The Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans have reportedly agreed to a blockbuster trade that will send DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans.
The Kings will also send Omri Casspi to the Pelicans in exchange for Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, Buddy Hield, a 2017 first-round draft pick, and 2017 second-round draft pick.
The move has baffled the NBA world, as the Pelicans have been resoundingly declared the winners of the trade while the Kings have squandered their biggest and best asset.
The biggest return for the Kings is the 2017 first-round pick. It’s top-three protected, but the Pelicans will likely challenge for a playoff spot, meaning the Kings will get the pick. With the Kings also likely to go into free-fall sans-Cousins, that could give them two lottery picks in what’s considered a deep and talented draft class.
However, the Kings’ grasp on their own pick is tenuous, thanks to an unwise salary dump trade they made two years ago. In 2015, the Kings sent Nik Stauskas to the Philadelphia 76ers that included the rights to swap 2017 draft picks. Since they are likely to lose many games without Cousins, there’s a strong chance it will land in the top 10. The 76ers are competitive this season, so if the Kings’ pick is higher up in the draft, the 76ers will swap, moving the Kings down.
And if the Pelicans make the playoffs — a possibility with both Anthony Davis and Cousins in hand — then the Kings will get a pick outside the lottery.
Then there’s the matter of the rest of the package. Evans is a talented but oft-injured guard who left the Kings for the Pelicans in a sign-and-trade in 2013. He’s a free agent this offseason and will likely leave the team again. Galloway is a rotation-worthy guard, but there have been reports that the Kings may waive him.
Hield is presumably one of the centerpieces of the deal. However, despite being a rookie, Hield is already 23 years old and has had an inconsistent rookie season, shooting just 39% from the field and 37% from 3-point range. The Kings reportedly view him as a top-five pick. (He was selected sixth by the Pelicans last year.)
So, the Kings’ total package for Cousins may be a two-month rental of Evans, Hield, a late-lottery or just-outside-the-lottery pick from the Pelicans, and a second-round pick.
According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Pelicans offered a similar package, minus Hield, to the 76ers for Jahlil Okafor, a big man who rarely cracks the rotation with Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel healthy. The 76ers turned it down.
The Pistons also offered Andre Drummond, a legitimate starting center that could be part of a solid foundation, for Cousins. The Kings turned it down.
In turn, the NBA world crucified the Kings.
Wrote Deadspin’s Tom Ley in a post titled, “Just What The Hell Were The Kings Thinking?”:
“There’s also no sense in the Kings completing the trade now instead of waiting until the deadline. I doubt the Pelicans’ offer was going anywhere, and if other teams had been given ample time to think up counter offers, I’m sure someone would have come up with a competitive package …
“It seems to me that the most likely explanation for this trade happening is also the saddest one: The Sacramento Kings are run by a remarkably incompetent group of dinguses.”
Sports Illustrated’s Rohan Nadkarni gave the Kings an F for the trade, writing:
“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. … This is a bad day for the Kings organisation, and it could be a long time before it finds another player as talented as Cousins.”
“But in all, this is a depressingly deflated roster with exactly one great asset (the 2018 pick) and not a single can’t-miss star.
“Ten years of lottery picks and six seasons with one of the most productive big men of his generation, and the Kings ended up with not a single playoff berth and this roster.”
Others around the NBA simply mocked the Kings:
Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck reported that the trade market for Cousins may not have been robust. Teams are wary of Cousins’ temper, which has soiled past Kings teams, and his impending free agency.
Still, the Kings ended up taking an offer for a legitimate All-Star center that was barely acceptable for the 76ers’ Okafor. In a post-Cousins landscape, the Kings will have to rely on drafting well and developing players, something they haven’t been able to do since drafting Cousins in 2010.
Kings view Buddy Hield as a top 5 pick, per source. In their eyes they received a top 5 talent and a top 10 pick, if Pelicans stay mediocre.
— Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) February 20, 2017
There were objectively better deals available for the Kings, but since they think so highly of Buddy Hield, that’s the direction they went.
— Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) February 20, 2017
Pistons attempted a deal with Andre Drummond to the Kings for DeMarcus Cousins. Kings said no. (Via Michael Scotto – Basketball Insiders)
— Clevis Murray (@ClevisMurray) February 20, 2017
Me to a NBA front office guy – “I don’t get the Kings.”
NBA front office guy – “No one does.”
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) February 20, 2017
Big trade win for Philly tonight.
— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) February 20, 2017
The Kings basically just traded DeMarcus Cousins for a statistical copy of Nik Stauskas, the guy they dumped in 2015 with a ’18 1st-rounder. pic.twitter.com/gSFRhpFSot
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) February 20, 2017