COMMENTARY | Over the past several days, rumors have been spreading that the Boston Celtics might send star point guard Rajon Rondo to the Sacramento Kings.
No exact trade terms accompany these rumors, but most analysts seem to be operating under the assumption that the Kings are desperate to pair Rondo with their star center DeMarcus Cousins. That assumption is a misguided one, and here's why:
The Kings couldn't acquire Rondo without giving up Cousins
Certainly the prospect of pairing Rondo with Cousins is a tantalizing one with Kings fans. But there's an obvious flaw with all this speculation. If you take Cousins off the table, Sacramento doesn't have the assets to acquire Rondo.
Since the Kings just acquired Rudy Gay, one can assume he's probably off the table. Ben McLemore may go on to have a great career in the NBA, but he's struggled to find his shot in his rookie season. Isaiah Thomas might be surprising everyone, but at his core he remains an undersized defensive liability who is more suited to a sixth man role than a franchise cornerstone. And at this point, Derrick Williams, also recently acquired, is little more than a reclamation project.
Aside from that group of four, there's not much of interest on the Kings' roster. There's always the possibility that first-round draft picks will be the primary incentive, but that also seems unlikely. Rondo, when healthy, is a top three point guard in the league. Even if the 2014 draft is expected to be one for the ages, it's hard to fathom Boston not getting some known commodity back in return for trading Rondo.
Don't wait for Cousins' trade value to decline
Recognizing the reality that Sacramento probably can't acquire Rondo without giving up Cousins, the question then becomes, is it worth it? There's a large segment of the Kings' fan base that walk around with purple colored blinders on. They see the massive stat lines that Cousins has been turning in as of late and scoff at the notion that any sane exec would consider trading him. That's precisely why now is the ideal time to send him somewhere else.
Good stockbrokers know when to buy low and sell high. Let the Kings continue losing 80% of their games and sooner or later Cousins' true colors will begin to show. He'll earn a suspension or two, have a rift with a few teammates, and ruin yet another head coach. Then the national press will commence the familiar narrative of Cousins the Malcontent, Cousins the Cancer. His trade value will plummet as a consequence.
Earn a "Kings Ransom" in exchange for Cousins: Rondo, Jeff Green, and a pick
But right now, in this moment, Cousins doesn't look like such damaged goods, and he should be able to fetch a huge return in any trade. Instead of trying to sell the farm to acquire Rondo, flip things around and let the Celtics fork over multiple assets for Cousins. Objectively, his value should be higher than Rondo's. He's younger, his ceiling of potential is higher, and he plays a more premium position.
With that in mind, here's an opening bid in the Cousins sweepstakes: Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, and a first-round pick in exchange for DeMarcus Cousins and either Isaiah Thomas or Ben McLemore (let the Celtics have their choice). Add in any necessary filler to make the trade comply with the terms of the CBA. The Celtics come away with the single greatest talent in the multi-player deal, but also the biggest gamble. Sacramento winds up with two high quality players and the opportunity to divest itself from one of the league's biggest headaches.
Shore up the center position with another deal
Trading Cousins would leave a gaping hole in the Kings' frontcourt, but there are opportunities for filling it through other trades. The Denver Nuggets seem to be faring better with Timofey Mozgov than JaVale McGee. Eventually McGee will return from his hairline fracture, and the Kings could probably pry him away from the Nuggets without giving up too much in return. It's well-known that former Nuggets coach George Karl had a rift with management about how much to play McGee, so it's safe to assume Kings GM Pete D'Alessandro, who came from the Nuggets, has an affection for him.
In this scenario, the Kings would be left with a nucleus of Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Rudy Gay, and JaVale McGee. Derrick Williams, Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, and either Ben McLemore or Isaiah Thomas would be part of the core rotation, and they would be left with multiple first -ound picks in a deep draft.
Though many Kings fans will never admit it, there's more hope for the future in that group than what they have now. Staking your entire future on a mentally troubled superstar doesn't always work out so well. If you don't believe me, just ask the Knicks.
Doug Brockwell is a lifelong follower of NBA basketball who grew up cheering for the Denver Nuggets. After relocating to Northern California in 2008, he began to follow the Sacramento Kings, who remind him of the endearingly hapless Nuggets squads of the '90s that he endured as a kid.
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- DeMarcus Cousins
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