Imagine this, 3 teams ahead of you passing on the best big man in the draft class. None of those 3 teams’ draftees currently play for the team that drafted them. So you are lucky enough to draft this big man named DeMarcus Cousins who shows potential right off the bat, dropping double doubles almost every single game. Each season that goes on, Cousins improves his numbers and flourishes into one of the best big men in the league. Last season, this guy averaged 26.9 points per game (including a 56 point performance) en route to his second All-Star and All-NBA season. With this tower of talent on your roster, you should be a contending team right? Okay maybe it takes more than one superstar to be a contender nowadays but at least make the playoffs right? Okay the Western Conference is stacked so missing the playoffs can be understandable but at least have a winning season right? Shockingly, none of the above have been the case for the Sacramento Kings despite having one of the best players in the league.
It has been nearly a decade since the Kings have made the playoffs, which is currently the second longest draught in the NBA behind the Minnesota Timberwolves. This is frustrating for a fan base who was used to witnessing “The Greatest Show on Court” era in the early 2000s. Even though they did not win a championship (with the 2002 Western Conference Finals going down as the most controversial in league history), the Kings were still one of the most exciting teams in the league to watch. However, their star players were all nearing the end of their careers and it was time to re-tool. Since then, the Kings have gone through many declines, changes, and transitions. DeMarcus Cousins remains the only hope for restoring near future contention in Sacramento.
Since his college days at Kentucky, DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins has sparked concerns over his attitude and ability to work with other players and coaches. There is no doubt his emotion can be both his biggest strength and weakness. The Kings recently hired Dave Joerger, becoming the 6th person to coach Boogie since he came into the league. Cousins has always been near the top of the league in technical fouls and never shocks anyone when reports of locker room conflicts hit the media. However, it is impossible to deny his greatness. True centers are a dime a dozen these days. Cousins remains one of the few big men who can score with his back to the basket and absolutely dominate the paint. Standing 6’11 and weighing 270 pounds, he is one of the strongest big men on the boards and has the ability to block/alter shots. If that wasn’t good enough, Cousins can knock down shots from the outside and has a career average above 70% from the free throw line.
Cousins recently helped Team USA capture the Gold Medal in the Rio Olympics Men’s Basketball. He referred to it as the “best feeling ever”, however, that might change one day if he wins an NBA Championship. But maybe the medal will boost his game even more. Prior to the 2013-2014 season, Boogie was awarded a 4 year, $62 million contract. A lot chuckles were heard when one year later Cousins tweeted “How Much!? :O” after Tristan Thompson was awarded a 5 year, $82.5 million contract. But not to worry Boogie, your time will come especially with the NBA salary cap continuing to rise. So this puts Boogie and the Kings in an interesting position. Do they continue to try and build a contender around Cousins or trade him and start over in case he decides to bolt in free agency?
It is likely that Cousins will opt out of the final year of his contract following the 2016-2017 season. He has been in the discussion of many trade rumours but the Kings have refused to let him go. After all, he is rare raw talent and is one of the few big men who can simply go out and win you a game at will. There is no doubt that a lot of teams will be after his services once free agency opens next summer. So the solution is obvious, win more games this upcoming season or re-build and completely start fresh. Kings fans are hoping for the former, as they have already had to endure too many rebuilding seasons. Having a fresh system under a new Head Coach should help combined with the addition of veterans Arron Afflalo and Matt Barnes. The Kings remain one of the youngest teams in the league, with three 2016 first round draft picks expected to log some minutes this upcoming season. With Rajon Rondo now in the windy city, the Kings are expected to try and land another point guard with Ricky Rubio being the prime target. The Kings have the prospects to land an impact player in a trade but it remains clear that Rudy Gay needs to go if the Kings want to move in the right direction. Gay is not happy in Sacramento and his ball dominant game does not help his teammates around him. Maybe Sacramento can benefit like the Toronto Raptors with the “less is more” approach.
Stats are nice and all but professional basketball is about winning and putting your mark on history. Cousins has the talent to lead Sacramento to the playoffs but he will need both team support and reliable coaching to keep him under control. The season is set to tip off in 2 months, with the Kings opening the season against the Phoenix Suns on October 26, 2016.