Welcome to the Greatest Moment series at Last Word On Pro Basketball, where we’ll present to you each NBA team’s greatest moment of the 21st century. From draft lottery luck, to a franchise-changing trade, to the sweet taste of a championship, every NBA team has had its own special moment to look back on.
In this installment, we will be taking a look at the greatest Sacramento Kings moment of the 21st century.
Greatest Sacramento Kings Moment of the 21st Century: Drafting DeMarcus Cousins
For the Kings, to identify their greatest moment of the 21st century; some would point to the early 2000s team which featured stars such as Vlade Divac, Peja Stojaković, and Chris Webber. While King’s fans can be proud of one of the most exciting teams of the new millennium, it does, however, carry the unfortunate memory of the 2002 Western Conference Finals. Many fans believe that the series against the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers was not officiated fairly but that’s a discussion for another time.
For this edition, we will be looking at another significant moment in Sacramento Kings history; the selection of DeMarcus Cousins in the 2010 NBA Draft.
“With the fifth pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings select DeMarcus Cousins”
Outside of John Wall, Gordon Hayward, Paul George, and Cousins, the 2010 NBA Draft was not rich in superstar talent. However, with the fifth pick, the Sacramento Kings drafted their franchise player. After Wall, Cousins’ teammate at Kentucky, was selected first overall, the Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, and Minnesota Timberwolves all passed on the 6’11 big man. Selecting Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, and Wesley Johnson respectively.
In Cousins’ rookie season, the former Kentucky Wildcat would appear in 81 regular season games, while averaging 14 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Cousins would be named to the All-Rookie First Team but the team would finish with a poor 24-58 record.
Throughout Cousins’ career, he has often found himself in a tough situation. Cousins would often be at odds with officials and even his own coaching staff. In his second season in the league, Cousins and Sacramento King’s Head Coach Paul Westphal were beginning to develop a contentious relationship. According to Sacramento beat writer Sam Amick, Westphal had sent Cousins home after refusing to follow team direction.
Westphal: "…unwilling/unable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team, it cannot be ignored indefinitely."
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) January 1, 2012
Despite only being in the NBA for two seasons, Cousins was beginning to garner an uncoachable reputation. Just a few days after their coach benched Cousins, Kings management decided to part ways with Paul Westphal. Many believed this was due to the tense relationship between Westphal and Sacramento’s franchise player.
Later that year, Cousins would again find himself making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Cousins was involved in a dispute with San Antonio Spurs broadcaster Sean Elliot. Elliot believed Cousins was “trying to bully” Spurs forward Tim Duncan. Cousins would confront Elliot and then defend himself by saying trash talk is a big part of basketball. Cousins later apologized to Elliot, which Elliot accepted.
After many years of rumors swirling, coaches let go, and tons of speculation, the Sacramento Kings were ready to part ways with DeMarcus Cousins. On February 20 of this year, the Sacramento Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Sacramento has agreed to trade DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, league source tells @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 20, 2017
The structure of the deal included Sacramento trading Cousins and swingman Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, and a pair of 2017 first and second round draft picks.
While DeMarcus Cousins never delivered a championship or even a meaningful playoff run for the Kings during his tenure, he did, however, give fans a reason to watch. The skilled big man can do just about anything on the basketball court. As he matures, so does his game. For the past three seasons, Cousins has seen his 3P% gradually rise every year. While continuing to average double-digit rebounds, a block, and a steal, Cousins is proving to be arguably the best center in the NBA; perhaps second to teammate Anthony Davis.
To classify this as a greatest Sacramento Kings moment in their history may be hard for some fans to accept. Throughout NBA history, players and their long-time teams eventually reach a breaking point where they simply divorce themselves from each other. The Kings did not lose Cousins to free agency and by trading him to New Orleans, they were able to send Cousins to a promising situation. Subsequently, the Kings-Pelicans trade created arguably the most dominant tandem in the NBA. The likes of which hasn’t been seen since Tim Duncan and David Robinson played alongside each other.
Giving Cousins the opportunity to compete for a championship with one of the best big men in the world in Anthony Davis was arguably the greatest thing that the Sacramento Kings ever did for DeMarcus Cousins, and possibly for their own future growth as a franchise.