Breakdown: Demarcus Cousins to New Orleans
It never ceases to amaze me how surprising it can be to see the poor getting poorer in the NBA. The Pelicans fleeced the Kings for their superstar center last night and blew up the social media world. Thankfully I was not around for the Orlando, Phoenix, Lakers (and surprisingly no Celtics) rumors flying around in the hours prior or I may have lost my mind. So now that the trade has officially been settled I would like to give an evaluation of what just happened and why.
The New Orleans Pelicans Get:
Demarcus Cousins, Omri Casspi
What to Like:
This seems obvious from New Orleans point of view. Anthony Davis is a superstar caliber talent and someone you can build your franchise around for the next decade plus. He is 23 years old and well within the NBA’s top ten players, potentially inside the top five. He has been saddled with a bunch of nobodies in his New Orleans tenure thus far. The few somebodies he has played with have not been able to stay on the court much. Placing an extreme burden on your young franchise center weighs on your morale, especially when you are losing. The Pelicans are 7–8 this year when The Brow scores 35+.
One great way to change that would be to compliment the face of your franchise with another in-his-prime center who has as diverse a skill set as any big man ever. Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins could potentially be the scariest big man combination of all time. Previous star big men combinations have had spacing/redundancy issues, their primes have not matched up or clashing egos mar what could have been. Davis and Cousins certainly do not fit the first two. There are not a whole lot of big men in history who have legitimate post games, the ability to stretch a defense by knocking down 3’s, excellent passing skills and are versatile enough to defend both inside and out. New Orleans now has two and for teams embracing the current small ball revolution this could be their absolute worst nightmare.
The Pelicans needed to make a move to give Anthony Davis confidence that they will do anything and everything to keep him happy and in town. This move should do that. Omri Casspi has been out for much of this year but is an underrated addition to this trade. By dealing Galloway, Evans and Hield their wings have been depleted and when healthy Casspi has been a serviceable rotation player. He brings even more outside shooting (40% on four attempts/game last year) to a team that is going to be getting a lot more open looks from deep.
This always opens up the door for a Chris Paul/New Orleans reunion. It appears the Clippers have maxed out their potential as a 2nd round-WCF type team and are on the fast track to nowhere. Chris Paul was drafted by New Orleans and would now by forming an even better big three should he return. Despite being young it seems unlikely there would be a steep learning curve and they could start to compete immediately.
What Not to Like:
Demarcus Cousins is a free agent at the end of this season. There is no guarantee he sticks around and re-signs. With how sudden everything seemed to go down at the last minute, something may have happened and Boogie’s issues may have been understated. It makes you wonder how no one could top one of the worst superstar hauls in history. Is his attitude a bigger problem than we have been led to believe? Is the reason they only received what they did because his value was at an all-time low? It is hard to say.
Lastly, you have to wonder how Cousins and Davis mesh personality wise. It seems clear that Anthony Davis runs New Orleans but Cousins may not see it that way. We could potentially see him bolting this off-season or clashing with Davis for years on end leading to an eventual trade or release. It would not be the first time egos got in the way of success.
The Sacramento Kings Get:
Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a 2017 First round Pick (top protected), a 2017 second round pick
What to Like (kind of, okay not really):
It’s a lot harder to rationalize why Sacramento pulled this off but I will do my best to give a few benefits that come from this. Clearly the Sacramento Kings were tired of Boogie. His antics wore thin and whether it was always true or not, he was seemingly being shopped for the majority of the last few years. They did not want to pay $200+ million over five years to a guy they were not sure could be the leader or best player on a championship contender.
Buddy Hield was the sixth overall pick for a reason and someone Sacramento clearly loves. ESPN’s Baxter Holmes reported that the Kings owner believes he has Steph Curry potential and that falls in line with previous reports saying that they turned down objectively better deals specifically to land Hield.
Tyreke Evans is an expiring deal whose $10 million contract will be off the books in a few months and clear more cap to potentially make a move in free agency. If they do not have plans to make a free agent splash than they have officially blown things up and are starting from scratch. No professional sports league accepts that rationale more than the NBA.
Langston Galloway is being waived so he makes no impact here. One can never complain about getting picks, even if they project to be a mid-first and mid-second. The key here is not only are they adding picks but they increase the chance of keeping their own. The Chicago Bulls own their draft pick if it falls outside of the top ten due to a prior deal made and losing Cousins certainly puts them in a position to lose enough games to fall below that threshold.
Having two first round picks and an extra second give them more opportunities to hit on a good young player or more assets to deal if they would like to trade up and get one of the top tier talents in a loaded draft class. This also clears up some space to play their young big more, as the front-court was a little packed. This gives young guys like Willie Cauley-Stein a bigger chance to prove himself.
What Not to Like(outside of the obvious):
The Kings lost the only relevant basketball player they have had in about a decade in the prime of his career. That warrants about three to four paragraphs on its own. I think we all realize what they lost out on by dealing Cousins. Omri Casspi is not a scrub either. He’s not a difference maker but the fact that they had to add him in to get the deal done just makes it even worse.
It is nice that Vivek seems to believe so strongly in Hield but he has done nothing to warrant such praise so far in his NBA career. He is old for a rookie having played all four years of college. Despite being expected to have an NBA ready game he has not stood out among one of the worst rookie classes in years. Not to mention, Vivek does not exactly have the best track record for identifying talent. Just because he sees Steph Curry in Buddy does not mean that is remotely likely.
Tyreke Evans was a disappointment that last time he was here and I cannot imagine anything good coming from his return. He will either slump his way into the off-season and pack his bags or plays lights out and potentially trick Sacramento into thinking they may have something and pay him to come back for a few years. You would not think that would be possible but their track record says you anything is possible. I do not understand the purpose of cutting Langston Galloway, some contender will be happy to snatch him up to boost their bench.
I understand wanting to keep your original pick and tanking keeps it out of the Bulls hands. However, Philadelphia has the chance to swap picks with Sacramento so if they lose too much they will just end up losing that pick to Philly for a slightly worse one.
Lastly, this is one of the worst ‘hauls’ for a star ever. A protected first rounder, a second, an expiring deal, a guy you cut and a struggling rookie for arguably the game’s best big man is a tough pill to swallow. Rumors had the Lakers offering significantly more, the Suns offering their group of intriguing assets and potentially even an offer from the Pistons centering around Andre Drummond (one of the game’s best rebounders, who happens to be younger than Davis and looks to be an all-star for years to come).
We all know that the Pelicans won this trade by a mile, however, there were some tiny bits and pieces of rationale and reasoning behind some of the pieces that the Kings received back. Not nearly enough to make this trade defensible but I digress. NBA fans win this one as we get to see a dream front-court scenario come to life and all other NBA teams lose because either they have to play against it or they could have offered more and swiped Cousins themselves.