Draft Buzz: Possible landing spots for Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins
The Celtics, Knicks and Lakers could be in play for Sacramento Kings All-Star DeMarcus Cousins
To see what could be ahead for the Sacramento Kings, we must look at how this franchise got to this level of dysfunction.
To review (and be patient, there is a lot to review when assessing the Kings):
In December 2013, the Kings acquired Rudy Gay from Toronto in an effort to complement DeMarcus Cousins with a capable wing scorer. A year later, with the Kings off to an encouraging 11-13 start while Cousins was bedridden with viral meningitis, they fired coach Michael Malone and replaced him with assistant Tyrone Corbin. The reason? Owner Vivek Ranadive wanted to play faster, despite the fact that the team's best player, Cousins, was a plodding, low-post scorer.
The GM who begrudgingly executed the move, Pete D'Alessandro, subsequently hired George Karl, with whom he worked in Denver. After a season in which Cousins made his first All-Star team, he told the Washington Post of the Kings' turmoil: "It's been a circus, man. It's been a complete circus."
Two months ago, D'Alessandro was stripped of his decision-making power and replaced by Vlade Divac, who is now calling the shots. Earlier this month, D'Alessandro returned to Denver in a front-office role. Oh, and Malone is now the Nuggets' head coach.
Now, two days before a draft in which the Kings hold the sixth pick, they are floating trade proposals as though the world is ending. "They have everyone on the table," a rival executive told CBSSports.com Tuesday. "Everyone."
Everyone includes Gay, the player the previous regime acquired to placate Cousins, and if Karl gets his wish, Cousins, himself. To which Cousins deftly responded on Twitter with a hot-fire emoji depicting a snake between blades of grass.
Ranadive and Divac continue to insist that Cousins is not available, which runs counter to Karl's comment in April that he's "never had one player that I have said was untradeable." And while rival executives are dubious that anything of substance has changed on the Karl-Cousins front -- beyond a well-placed leak that led to this pre-draft maelstrom -- it's never too early to consider the potential landing spots for the combustible but talented 24-year-old.
Cousins' agent, Dan Fegan, would like to steer his client to the Lakers, who can offer Julius Randle and this year's No. 2 pick -- though rival teams doubt the Kings would send Cousins to a division rival. The Knicks are another team on Cousins' list, but all the Knicks have to offer is the fourth pick (which, bear in mind, can't officially be dealt until the Knicks use it, since their 2016 first-rounder already has been traded).
UPDATE, 3:11 p.m. ET: Karl's former team, Denver, also is a possibility -- with Malone and D'Alessandro there and with Karl pushing the idea of "putting the band back together" from his Nuggets tenure, a person with knowledge of the situation said. League sources say Karl is enamored with the idea of a deal that would send Kenneth Faried, Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler to Sacramento. The Nuggets, who have the seventh pick, are open to trading Lawson and Chandler. But Faried would be difficult to trade before July since his contract includes a poison-pill provision; his incoming salary for the Kings ($10.45 million) would be vastly greater than his outgoing salary for the Nuggets ($2.25 million) if traded during the current league year.
To date, this scenario is an internal desire of Karl's; such a deal has yet to be formally proposed to the Nuggets' front office, league sources said.
The team that can offer the most in terms of future assets for Cousins is the Boston Celtics, who've long had their eye on the Sacramento situation for that very reason. The Celtics have the 16th and 28th picks in Thursday night's draft, plus a slew of future firsts -- as many as six in the next two drafts and eight in the next three, depending on how the protections play out.
Here is the confusing part: Karl has signaled no interest in a full-on youth movement. He is chasing Don Nelson on the career wins list and wants to win now with veteran players. So why not keep your best players, add Emmanuel Mudiay or Willie Cauley-Stein to the mix with the sixth pick, and move on? One thing is certain: After missing on the eighth overall pick last year (Nik Stauskas, who is already on the trading block), the Kings need to get this offseason right for once.
For now, emojis are popping up all over, the circus music is playing and the Kings are the undisputed rulers of dysfunction.
Shakeup at the top? League sources say the Sixers want D'Angelo Russell and are willing to trade up from the No. 3 spot to get him. It would create an interesting opportunity for the Lakers, who could still get Jahlil Okafor and extract a future pick in the process. Among others, the Sixers control the Lakers' 2016 first-round pick, which is top-3 protected.
Porzingis Project? While the Knicks may be hesitant to go with Latvian 7-footer Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth pick, given their infamous selection of Frederic Weis in 1999, a rival executive who has scouted him extensively disputed the notion that he's a long-term project. "He's the real deal," the executive said. "He's ready to go right now."
Point guard for Pistons? If Emmanuel Mudiay falls to the Pistons at No. 8, they might be inclined to take him and let Reggie Jackson walk as a free agent. "They're not 100 percent sold on Reggie," a league source said. Detroit also likes Justise Winslow and Mario Hezonja at that spot, sources said, though Hezonja isn't expected to get past the Magic at No. 5.
Wisconsin wild card. Wisconsin's Sam Dekker is the wild card in the late lottery, with league sources pegging him anywhere from 10th (Miami) to 17th (Milwaukee). If the 6-9 forward is on the board when the Bucks pick, there will be tremendous pressure to take the local star from Madison -- especially with the Bucks trying to build community and political excitement for a new downtown arena. Milwaukee native Kevon Looney of UCLA also could fit the bill.
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