The Los Angeles Lakers are in a great position heading into the future because they have assets. They have a potential starting-quality point guard in Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle's potential has yet to be unleashed on the basketball court and the No. 2 pick gives the franchise a chance to draft a player that could become the centerpiece of their rebuild. Those assets are exactly why the Lakers are the team in the center of the eye of the storm of the Sacramento Kings' rapidly unraveling relationship with DeMarcus Cousins. Yes, any lottery pick in this draft would be lucky to be as good as Cousins, and Julius Randle certainly isn't projected to be as dominant as his fellow Wildcat, but trading both of those pieces is a steep price for the Lakers to pay.
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Those are the kinds of assets the team will have "in play" in any talks for the big man, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Ask Kings fans and they'll venture that's not nearly enough for an All-Star player who's just 24 and under contract for an additional three years. They also might have a thing or two to say about the amount of chaos that's been brewing over the years, and how things have gotten progressively dicier since head coach Michael Malone was ousted.
Ask Lakers fans and trading the No. 2 pick straight-up for Boogie is debatable. Why not just select a franchise big man in Jahlil Okafor and start from scratch with the youth movement amassing in Los Angeles? Others can't understand how any sane sports fan would keep that gamble of a pick instead of shipping it off for a proven commodity like DeMarcus. Randle and the pick combined might be as productive as Cousins, and this should be a no-brainer for Mitch.
Gauging value becomes an even more difficult task when considering the source of all this noise. There's more in play here than Mitch Kupchak putting in cold calls to Vlade Divac. Cousins' agent wants to "steer" him to the Lakers, according to Ken Berger of CBS Sports, while George Karl just wants to send him somewhere. The Kings' internal situation may have more to do with this than any interest from the Lakers, with Los Angeles just-so-happening to be one of the team with the kind of assets to catch Sacramento's attention. The Lakers may not be interested in the high asking price of both the lottery pick and Randle without getting more than Cousins back, though, which adds up considering they've sought out a third team to bring further options to the table.
The Kings' front office has a serious bridge to build between Karl, ownership and Cousins, but nobody involved in this scenario has any reason to act drastically. DeMarcus is signed to Sacramento for years, and the Lakers' selection and Randle aren't going to disappear if a deal doesn't happen in the next few weeks. It's arguable the Lakers are better off letting their young core play through a season to get a better idea as to what kind of talent they already have on hand, in fact.
A player like Cousins doesn't become available often, though. While he's making $50.8 million over the next three season, the salary cap is set to boom, and the Lakers are shedding Kobe Bryant's $25 million soon. Kupchak will have plenty of space to work with over the next few summers, and DeMarcus might be the best player they have a chance at acquiring this summer via any avenue. He's the established "star" the Lakers can build around as they prepare for free agency pitches in the future.
What we know is there's dissonance within the Kings organization. We know the Lakers have the kind of pieces to give speculation about this kind of mega-deal wheels. We know Cousins is young, incredibly talented and proven. What makes this such a difficult call from a Lakers' perspective is what we don't know, though.
We don't know how good Julius Randle could be. Heck, we don't even know who the Lakers are drafting with the second overall pick with 100 percent certainty. This young, cost-controlled core is one of the few dreams fans have been able to embrace after back-to-back franchise-lows. Taking it away before it's fully realized feels like punishment.
It'd be a huge acquisition if the Lakers do work out a deal to acquire Cousins, but It's not as simple as claiming the single best individual player in a trade. These are high-value talents that could mold the future for either franchise, and the stakes are always high for the purple and gold.