Since he was drafted in 2010, one half believes he is a supremely talented big man who has not yet reached his prime, suffering from instability within the organization, which has not complemented his level of talent. The other half believes he is an all-world talent, though temperamental, with far too many technical fouls, a cancer within the locker room and the common denominator for the Kings’ lack of success. Other opinions lie between these two halves.
However, in regards to temperament, many have seen a more mature and rational DeMarcus this season. He refrains from complaining at every blow of the ref’s whistle and does not hurt the Kings’ transition defense by taking an eternity to run back on defense after a perceived missed foul. Cousins has displayed improvement as a teammate as well. Instead of chewing out teammates for a mistake, he has been engaged and motivating, even from the sideline when he is out of the game.
His on court production is quickly running out of superlatives. With averages of 28.7 ppg , 10.4 rpg and 3.5 apg, which speak for themselves, he gives opposing coaching staffs migraine headaches and sleepless nights. To put Cousins’ gaudy statistics in perspective, Chris Webber never had a box score stuffing season like this in his 15 year career. We tend to forget Cousins, at the tender age of 26, has yet to reach the prime years of his career.
It is for these reasons many believe trading or even entertaining the notion of trading the prodigious big man would set the Kings back another decade. Cousins’ detractors would argue that the Kings have not won with him, how bad could it be without him? A terrifying proposition to some, as he is the fulcrum of the Kings’ offense. Not only would they struggle to score without him, they would struggle to get a shot off. The Kings would be the Philadelphia 76ers of the Western Conference, struggling to win more than 10 games every season.
Keeping DeMarcus in Sacramento is a no-brainer, an opinion seconded by owner Vivek Ranadive, whose first transaction as chairman in 2013 was inking Cousins to a max contract. Vivek has consistently maintained his affinity for DMC throughout his brief ownership. His contract is set to expire at the end of the 2017-18 season, so there is a ticking clock within the organization to not only win now but also to show DeMarcus that after years of instability and on-court struggles, the franchise is indeed headed in the right direction under the tutelage of new coach Dave Joerger and the debut of the Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento.
It should be noted that DeMarcus has been incredibly loyal to Sacramento through all the turmoil. He has survived and dealt with six different head coaches, multiple front office regimes, two separate ownerships, various relocation attempts and countless teammates in his six plus seasons as a King. A model citizen, he has been profoundly charitable in both Sacramento and his hometown Alabama. He genuinely wants to be in Sacramento and has maintained that stance from day one.
Nevertheless, in the summer of 2018 his contract expires and 29 other teams, along with the Kings, will come calling armed with incredible sales pitches, All-Star teammates to join forces with and a guaranteed $180-$200 million contract. If history is any indication, when premiere talent hits the open market, there is a precedent that the free agent take his talents elsewhere. LeBron James, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant are recent examples where their former teams were completely blindsided by their respective departures.
So the question is not should the Kings trade DeMarcus Cousins. The question is, what can the Kings do to convince him to stay long term?
Photo by Steve Martarano