After years of rumors and speculation, the Sacramento Kings have agreed to trade DeMarcus Cousins, ending his tumultuous tenure with the franchise. The agreed upon deal sends him to the New Orleans Pelicans, and looks like this…
DeMarcus Cousins (27.8 points per game, 10.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 34.4 minutes)
Omri Casspi (5.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 18.0 minutes)
Buddy Hield (8.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 20.4 minutes)
Tyreke Evans (9.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 18.2 minutes)
Langston Galloway (8.6 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 20.4 minutes)
A 2017 First Round Pick (Top 3 Protected) & A 2017 Second Round Pick
Obviously this is a lot to process. The Pelicans have been trying to find a good center to team up with Anthony Davis, and instead, they went and got the best center. A Davis/Cousins front court combo is the stuff that basketball fans everywhere dream about, and it’s rare that we actually get to see something like this come to fruition. On top of that, they didn’t really have to give up that much to get Cousins. This is an exciting victory for New Orleans, who at 23-34, are 2.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets for the last Playoff spot in the West.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Kings have hit the self-destruct button, not long after claiming they were committed to keeping Cousins. In fact, Kings GM Vlade Divac told ESPN, “We’re not trading DeMarcus. We hope he’s here for a long time.” Now, here we are. The Kings (24-33) are only 1.5 games out of the West’s 8th seed, but they’ve decided that Cousins is not worth all of the trouble. It’s a fairly shocking switch for a team that seemed determined to make the Playoffs in the first year of their new arena. Now they’ll be rebuilding their franchise from the ground up, hoping the draft pick they get from New Orleans turns into something good. The trade also goes towards ensuring that they keep their own draft pick, which is top-10 protected. As it stands now, they’re just close enough to making the Playoffs where that pick could fall out of the top-10, in which case, they’d have to send it to the Bulls. This trade is about starting over, and moving on from one of the most talented players the Kings have ever had, who despite his incredible skills, has never once guided the Kings to the Playoffs, and is known as much for his feats on the court as he is his sour attitude.
The only problem with deciding to move on and rebuild is that the Kings haven’t shown that they’re competent enough to be trusted to make the right moves to improve their team. When the Celtics decided to rebuild and trade Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, it was upsetting, but Boston fans could take solace in the fact that their team is run by someone who generally seems to know what they’re doing. Kings fans, on the other hand, might need a drink right now. The prospect of having two draft picks in what’s expected to be a very deep draft is much less exciting when your team’s front office has spent the last few years wasting top-10 draft picks. In fact, let’s take a look at some Sacramento Kings recent history…
2009 – Drafted Tyreke Evans with the 4th pick. While he did win Rookie of the Year, they passed up on Steph Curry and DeMar DeRozan. Evans’ best season remains his rookie year, and now he’s returning to Sacramento in this very trade, working his way back from a serious injury.
2010 – Drafted DeMarcus Cousins with the 5th pick, perhaps the last time this franchise has made a good decision.
2011 – Drafted Bismack Biyombo with the 7th pick, then traded him to Charlotte as part of a three team trade, which got them Jimmer Fredette and John Salmons, when instead, they could have just drafted Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler.
2012 – Drafted Thomas Robinson with the 5th pick, ahead of Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, Jae Crowder, Draymond Green and Khris Middleton. To be fair, those last three guys were all drafted in the Second Round, so everybody passed up on them, although, they didn’t pass up on them for Thomas Robinson, who was traded during his rookie season for Cole Aldrich, Toney Douglas and Patrick Patterson, and has now played for six teams in five seasons.
2013 – Drafted Ben McLemore with the 7th pick. He’s still on the Kings, but he hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire in the same way that C.J. McCollum and Giannis Antetokounmpo have, both of whom were picked after McLemore, as were Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Carter-Williams and Dennis Schroder.
2014 – Drafted Nik Stauskas with the 8th pick, ahead of the likes of Dario Saric, Zach Levine and Rodney Hood, as well as Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic, though, with DeMarcus Cousins on the team, you can’t blame them for not picking a center. Anyway, after one season, they traded Stauskas to the 76ers for Arturas Gudaitis, Luka Mitrovic and the rights to swap picks in 2016 or 2017, which might seem like a good move, but as we’ve seen here, the Kings don’t exactly draft well.
2015 – Drafted Willie Cauley-Stein over Myles Turner and Devin Booker. If you just traded DeMarcus Cousins, would you rather have Willie Cauley-Stein or Myles Turner to step into the starting lineup?
2016 – Drafted Marquese Chriss with the 8th pick, traded him to the Suns for Bogdan Bogdanovic (not currently in the NBA), Skal Labissiere (has played in 8 games this year), Georgios Papagiannis (has played in 4 games this year) and a second round pick in 2020.
Good grief. Now I need a drink. That’s just how they’ve drafted over the past several years, we haven’t even gotten into their trades (Rudy Gay!) and free agent signings (Rajon Rondo!). After going through this, it’s hard to have faith that this Cousins trade is going to become fruitful for them in any way, shape or form.
Meanwhile, back in New Orleans, the drinks are celebratory. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins!? They’ve got a good point guard in Jrue Holiday, and, well, not a whole lot else. This team is only going to be as good as Davis and Cousins can make them, because frankly, outside of Holiday, the supporting cast is less than inspiring. That being said, when has any team ever had two of the best big men in the league in their prime at the same time? The San Francisco Warriors briefly had Wilt Chamberlain and Nate Thurmond, but traded Chamberlain halfway through Thurmond’s second season. The Houston Rockets had Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson, got to the 1986 Finals and looked like the team of the future before the team flamed out amongst Sampson’s unfortunate injuries and rampant drug use. Sampson was eventually traded. The Spurs had Tim Duncan and David Robinson, but Robinson was entering his twilight years. This has the chance to be something we’ve never really seen before, assuming it all works out.
Whether or not it all works out is a pretty big question. First of all, Cousins is a free agent after next season, and the Pelicans will have to convince him to stick around. The supporting cast in New Orleans isn’t exactly top-notch, and this trade has thinned it out. Cousins is notoriously grouchy and for all of his talent, he gets himself into more trouble than he needs to by racking up technical fouls, so much so that each one he gets for the rest of the season will result in a suspension. Lastly, and more importantly, how will Davis and Cousins fit with one another? Two immense talents who have toiled away on fairly lousy teams their whole careers, both used to being the top dog on their team. I wouldn’t go handing them the 8th seed in the West just yet. They’ve got the Blazers, Kings (not for long) and Nuggets to leap frog. I am, however, incredibly excited to see what they can do together, and if the Pelicans can sign some helpful role players in the offseason, we could really see something special. We should all be excited for the future. Well, unless you’re a Kings fan, of course. Hang in there, guys.