Late Sunday night, after the All-Star game, it was reported by Adrian Wojnarowski that the Sacramento Kings agreed to a deal to trade star center DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a 2017 first round pick that is top 3 protected and a future second round pick.
WHAT THIS TRADE MEANS FOR THE KINGS
This deal obviously makes the Kings way worse. Cousins is clearly the Kings best player and main focal point of the team and is, at minimum, a top 15 player in the NBA. His current averages of 27.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.4 steals per game, if sustained for the rest of the season, would be the fourth time a player averaged at least 27.5 points, 10.5 boards, 4.5 assists, a block and a steal per game for a full season with the other three players to do it being David Robinson, Larry Bird and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Losing a player of Cousins’ caliber will alter the way a team will play and when you aren’t getting anyone close to as productive coming back like the Kings are in this case, it leaves a leaves a big hole in the team. It’s pretty hard to imagine this team not being one of the worst teams in the league heading down the stretch.
Speaking of what the Kings are getting back for Cousins, Buddy Hield seems to have been the player the Kings were most interested in with reports coming out that the Kings ownership has been enamored with him since the draft. Hield has been a little disappointing so far in his rookie year and is actually having a comparable season to Ben McLemore, who the Kings drafted 7th overall in 2013 and have seem to basically given up on and is also 23 years old. However, Hield could still turn out to be a solid NBA player as he’s still shoots 37.0 percent from three and he was a late bloomer in college and we’ve seen guys take leaps forward later than others. But when someone like this is the best return for a player like Cousins, it’s not really ideal.
As for the other pieces coming back, Evans could potentially be someone the Kings could look to move again before the deadline, as he has an expiring deal and could maybe draw some interest from playoff teams in need of some playmaking off the bench. Galloway could be someone that could also have a little value around the league or could be a decent role player if the Kings decide to hang onto him. The Pelicans 2017 first round pick will at best be a late lottery pick but will more likely be a somewhere in the 15 or 16 range.
As for the long term, this is a clear attempt to change the whole culture of the Kings organization and basically start over. They’re now officially in full rebuild mode with a young group that includes Hield, 2015 first round pick Willie Cauley-Stein, 2016 first rounders Georgios Papagiannis, Malachi Richardson and Skal Labissiere. They are also now likely to retain their first round pick this year which is owed to Chicago but is top 10 protected (will turn into a 2017 second rounder if it falls in the top 10). However, the Sixers do have the right to swap picks with the Kings this year so if the Kings pick ends up being better than the Sixers, they’ll switch with the picks with them.
Also, I feel like this should be mentioned. This whole situation and deal probably couldn’t have been handled much worse than the Kings handled it and all you really need to do to see how poorly handled it was is to go look at Woj’s tweets from Sunday night. Earlier in the day, it was being reported that the Kings were engaging in talks about dealing Cousins, most prominently with the Pelicans. Woj then tweeted out that Cousins’ agent Jarinn Akana met with Kings GM Vlade Divac and ownership of the Kings and they assured him that Cousins was not going to be traded and that as far as they knew, that was still true. It was then followed up by reports that the Kings were involved in talks with multiple teams and that Divac had given Kings owner Vivek Ranadive what he believed were the two best offers and then roughly two hours later, it was reported Cousins was traded to New Orleans. So basically the Kings front office lied to their star player and his agent. It’ll be interesting to see if this affects any players decisions to sign with the Kings in the future.
The timing of the deal is also pretty odd. The trade deadline is not until Thursday and you have to wonder why they didn’t wait it out and see if any other teams jumped in or if they could talk up the asking price over the next few days and Cousins is still under contract for next season so there wasn’t the threat of him walking for nothing in free agency on the table so waiting until the offseason was probably a better option as well.
WHAT THIS TRADE MEANS FOR THE PELICANS
This deal is a clear win for the Pelicans. They just acquired a top 15 talent who is 26 years old for what is clearly below market value while they are just 2.5 games out of the playoffs.
The pairing of Cousins with Anthony Davis makes for one of, if not the most talented frontcourt pairings we’ve ever seen. Their offensive skillsets should mesh well with Cousins turning himself into a solid three point shooter over past couple of seasons, shooting 35.4 percent from three on just about 5 attempts per game this season, being a good post-up option and being one of the best passing big men in the league and with Davis being most effective as a pick-and-roll/pop guy. Davis should also be able to help cover any defensive weaknesses that Cousins brings.
Jrue Holiday is also a nice fit for the duo, offering solid defense on the perimeter and he doesn’t need the ball in his hands a lot to be effective. The Pelicans could use some more shooting on the wing to really help open up some room for Cousins to operate down low but overall, in the short term, this deal makes the Pelicans better and gives them a much better shot at securing a playoff spot.
In the long term, the Pelicans did sacrifice their most recent first round pick in Hield and their first round pick from this year but the potential gain of adding Cousins is greater than the loss of future assets.
This deal changes the entire trajectory of the team. Before the trade, the Pelicans looked like a middling team that didn’t have many ways to improve, as having Davis made them too good to get a high pick in the draft to pair with Davis and some less than stellar free agent signings didn’t give them much room to do a lot in free agency in the future. Now, they have two top 15 players and if they can get Cousins and Davis to buy in long term, they could be looking at contending in the West for years to come.
However, it is not a guarantee that Cousins resigns with New Orleans once his contract is up after next season but if the Pelicans were to have some success, it’s not hard to see Cousins sticking around and the Pelicans will be able to offer him an extra year and more money than any other team could in free agency in 2018. Another possible road bump is whether or not they can hang onto Jrue Holiday this offseason. Holiday will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and could see some teams throw him a max offer.
In my opinion, this is smart risk for the Pelicans front office to take. It’s not often a top 15 talent is available in the trade market, especially one that could be had at the price they got Cousins. Even if bringing in Cousins doesn’t work out and he leaves in free agency in 2018, this is definitely a decision the front office and fans can live with as they at least attempted to try and contend.