Royalty Not Worthy of a Crown: The Sacramento Kings’ Endless Tale of Mediocrity
Two weekends ago the West beat the East at the NBA’s 66th All-Star Game, in New Orleans. New Orleans’ Pelicans star Anthony Davis stole the show with an all-star game record 52 points, taking home All-Star Game MVP in the process. Just a few hours later, though, it was his team’s front office that would steal the show, as the Pelicans made a blockbuster of a deal. The Pelicans sent Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, and Langston Galloway, along with a pair of picks to the Sacramento Kings. For these assets the Pelicans received DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi. Cousins is arguably the best big in the NBA; with a tireless work ethic, plenty of scoring and ferocious rebounding skills he has asserted himself as a dominant player. Unfortunately for Cousins he has been known to have a bad temper, and has hurt his team in the past. Cousins leads the NBA this season with 17 technical fouls, something the Kings strongly disliked about their former star.
With this in mind, the Kings felt he was not the player they wanted to build their franchise around, and they gave up on their young star. This decision, like so many others from management, will come back to haunt the Sacramento Kings. The Kings have a history of overreacting or giving up on players. A prime example of this Isaiah Thomas.
During the 2013-14 season Thomas’ role with the Kings expanded and the young point guard flourished. Alongside DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, Thomas completed what was a deadly offensive trio, which seemed to be the direction for the Kings’ future. Thomas averaged over 20 points per game and 6 assists in the 2013-14 season, impressive statistics for a young point guard. Thomas approached the Kings asking for $7 million annually for his next contract; the Kings had no interest. Instead, they argued with Thomas saying he was not worth more than $4 million. This saw Thomas dealt to the Phoenix Suns, where he signed a 4-year, $28 million contract. The Kings received the rights to Alex Oriakhi, who went on to play zero games for the Kings. The Kings gave up Thomas, who now averages nearly thirty points per game on the Atlantic division-leading Boston Celtics, for nothing.
One would expect Sacramento to learn from past mistakes. Instead the Kings gave up on another player, instead of working around the player’s problem, much like they did with Thomas. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who would pull off the trade the Kings agreed to. When you factor in the circumstances as well, the trade makes even less sense. Cousins’ contract is not set to expire at the end of the season, and he appeared to be committed to the Kings, despite being avidly shopped. With this in mind, why trade Cousins mid-season when you would not get top dollar for him? More, why trade Cousins at all? When Cousins left the Kings, he accounted for over 14 estimated wins added, which means Cousins accounted for over 14 of the Kings 22 wins on the season. This would be a strong indicator of your player’s value, and how important he was for your team’s success, as the Kings push for their first playoff appearance in over a decade.
All teams make mistakes, but a series of mistakes really points to a problem. Along with poor trading, the Kings have a history of poor drafting decisions. In 2011, the Kings drafted the best scorer in college basketball, Jimmer Fredette. Fredette’s selection was well received, as the Kings merchandise sales went through the roof. But, the organization buried Fredette, and he struggled to adjust to the NBA. Fredette is now out of the NBA. Fredette’s selection looks worse when considering the talent the Kings passed on. Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard, both NBA Champions and cornerstones of their respective organizations, were chosen after the Kings took Fredette. The Kings made a crucial error in their evaluation of this draft pick though. A year later, with Fredette underperforming the Kings avoided highly-touted point guard Damian Lillard, because, like Fredette, Lillard was from a mid-major school. The Kings selected Thomas Robinson from Kansas, believing the power forward would better adjust to the NBA having played at a bigger school. Robinson did not last a full season in Sacramento before being traded.
In Sacramento’s defense, as for this season, the playoffs are probably not their focus. Given the disparity in the league, the Kings would be promptly eliminated by the West’s powerhouses. While that justifies trading Cousins, it does not justify the return. The team must consider its own best interest, and if the deal is not there, it is important to not force it. The Kings forced a deal with the Pelicans, something that Kings General Manager Vlade Divac has confirmed. Divac said he entered the All-Star Weekend with the intention of having Cousins moved by the end of it. Divac continued to say 2 days before the Kings traded Cousins he had a better offer on the table and said no. The details of this deal are only up for speculation, but how can you have the audacity to say this to your fans? Kings fans should be weeping. Not only did they lose their franchise player, but they were slapped in the face and lied to by management who added insult to injury.
On February 6th, Marc Stein of ESPN reported that Vlade Divac said the Kings were keeping Cousins. Then they decided they wanted to trade him, but they decided to not take the best offer. How can you consciously do such a thing? How can you say you are committed to trading Cousins within a given period of time, and then have second thoughts? Then to make it worse, go back to the original offer, realize it is gone, panic and force a deal. The Cousins trade should be viewed as an embarrassment by Kings’ fans, who have suffered years of mediocrity, and will likely have to endure even more mediocrity in the post-Cousins era.
Some may argue that Cousins’ value was not as high as expected, but look at Kevin Love’s trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In a 3-team trade The Minnesota Timberwolves got 2 first overall picks (Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins) and Thaddeus Young. All they had to give up to get these three was their star player and a pair of bench players. Love wanted to leave as well, and forced the Timberwolves’ hand on the trade. Still, they got 2 first overall picks and a player! Bennett may be gone, and Young may have been traded for Kevin Garnett, but Wiggins is scoring well over 20 points per game and shooting above 45%. He has the potential to be one of the league’s best scorers. Garnett may be retired now, but he was brought in to mentor Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, who have quickly become two of the most exciting players in the NBA. Compare this to what the Kings got. Buddy Hield is a talented scorer, but much like Fredette has struggled to adjust to the NBA. The Kings also got Langston Galloway, a journeyman who is a role player at best, and Tyreke Evans who the Kings had already traded away in the past. Evans is currently having the worst season of his career, has been experiencing knee problems, and is on an expiring contract. What else do they get out of the deal? A first rounder and second rounder in this year’s draft. With Cousins, though, the Pelicans could potentially make the playoffs, meaning the first round pick may not even be a lottery pick!
The Love trade should have been a direct indicator of what the market was for Cousins, and a direct indicator of when they should have traded Cousins, as Love was traded in the off-season. This trade is going to go down as a loss for the Kings. They lost their franchise player, turned down a better offer, got a below average return for him, and really hurt the fan-base. Not to mention, they pissed off Cousins, who, came out and called the organization’s trade decision “a coward move” and said he has no desire to speak with management or ownership ever again. Cousins may have a bad temper, but he was a professional throughout the trade speculation and the Kings still managed to anger him, and tarnish their relationship. Given the trading and drfting woes, it is fair to assert that the Sacramento Kings have been the worst professional sports franchise in North America during these past 10 years. Not only have they had no success, but they have nearly moved, had disputes with players, and had terrible management botching any chance at success. The Sacramento Kings are the worst.
The Weekly Rap
- Kyle Lowry going down is a huge hit to the Toronto Raptors. Despite this, the Raptors have found some new ways to win. Using a red-hot DeMar DeRozan who has averaged this stat-line in Kyle’s absence: PPG: 37.3 RPG: 7.5 APG: 3.8 FG%: 52% FT%: 92%. The Raptors are 4-0 without their leader, including a huge divisional win over the Boston Celtics, who the Raptors only trail by two games now. With a Raptors win and a Celtics loss on Wednesday, Toronto would be in a prime position to grab first back in the Atlantic Division.
- P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka have been great so far with the Raptors. Their statistics do not even begin to explain their upside: both are above-average defenders who can spread the floor. If the Raptors want to go on a deep playoff run, they will need these two to play lockdown defense in the playoffs every night. As well, Lowry’s injury has brought an opening for the new back-up point guard, as Cory Joseph is starting in place of Lowry. Delon Wright has seized the opportunity and played extremely well at around 15 minutes a night, showing he is more than capable of playing at a high level in the NBA.
Top 5 NBA Power Ranking
- Warriors (50-10)
- The Warriors have clinched a playoff spot already, but their road got bumpier this past Tuesday after Warriors’ center Zaza Pachulia fell on the leg of Kevin Durant. Durant hobbled off the court in noticeable pain, and it was reported that Durant suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain and a tibial bone bruise. There is no timetable for Durant’s return, and he will be re-evaluated in four weeks. The Warriors will be shorthanded, and apparently have signed Matt Barnes to help fill Durant’s hole. But, the pressure will be on Steph Curry. If the Warriors want to win, Curry will need to regain MVP form.
- Spurs (45-13)
- I am sure no one likes to see an injury, but that does not mean the Spurs are not going to capitalize on this opportunity. With Durant out of the lineup and two games against the Warriors during March, you can bet Gregg Popovich is getting his troops ready for war. Kawhi Leonard in particular will have the chance to find that next gear, and showcase his full arsenal against the Warriors without having to matchup against Durant. Do not be surprised if the Spurs sneak up on the Warriors and take first place in the Western Conference amid Durant’s absence.
- Cavaliers (41-17)
- Cleveland has turned their fortunes of late, and head into Wednesday’s clash with the Boston Celtics ahead by four games for first place in the Eastern Conference. LeBron got his wish to have some players try out for the Cavs, and Derrick Williams was the winner of the challenge. The former second overall pick has found a career resurgence, as he is now playing over 25 minutes a night and getting plenty of touches in the absence of Kevin Love. The Cavaliers are not only staying afloat, but they are looking good doing it.
- Celtics (38-22)
- Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics really have to be kicking themselves. They met a shorthanded Toronto Raptors team, and not only lost, but blew a 17 point lead. A win could have put them in a prime position to clinch the Atlantic Division, but now they are only two games ahead of the Raptors. As well, the Celtics have lost three of their last four, and have the Cavs, Clippers and Warriors all within eight days of each other. The road does not get any easier for the Celtics.
- Wizards (35-23)
- The Washington Wizards lost a pair of games, but redeemed themselves by beating the Warriors. They will look to ride that momentum into Toronto this Wednesday. Acquiring Bojan Bogdanovic at the trade deadline has gave the Wizards some good depth scoring off the bench, which will be needed against the NBA’s elite. Do not sleep on this Washington team, who could play a giant killer come playoff time.
The Penalty Box
- After finally getting Jonathan Quick back, the Los Angeles Kings made a baffling trade. Concerned over easing Quick back into the lineup, the Kings sent prospect Erik Cernak, a seventh round pick, a conditional pick and Peter Budaj to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Ben Bishop and a fifth round pick. Not only does this likely make Quick a little uneasy, but it is an unfair move to Budaj. Budaj has exceeded expectations for the Kings this season and built chemistry with his teammates. The journeyman was the third string goalie, and stepped up to the plate as Kings’ goalies fell left and right. Instead of rewarding him by allowing him to go on a potential playoff run, the Kings dealt him for Bishop who has struggled this season. A real head scratcher of a deal by Kings GM Dean Lombardi.
- The St. Louis Blues went on a run to make the playoffs, then lost four straight, decided to be sellers, and still got a poor return for Kevin Shattenkirk. Shattenkirk is now on the Capitals, and the Blues got a first-round pick, a prospect, a conditional second-round pick in 2019 and an AHLer. Shattenkirk leaves the Blues as their second highest scoring player, and a team that was primed for a playoff run at the start of this season,, is now left with scraps. Doug Armstrong’s GM position should really be put into question, as this was just another of his mismanaged situations.
Stars of the Week
- Stan Bowman has quietly gone out and gathered pieces for the Blackhawks’ playoff puzzle. The Hawks GM acquired Tomas Jurco and Johnny Oduya, while only giving up a pair of mid-round picks and Mark McNeill. Bowman has brought back a familiar face in Oduya, and took a calculated risk on a talented player like Jurco. Having won nine of their last ten, do not count out the Blackhawks challenging the Wild for first in the Central Division. As well, Jonathan Toews who started out very slow is coming off a red hot February, where he registered 18 points in 10 games.
- The Calgary Flames have been heating up. Having won their last five games, the Flames find themselves in a wild card position. Brian Elliott finally looks to have found his footing, and the Flames managed to bring in Michael Stone and Curtis Lazar while only giving up three picks (none first round), and Jyrki Jokipakka. Hot teams are dangerous ones come the post-season, keep an eye on the Calgary Flames.
What to watch this week?
- Wednesday: Wizards vs Raptors 7:30pm ET, Cavaliers vs Celtics 8:00pm ET, Penguins vs Blackhawks 8:00pm ET, Rockets vs Clippers 10:30pm ET
- Thursday: Rangers vs Bruins 7:00pm ET, Wild vs Blue Jackets 7:00pm ET, Predators vs Canadiens 7:30pm ET, Warriors vs Bulls 8:00pm ET, Leafs vs Maple Leafs 10:30pm ET
- Friday: Lightning vs Penguins 7:00pm ET, Raptors vs Wizards 7:00pm ET, Spurs vs Pelicans 9:30pm ET
- Saturday: Blue Jackets vs Senators 7:00pm ET, Canadiens vs Rangers 7:00pm ET, Blackhawks vs Predators 8:00pm ET, Clippers vs Bulls 8:30pm ET, Grizzlies vs Rockets 9:00pm ET
- Sunday: Warriors vs Knicks 3:30pm ET, Islanders vs Flames 4:00pm ET, Sharks vs Wild 6:00pm ET
- Monday: Bruins vs Senators 7:30pm ET, Rockets vs Spurs 8:30pm ET, Celtics vs Clippers 10:30pm ET
- Tuesday: Rangers vs Panthers 7:30pm ET, Blues vs Wild 8:00pm ET
Special thanks to Geoff Marlowe for helping with the editing work and a big thank you to you the reader for taking your time to read my work! Appreciate it! Hope you continue to read along, if you have any suggestions/comments/questions, please feel free to inbox me or talk to me on Twitter @sassysaslove.