The Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins gets ready for an interview after a game on Jan. 10, 2017. (JOHN G. MABANGLO / EPA)

DeMarcus Cousins is going to do precisely what the NBA wants him to do.

By signing a long-term extension with the Kings to stay in Sacramento, as multiple reports this week have indicated he will, Cousins is following the path the league envisioned for its star-caliber impending free agents when it instituted the Designated Player Exception in the newly ratified collective bargaining agreement. Teams keep their top-drafted talent longer, and those stars are rewarded to the tune of about $80 million they’d never see if they signed elsewhere as a free agent.

So yes, of course Cousins is going to re-sign with the Kings for another five years, beginning in the 2018-19 season. And yes, he’ll follow the path the new CBA clearly illuminated for him. The question, is where that path will lead for the Kings moving forward and whether the NBA’s new CBA will continue to work according to plan.

The Kings have been a disaster for 10 years now, missing the playoffs in each of those seasons with only one quality draft pick – Cousins – to show for all the misery the team’s fans endured. That’s why fans in Sacramento have clung so tightly to Cousins throughout all of the drama that’s surrounded his six-plus seasons in the NBA, from issues with local media to the continued drudgery of the on-court product.

All of that is why Cousins has been the most-talked about trade target in the NBA over the past two seasons, as he was seemingly destined to be dealt for a package of draft picks and young players. But now comes the massive extension for over $200 million over five years and he seems likely to stick around – for a little while at least.

While the road paved by the new CBA now winds through Sacramento a little longer, it may yet lead out of town in the long run.

Once Cousins decides to sign the extension, the Kings gain significantly more leverage over his future. The choice will be obvious: hang onto Cousins for as long as they choose, or ship him off to whatever team is willing to give up a king’s ransom (no pun intended) for one of the most talented players in the NBA under team control for years to come.

Signed long term, Cousins could lead a renaissance in Sacramento. Perhaps the Kings will finally find the right formula to build a contender around Cousins – even though this season is the best they’ve ever done with him and they’re barely flirting with an eight seed in a historically bad race for that spot in the Western Conference.

Or it could be more of the same futility. If it’s the latter, the Kings would still face the same decision they had before the extension – keep him or trade him – only their reward for trading him would be greatly inflated.

The haul Sacramento would get in a potential Cousins trade when he’s signed for five more years – even assuming he has to wait an entire year after signing his extension this summer to be traded, an as-of-yet unclear part of the new CBA – is vastly superior to whatever another team would give up for a mere 12 to 18 months of Cousins. In short, Cousins wasn’t going to give the Kings a worthwhile return on any trade unless he signed the extension. But once signed, Sacramento will balance the scales and real evaluation period by the franchise will begin.

Free-market advocates will undoubtedly be upset that the Designated Player Exception could potentially keep players with the team that drafted them for anywhere from 12-14 seasons, but that kind of long-term control over a player is precisely what the league was looking for after Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder to sign with the Golden State Warriors this summer.

The NBA would like to see its stars spread more evenly throughout the league, elevating more teams instead of clustering in a select few cities. To do that, teams needed a way to retain their top-drafted talent. The Designated Player Exception gives them that ability, but it does not ensure the NBA’s vision is realized in total. It can’t force a player like Cousins to remain in market like Sacramento indefinitely. Cousins could still sign the extension and demand a trade – a scenario some have cautioned against with the new DPE. Nor can the league prevent teams from making bad decisions in building around or developing their star players.

What it does do is allow teams to act in their best interest and not be forced into a course of action by a player anxious to escape for a new contract or a new start in a new city. Teams can wait and see what happens with their stars – and the rest of their team – before deciding to move on. That’s the big victory for teams in the NBA’s new CBA.

Cousins will be the first test case for this new system. The extension could allow the Kings to properly build around one of the league’s best big men over the next half-decade, or at least to get proper value for Cousins if they choose to move on from him. And if they choose the latter, they should get enough talent to ensure Sacramento won’t be an NBA wasteland for another decade.

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