Do the Kings really want to make the Playoffs this season?

Rocklin, CA. January 7, 2017 - The object of the game is to win. But what is the prize? That is the question Sacramento Kings officials must address over the course of the next month and a half. The Kings are presently flirting with having the eighth best record in the Western Conference, which, should they finish there, would give them a first round date with the NBA's present overall number one seed, the Golden State Warriors. While making the Playoffs would be a sign of modest progress for Sacramento, it would also guarantee that the Kings 2017 first round draft pick would go to the Chicago Bulls. And while not a guarantee, it seems unlikely that Sacramento would win one game in a best-of-seven series with the Warriors.

Back to the Draft. If the Kings pick falls between 11 and 30, it will transfer to the Bulls. The only way the Kings can keep their first round pick in 2017 is to have the Philadelphia 76'ers and the Kings end up with picks in the one through ten range. Philly has the right to swap with Sacramento if the Kings pick is a better one.

If the ultimate prize is to one day win an NBA championship, the Kings may be better off for the long haul to have one of the seven worst NBA records by the end of the 2017 season. Why seventh worst? You can only slip three positions in the lottery. Seventh worst would allow the Kings to have the tenth pick in a worst case scenario.

So which prize is better? Winning enough to make the Playoffs and probably being swept by the Warriors or having a shot to draft one of the ten best prospects in the 2017 Draft?

We are NEVER for outright tanking. We think all teams should be trying to win more games than they lose. It seems likely that this season the eighth seed in the West will have a record below .500. So again, the philosophical question begs; "is making the Playoffs in the last spot with a losing record really considered winning?"

The reality is that the Kings are nowhere close to an NBA title as presently constituted. So really, where are they going as a franchise? Tickets will sell at the new Golden 1 Center as long as the Kings give the fans hope. Basketball is the only game in town (apologies to River Cats and Republic). With each season of age on the fantastic new downtown facility, the structure itself will begin to be less of an attraction, thus placing more emphasis on the Kings ability to be a consistent winner.

Taking a long-term approach toward a goal of an NBA title would likely mean trading away the two major assets Sacramento has (Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins). If that is accomplished it seems likely the team would naturally stumble a bit which would probably be enough to fall into the bottom seven.

The NBA is changing rapidly

The Kings best player is a BIG. Meanwhile, most of the highly successful NBA teams are headed by wings or guards. The three-point differential between the Kings and other NBA teams is an annual issue, with the Kings on the short end of the tally.

DeMarcus Cousins is now in his prime, and his rights are property of the Kings for the rest of this season, and for the 2017-18 season. After that, the Kings risk getting nothing in return for an NBA All-Star. (editor note: reports say the Kings are willing to offer Cousins a $200 million extension this summer.)

Cousins' individual skills are unmatched among current NBA big men. Yet, in six seasons since the arrival of Cousins, Sacramento's best record was 33-49 in 2015-16. Some would argue that the Kings have not surrounded Cousins with enough talent to win consistently. We would argue that even if Sacramento had better talent, that talent would not reach it's full potential playing with a player with the high usage rate that Cousins demands. The teammates that Cousins seemingly meshes with are career role players who pose no threat to his status as "the main man".

Rudy Gay, who has said publicly that he would be hesitant to re-sign in Sacramento, has zero chemistry with Cousins. Anyone who watches the Kings with regularity can see that. If Gay wants out of Sacramento, the Kings MUST trade him by February 23rd or they will likely be stuck getting zero in return for a NBA veteran starter that can score.

Should the Kings trade Cousins?

It is difficult to come up with any players (not Carl landry, not Aaron Brooks, not Arron Afflalo, not Ramon Sessions, not Marco Belinelli, not Kosta Koufos, not Ben McLemore, or Willie Cauley-Stein) that have played with Cousins since his 2010 arrival that have gotten better or achieved notable team success because of playing alongside him for an 82-game season.

And this is about basketball. We know all about the good things Cousins does in the community. He should and will always be commended for that.

It is vital for the long term success of the franchise to start consistently getting their player personnel moves correct. How will they handle the time between now and the NBA Trade Deadline? Whatever is done or not done will be crucial to future success or lack thereof.