not hold much say on the Kings’ personnel despite being a minority owner, suggested that Cousins could be dealt. ‘He hasn’t shown great leadership qualities yet,’ O’Neal said. ‘One of the best centers in the league, this cat can do it all. … But he’s a hothead. If they want to make a run, he’s going to have to be a leader.’
“O’Neal, however, said he did not think that Cousins can fill that role. ‘He hasn’t shown me those leadership qualities yet,’ O’Neal said. ‘That’s why I’m hearing talk of, if things don’t start to become correct then they may be looking to go in a different direction.’
“There have been two issues that have kept the Kings from actually moving Cousins, another NBA executive said. ‘You have one owner in Sacramento who does not want to give him up,’ an Eastern Conference GM told SN. ‘And you have 29 other owners who don’t want to overpay because they are scared the guy is going to be a headache and is going to hurt the organization.’
“’Owners are thinking about how much they’ve got to pay the coaches DeMarcus might get fired,’ the East GM said.
“’It is not going to happen unless the Kings cave a little,’ the West GM said. ‘No one is going to give up too much for someone who might ruin your team’s chemistry this year, then ruin it next year when he is playing for free-agent money. If they don’t see that, then I don’t think it changes and I don’t think he goes anywhere. I don’t know that is good for them or for him, either. But that’s the reality.’”
While it would be foolish for the Kings to hold onto Cousins so long that he simply walks for nothing in return, it also doesn’t make sense to give up your franchise player for a package that won’t help you rebuild your franchise.
Unfortunately for Sacramento, the one team that is in a true and complete rebuild that also has significant assets is Philadelphia, and they have likely locked down the frontcourt of their future with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, so they wouldn’t be interested in Cousins if Sacramento offered him.
For now, the only trade destination that really makes sense is the Boston Celtics, with their various interesting prospects and package of valuable picks from the Brooklyn Nets. We’ll see if they can work anything out in the coming months.