Thursday was supposed to mark the beginning of a new era for the Sacramento Kings. Granted, there have been plenty of “new” eras for the Kings since they last made the postseason 15 years ago, but I’m sure you can see what I’m getting at here. Thursday was supposed to be the day the Kings finally rid themselves of disgruntled shooting guard Buddy Hield, who was seemingly set to head south on I-5 to join the Los Angeles Lakers.
In turn, Sacramento would have picked up a pair of young stars in Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell. But, as we all know, that didn’t happen as the Washington Wizards swooped in and stole the trade by shipping Russell Westbrook to Hollywood in a blockbuster deal that changes the landscape of the Western Conference and the NBA as a whole. Unfortunately for the Kings, they come out as the biggest loser in the trade and now must figure out where to go from here.
The Sacramento Kings were set to deal Buddy Hield to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell
As Hield has been discontent with the Kings for quite some time now, it only made sense for Sacramento to find a willing trade partner. And as the Lakers were looking for an outside shooter to group with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, LA seemed like a perfect fit.
A deal between the two teams had been discussed for some time, and, on Thursday, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that it would get done. The only hurdle seemed to be getting Harrell to opt into his $9.7 million player option for the 2021-22 season, but the 2020 NBA Sixth Man of the Year did so on Thursday, paving the way for the trade to go down.
The Lakers would have received Hield, while the Kings would have received Harrell, Kuzma, and likely the Lakers’ No. 22 pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft. Everybody gets what they want, right?
Again, the deal seemed as good as done. Until it wasn’t.
The Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards
As the Lakers are tied to just about every big name in trades or free agency virtually every single NBA offseason, the rumors were out there that they might be looking to acquire Westbrook from the Wizards. Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and plenty of others, obviously including Hield, were also mentioned as possible candidates to be the new No. 3 in LA.
As we all know now, the Lakers made the Westbrook rumor come true on Thursday as they acquired the 2017 NBA MVP in exchange for Kuzma, Harrell, Kenatavious Caldwell-Pope, and the aforementioned No. 22 pick in the draft.
The blockbuster deal obviously sent shockwaves throughout the entire NBA world and had to be an absolute stunner to the Kings seeing as how seemingly close they were to shipping Hield to the Lakers.
Where do the Kings go from here?
Unfortunately for their fans, the Kings have to be seen as the biggest losers in this Lakers-Westbrook announcement. One minute, they think they’ve gotten rid of a player who doesn’t want to be there and have acquired two solid players and a second first-round draft pick. And with Kuzma, they’d be getting a guy itching to prove that he’s more than just a supporting player.
But the next minute, they’re the puppy sitting in the window asking, “Why didn’t you pick me?” Sure, they picked up Baylor guard Davion Mitchell with the No. 9 pick in the draft. And Mitchell is a solid addition. Not only did he average 14 points and 5.5 assists for the title-winning Bears this past season, but he was also named the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. But he’s not going to turn around a franchise that hasn’t been to the NBA Playoffs since 2006 on his own.
And it’s not as if Sacramento will be a preferred destination for the big names when free agency starts next week. Kings’ GM Monte McNair has to be beside himself at the moment as he scrambles to pick up the pieces. And he’s likely on the phone as you’re reading this, trying desperately to find another team ready to take on Hield. And, yes, he’ll likely find one. But he won’t get in return what he was going to from the Lakers.
So it’s back to the drawing board for the Kings as they have to start the process all over again, something they’ve been doing now for a decade and a half.
Stats courtesy of Sports Reference