After making one of the most puzzling trades in NBA history, Vlade Divac whole-heartedly believes the Sacramento Kings will be better without DeMarcus Cousins.
It’s not often you hear someone from an organization say their long-term future is brighter without an All-NBA-level center. However, Divac and the Kings are in a league of their own. After trading Cousins and Omri Casspi for way less than their worth, Kings ownership has a boatload of confidence in their young guys.
“That’s my job, and I take responsibility. And I totally understand why some fans would be upset. They supported DeMarcus, and I like DeMarcus a lot. But I believe we are going to be in a better position in two years,” said Divac to Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee.
“I want to hear again from these same people in two years. If I’m right, great. If I’m wrong, I’ll step down. But if I go down, I’m going down my way.”
That’s a bold statement, Vlade. Let’s see how this plays out.
The immediate aftermath of the deal has Sacramento looking like the beneficiary because they have one win in two games, while New Orleans is winless.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Ben McLemore and Buddy Hield appear to be the core that the Kings are attempting to build around, but who knows. They traded Cousins after telling him to his face he wasn’t going to get traded.
In the Big Easy, the Anthony Davis-Cousins bond seems to be growing, and any hiccups between the two are excusable because mid-season trades are like changing schools. They looked phenomenal in their first game together against the Houston Rockets, but the Pels were blown out by 30 because of a lack of help.
Against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, Cousins had a poor showing and looked like he was trying to do too much at times. He was just 3-of-9 from the field with seven turnovers, and the Pelicans fell apart after the opening quarter.
Cousins has now posted consecutive games with a negative plus-minus, and it’s clear that the assimilation process is hitting the Pelicans as a collective. Again, this is expected. According to NBA.com, New Orleans has had 10 two-man lineups with Cousins inserted, and all but one has had a negative differential.
Of those, Cousins-Davis and Cousins-Holiday are -21 and -28, respectively, which are the most intriguing. Like I said earlier, it’s a process for the team to gel with a talent that’s as imposing as DMC, and it takes even more for that to happen when he comes over mid-season. If it were free agency, practice, training camp and preseason would be able to expedite that.
The sample size is also very, very small and it’s crucial to remember that none of those three guys has ever played with this much talent on a team. Davis and Cousins are the best at their positions and Holiday is a former All-Star capable of averaging 19 and seven for a season when healthy.
Consider the end of this year a minicamp for the “Big Three.” By the time next year rolls around, everyone will be able to draw accurate conclusions about Boogie and AD.
For the Kings, if Divac wants two years, let’s give him two years. On a talent level, it remains to be seen if they can bring anyone on or develop someone who equals Cousins. Since 2008, Sacramento has had just one 30-win season, and Divac felt it was time for the franchise to start over.
“It was a lot of things, but basically, I thought it was time to start over. There was a lot of bad stuff happening here the last five years, a lot of bad habits. There were always issues, many you don’t even know about. Now I believe strongly this was the right thing to do for our future. Now I have a clear vision. This city deserves better, and I want to create that. With DeMarcus’ situation, I basically was stuck.
“Maybe we’re going to win a few more games than last year but probably not make the playoffs. Then where are we? Same old place. And we have that contract to deal with. If we keep DeMarcus this summer, we have to extend him, or otherwise he would be on an expiring contract that everyone would be afraid of. Teams don’t trade a lot for a player they aren’t sure will re-sign with you. And if he extended, we couldn’t sign him for an entire year anyway.”
It’s an interesting point by Divac. In a sense, he feels the dark cloud that hovered over the organization is gone now that Cousins isn’t there. The hardest part going forward is luring big-name players to Sacramento, and that’s going to be a tall, tall task — especially after seeing how they handled dealing their franchise player.
Holding onto Cousins would’ve made it easier to attract complementary pieces because they had a solidified superstar. Now, they’re rebuilding. But a rebuild is going to take more than two years. Hopefully, their young guys develop into perennial All-Stars, but the trickle down theory is real. And most teams don’t officially start their rebuild until making front office changes.
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