Omri Casspi: 'I just didn't believe it was going to happen'
DeMarcus Cousins isn’t to blame anymore.
The center was an easy target for criticism as the Kings failed to reach the postseason in his six-plus seasons in Sacramento. Now that he’s headed to New Orleans with Omri Casspi in a trade for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and two draft picks, the Kings are expected to unload more veterans and go into full tank mode.
The NBA trade deadline is Thursday. Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo, Kosta Koufos and Ben McLemore also could be dealt soon as general manager Vlade Divac reshapes the team. On Monday, veteran forward Matt Barnes was waived.
No veteran is safe, considering the team told Cousins he wouldn’t be traded.
Sacramento was criticized for not getting enough for a three-time All-Star in his prime, and some question whether Divac has the experience and savvy to can guide the Kings through another rebuilding plan. Others wonder if principal owner Vivek Ranadive will allow his front office to make the moves needed to turn around a franchise that has not reached the postseason since 2006.
The Kings bring back Evans, the 2009-10 Rookie of the Year, and add the defensive-minded Galloway. But the key player in the deal for the Kings is Hield, a rookie guard from Oklahoma.
The “Cousins is killing the culture” excuse no longer will fly. The attention is back on the front office, which has been criticized over three regimes for botching draft picks that would have surrounded Cousins with the talent to win.
Divac’s previous moves largely aimed to get the Kings into the playoffs. Now, the changes probably will focus on as poor a finish as possible to improve their draft status.
Shedding more veterans will help the Kings keep their top-10 protected pick. And if the Pelicans miss the playoffs with Cousins teaming with All-Star forward Anthony Davis, the Kings could have two lottery picks in a loaded draft.
But it’s not that simple.
In July 2015, Sacramento traded Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and Nik Stauskas to Philadelphia in a salary dump to create salary cap room for free agency. The Kings also gave Philadelphia the right to swap draft picks for two years, so if the Kings’ pick is higher than Philadelphia’s this year, the exchange will occur.
After last summer’s draft, the Kings had a surplus of big men. Now they have a collection of shooting guards. Sacramento last year acquired rookie Malachi Richardson and the draft rights to Serbian Bogdan Bogdanovic, whom the team plans to sign this summer.
Bogdanovic came in a draft-day deal with Phoenix partly because the Kings believed they could make the playoffs this season and would lose their draft pick.
Sacramento added Hield, the sixth pick in last year’s draft, to the mix while shopping guards Afflalo, McLemore and Garrett Temple.
There is much to sort out between now and Thursday.