After a quiet, relatively tame All-Star Weekend, the NBA provided fireworks immediately after its showcase game in the form of a blockbuster trade. DeMarcus Cousins, the mercurial, immensely–talented center, is headed to New Orleans, where he will team up with fellow Wildcat Anthony Davis in what is now the most offensively gifted five–four combination in the league.
Cousins is headed to the Pelicans with only one more season left on his contract, while the Kings, who also dealt Omri Casspi, will receive Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and their 2017 first- and second-round picks, according to multiple media reports.
Here’s how each team did in the deal:
It’s simple, but talent wins in the NBA. In Cousins, the Pelicans are acquiring a 26-year-old, in-his-prime big man who averages 28–10 while shooting nearly 36% from three. If Cousins keeps up those current statistics, he’ll be the only player in NBA history 6’10” or taller to post such averages in his age-26 season. Cousins is an offensive force, and his game has steadily improved despite the surrounding clown show in Sacramento.
Of course, there are obvious caveats here. Cousins’s attitude has been a huge issue in Sacramento. He’s clashed with coaches, teammates and referees to a ridiculous degree. His effort on defense has come and gone. And it's fair to question how good Cousins truly is considering he could never carry his team to the postseason. On top of all that, Cousins contract expires in 2018, which could make him nothing more than a glorified rental if he doesn’t re-sign with New Orleans—though the Pelicans have the option of trading him again next year.
On the court, spacing could be tight in a Davis-Cousins frontcourt, but both have emerging outside games, and Alvin Gentry may now finally have the kind of pieces to prove the offensive genius he was hired for. As far as effort concerns, New Orleans isn’t a shining example of an NBA franchise, but the change of scenery from the Kings to the Pelicans should still be jarring enough to promote more consistency in Cousins.
Ultimately, this is the kind of home run move teams need to make in the current NBA landscape. Acquiring superstars during free agency will become increasingly difficult in the new CBA, and players like Cousins are rarely available on the trade market. The Pelicans are making the deal without giving up any notable players, and any smattering of draft picks seems appropriate for Cousins.
Could Sacramento really have not done better? Only one first-round pick? No franchise players in return? No better offer was on the table ahead of Thursday's deadline?
This grade really isn’t just about the trade, however. It’s a grade for years of ineptitude. It’s a grade that reflects how the Kings more or less insulted their fans by running an amateur operation that wasted years of Cousins’s promising career. It’s a grade appropriate for owner Vivek Ranadive, whose new arena will now be just as empty as his old one. This is a bad day for the Kings organization, and it could be a long time before it finds another player as talented as Cousins
The 76ers have the option to swap first-round picks with the Kings in this summer’s draft. Philly will have a really good chance at landing the top pick, especially with Sacramento now expected to free fall in the standings.