Let’s accept for a moment that DeMarcus Cousins is the rottenest asshole in the NBA, that the Sacramento Kings were never going to reach anything higher than a seventh or eighth seed with him on the roster, that Cousins was leaving in free agency as soon as he could, and that trading him now was the team’s best option. (Of course you don’t accept all of those things because you live in reality, but we’re trying to throw the Kings a bone here.) Take all that as gospel, and the package the Kings got in return for their 26-year-old superstar center is still appalling.
Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a top-three protected 2017 first-round pick, and a 2017 second round pick. That’s it. That’s all the Sacramento Kings got for a center who is still young and good enough to be a foundational NBA player. Exactly what sorts of shocked, horrified noises should you be making in response to that trade? Here’s some guidance: According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Pelicans had offered the same package minus Hield to the 76ers in exchange for Jahlil Okafor—who really sucks!—and didn’t get it done. Please, try to keep it down.
That information does offer one way to explain the Kings’ thinking, which is that they must believe Hield is a potential star, or at least a good enough player to elevate a trade package from “suitable for the most unwanted and one-dimensional center in the league” to “we’re somehow bringing home DeMarcus goddamn Cousins.” So, fine, maybe the Kings really like Hield. But, also, that’s fucking stupid. Hield is a 23-year-old rookie who is currently shooting 39 percent from the floor and is unlikely to become anything more than a solid spot-up shooter. Being high on Buddy Hield’s star potential is like believing that the 2004 Ford Focus you just bought will have all the babes going wild.
We can all agree that Hield is nowhere near the kind of player that should have a team rushing to trade DeMarcus Cousins. Then maybe the explanation here is that the Kings simply had no better offers, and had to trade one of the best big men in the league for a wad of used toilet paper right now or risk losing him for nothing in free agency. That doesn’t really wash, either, because the Kings reportedly had other deals on the table that they turned down.
(You ready for the punchline? Hield and Drummond are the same age.)
There’s also no sense in the Kings completing the trade now instead of waiting until the deadline. I doubt the Pelicans’ offer was going anywhere, and if other teams had been given ample time to think up counter offers, I’m sure someone would have come up with a competitive package. A bag of shiny marbles and a $25 gift certificate to the movies would have earned at least a phone call with Kings GM Vlade Divac.
It seems to me that the most likely explanation for this trade happening is also the saddest one: The Sacramento Kings are run by a remarkably incompetent group of dinguses. They’ve proven this to be true over and over and over again during the past few seasons, and this terrible trade was simply the next logical step. Here’s a little anecdote from Adrian Wojnarowski’s story on the trade that neatly explains the incompetence at play (emphasis mine):
The Kings simply decided that they no longer wanted to let Cousins’ volatility dictate the culture of the locker room, league sources said. In recent weeks, majority owner Vivek Ranadive had become more open to the front office’s willingness to trade Cousins, passing on the commitment to the $209 million extension this summer, league sources said. Cousins’ uneven behavior in recent weeks chipped away at Ranadive’s resolve to keep him, and he started to listen more closely to the front office’s push to trade him for assets and rebuild, sources said. Two incidents in particular — an expletive-laced remark Cousins made about Golden State after Sacramento’s overtime win over the Warriors on Feb. 6 and a 17th technical foul, resulting in a one-game suspension, against New Orleans on Feb. 12 — caused Ranadive to have serious concerns about tethering the franchise to Cousins long term. As a result, Ranadive adopted management’s concerns about Cousins’ temperament to be a franchise pillar, sources said.
Since his arrival in Sacramento, DeMarcus Cousins has amassed an impressive collection of on- and off-court incidents that any exhausted GM or owner could point to and say, “We’ve had enough of this. This guy has to go,” and they would receive little argument from fans and observers. And yet the final straw for Vivek Ranadivé wasn’t a locker-room tirade or a nightclub brawl, it was the sight of his giddy franchise player yelling, “Fuck Golden State!” in the bowels of the stadium after a victory over the Warriors.
Ranadivé had just watched his star drop 32-12-9 on the best team in the world and return to the locker room as a swaggering conqueror, and his reaction to this was apparently, “That’s it. I can’t take it anymore. I have to trade this guy.” Let that sink in, Kings fans, and then try to get on with your day.