The Pelicans are struggling in a way nobody expected, and it could suddenly turn the DeMarcus Cousins trade into a win for the Kings

It’s been three weeks since the blockbuster DeMarcus Cousins trade, and the results haven’t been pretty for the New Orleans Pelicans.

Since the All-Star break, the Pelicans are just 2-6, with one win coming while DeMarcus Cousins was suspended for picking up his 18th technical foul of the season.

Of course, everyone knew the Cousins-Anthony Davis experiment would be a long process for the Pelicans, but many expected that on talent alone, the Pelicans could challenge for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Instead, with 17 games to go, the Pelicans are 4.5 games out of the last playoff spot and would have to leapfrog five teams to get into the postseason.

All of this may make the trade a little bit easier to swallow for the Sacramento Kings, who were uniformly bashed for selling low on Cousins.

As part of the trade, the Kings got the Pelicans’ top-three-protected first-round pick this season. However, many observers noted that if the Pelicans made the playoffs, that pick would be out of the lottery, and thus, less useful. Additionally, with the 76ers owning the right to swap first-round picks with the Kings this year (due to a trade in 2015), the Kings could have ended up with a lower lottery pick and a non-lottery pick — hardly a good return for a superstar center.

Instead, things may be breaking just right for the Kings, who are just 1-6 themselves since the trade. The Pelicans seem unlikely to make the postseason and the 76ers, without Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel, are struggling. As things stand right now, based on record, the 76ers would keep their own (higher) pick and the Kings would get an extra lottery pick. According to SB Nation’s Tom Ziller, best-case scenario, the Kings would get the fifth and sixth picks in what’s considered a deep draft. That’s not too bad.

Toss in the fact that rookie guard Buddy Hield, the centrepiece of the Kings’ return, and last year’s No. 6 pick Willie Cauley-Stein have been playing well since the All-Star break, and the Kings may have a not-so-bleak future.

Of course, nothing is set in stone yet. The 76ers could go on a hot streak and improve their record, thus setting up a likely pick swap. The Pelicans could conceivably lose out (less likely) and end up with a top-three pick, meaning it wouldn’t transfer to the Kings. The Kings could get both draft picks and flub them, erasing any potential step forward.

Still, it’s a reminder that trades can’t be judged too soon. If everything breaks right for the Kings, they could take a big step forward this offseason and make the Cousins trade look palatable.

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