Well, it’s official: DeMarcus Cousins is a Pelican.
As is the custom at this time of year, Adrian Wojnarowski (or “Woj” as he’s more commonly known) of The Vertical, broke the news via Twitter, before providing a more detailed breakdown via Yahoo Sports, stating:
“New Orleans will send guard Buddy Hield, 2017 first- and second-round picks, and guards Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway to Sacramento for Cousins and forward Omri Casspi”.
The fact that the Sacramento Kings had traded Cousins came as no great surprise, as they quite simply weren’t getting the best out of him, and seemed to be running out of ways to appease him while also making the team better. But the fact that they were willing to accept so little in return rocked the NBA world.
Isaiah Thomas provided perhaps the best response on Twitter:
I don’t even think @NBA2K would let that trade happen even with the trade override option off LOL
— Isaiah Thomas (@Isaiah_Thomas) February 20, 2017
Like almost all of the Kings recent history, the deal smacked of owner Vivek Ranadivé’s lack of basketball nous (ignorance/naivety/idiocy, call it what you will…) – something that reared its ugly head again last night when he allegedly likened new acquisition, Hield, to Steph Curry.
That he seemingly believes this tells us everything we need to know about why this deal happened – after all, there aren’t many people out there who would choose to build a franchise around Cousins over Curry.
But right now Hield isn’t Curry – he’s a rookie who’s averaging 8.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. Cousins on the other hand is a three-time All-Star, who’s made two All-NBA appearances and who’s currently averaging 27.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks per game, and he’s still just 26-years old.
Still, the issue here is not the fact that the Kings traded Cousins (something many believe they should have done a long time ago), it’s just that with an asset like him on the hook it’s hard to work out how they failed to get more in return. Especially as they pulled the plug just days before the trade deadline.
So what else was out there?
A number of sources, including Tim Cato of SB Nation, were quick to report that the Kings turned down a “better” offer for Cousins as recently as two days prior to taking the NOLA yield.
Word of exactly what this package involved (or why Sacramento chose not to take it) is yet to surface. But if rumours are to be believed, GM Vlade Divac was talking to teams like the L.A. Lakers and the Orlando Magic, while the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics were also allegedly in the mix.
Surely one of these teams could have offered a significantly more appealing return, as they’re all rebuilding teams that possess decent assets.
Apparently Brandon Ingram was the sticking point with L.A., as the Lakers didn’t want to gamble a player they consider to be a future star on the volatile Cousins. As for Orlando, GM Rob Hennigan chose not to pull the trigger as he was (rightly) concerned about his ability to re-sign Cousins next summer. Denver could have offered something along the lines of Jamal Murray, Danilo Gallinari, Will Barton and a similar pick to that the Pelicans gave up, while the Celtics currently have enough tradable assets to sink a ship.
And yet none of them felt Cousins was worth the risk, meaning that (as Bill Simmons points out on the latest edition of the Ringer NBA Show) New Orleans was the last team standing.
So is there anything good to be said about the deal from a Kings perspective?
Well, while he’s no Steph Curry (and probably never will be), Buddy Hield is a decent player. As his 28 points for the World team in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge proved, the guy can put the ball in the basket. That said, he’s probably never going to be more than a second or third option in the NBA, meaning the Kings will need to hope they can turn at least one of the draft picks they currently hold (most likely their own, which should increase in value as they fall in the standings) into a star.
Not that the Kings have drafted well of late.
Cousins aside, Willie Cauley-Stein, Nik Stauskas, Ben McLemore and Thomas Robinson don’t exactly make for great reading. They did draft the returning Evans, not to mention Hassan Whiteside, Bismack Biyombo and Isaiah Thomas. But gave all four up, for very little return.
As with the Cousins trade, this could be attributed to Divac’s lack of experience as an NBA GM, or Ranadivé’s meddling in basketball operations. Either way, fans are now relying on Vlade and Vivek to rebuild their beloved franchise from the ground up, without DeMarcus Cousins poor “character” to scapegoat for every little thing that goes wrong.
And that’s a scary prospect.
The best thing you can say for them is that parting with Cousins gives them an opportunity to right the countless wrongs that have mired the recent history of the franchise.
That is, however, going to take some work, as the culture in Sacramento is a mess, those making the big decisions seemingly haven’t a clue, and even with Cousins, this is ultimately a franchise that has failed to win more than 33 games per year over the course of the past 6 seasons.
As for Cousins himself, he gets a shot at redemption while playing alongside another star in Anthony Davis. Quite how (or even if) the two of them will fit together is anyone’s guess.
The best we can say at this point is that it’s going to be fun (or at least entertaining) finding out:
If it works, Pelicans GM Dell Demps will most likely be hailed for pulling off the coup of the century. And if it doesn’t, he can most likely recoup more than he gave up in the first place by shipping Cousins elsewhere, either before or after re-signing him.
There is, after all, always going to be a market for a player of Boogie’s calibre, volatile personality or no.
It’s just a shame the Kings couldn’t find one when they needed it.