NBA fans everywhere are trying to understand exactly what happened on Sunday night in New Orleans.
Anthony Davis won the All-Star game MVP in front of his home crowd. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook connected on a give and go alley-oop that we’ll be talking about forever. Westbrook was also perhaps the biggest snub from the starting lineup in the history of the NBA All-Star game. So many story lines to talk about. An editor’s dream.
The biggest story came just before midnight. I got the alert from ESPN at 11:56 PM and immediately told everyone I know. DeMarcus Cousins was traded to the Pelicans to form the most talented front court in the NBA. If you follow the NBA, you understand the magnitude of this trade. The Pelicans desperately needed a more talented roster to make any noise in the Western Conference, and boy did they make out like bandits in this deal.
The Pelicans traded Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, their 2017 1st round pick (top 3 protected) and a future 2nd round pick for DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi.
If the Pelicans make the playoffs, the protection on the 1st rounder disappears and the Kings can get no higher than the 15th selection. The Kings are betting against DeMarcus Cousins. They’re hoping and praying that the guard play for the Pelicans won’t supplement their two star big men enough to make them a playoff team. If the Kings prayers’ are answered, then they could pair up someone like Lonzo Ball or Markelle Fultz with Buddy Hield and have a dynamic young backcourt which would fit the mold for the current NBA era of perimeter play. Also by trading Cousins away, they risk losing their own 1st round pick to the 76ers if they have one of the 10 worst records. They currently sit at 11. Imagine they manage to retain their own top 10 pick and get a top 3 pick out of the trade. Who wins now?
Roll the dice.
I at least see what the Kings are going for. Chances are that Davis and Cousins will take time to gel and figure out how to play with one another. Neither of them is a ball handler that can run an offense. They’re going to be an interior team that runs a lot of isolation out of the post. Whether or not they figure out their offense in time to become a playoff team is the biggest question surrounding this trade.
It’s a new era in the NBA, perimeter shooting and spreading the floor is increasingly important. More teams are playing at a faster pace and shooting more threes. The Pelicans are planning to do the exact opposite, while the Kings are preparing to join the others who have found success in playing “small-ball”.
The Pelicans aren’t going to win many games playing big in a smaller league.
DeMarcus Cousins is one of the least productive big men in the NBA when it comes to scoring points off an assist. For two-point field goals made off an assist, Boogie is at 42% this season. For reference, Anthony Davis is at 63% this season which is his career low, DeAndre Jordan is at 71% and Dwight Howard is at 65%.
If you take this statistic into consideration for the trade, you have to recognize what it tells you about Boogie. He doesn’t score when people pass him the ball. He creates his own opportunities. For a team looking for a superstar player to take over and make shots when needed, Boogie could be your guy. But why hasn’t he ever been that guy in Sacramento? Was it the organizations fault for not supplementing him with better talent? Or is it more that Boogie doesn’t provide a winning culture as the leader of a team?
Let’s not forget that DeMarcus Cousins has 17 technical fouls this season, has questions surrounding his character on and off the court, and he’s been a nightmare to coach since entering the league. He hasn’t been the kind of superstar that can be an unquestioned and effective leader of a team in the NBA.
And here's maybe the most important thing. Most of Cousin's teammates the past 7 years hated playing with him! That is a fact!
— Grant Napear (@GrantNapearshow) February 20, 2017
I argue it’ll take until Boogie’s contract is up after next season to really see who won this trade. It’s easy to look at it on paper and say it was a bad trade for the Kings and a steal for the Pelicans. I think the Kings have a decent chance that this trade works in their favor. For starters, if the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (which as of now, they won’t) then the Kings definitely win round one. If the Pelicans lose Boogie after next season and they don’t make it to the Western Conference Finals, then it’s safe to say that the trade wasn’t successful for the Pelicans, and the Kings at least got value in return for him when they couldn’t find success with him either. Even if the Pelicans retain him after next season, I don’t think they win this trade until they make it to the Western Conference Finals at the very least.
I’m not arguing that the trade isn’t lopsided. It is. In fact, on paper, it’s awful. That’s why the AI in NBA 2K17 wouldn’t even allow the trade. But we have to ask ourselves: If Boogie is the best center in the NBA, wouldn’t he be able to demand more than what the Kings got for him? And if not, then why did the Kings get so little in return?
It’s because every GM knows the challenge it would be to bring in a malignant personality like his into the locker room. It would be the riskiest move for a front office that is looking to win now given his track record. That’s why the market for Cousins wasn’t as good as you think it would be with his gaudy numbers. He killed his own trade market by being an uncoachable superstar that clashes with fans and teammates regularly. If I was Vlade Divac, I would’ve traded him ASAP after his outburst against Golden State on February 5th when he shouted, “F Golden State” to the crowd after beating the Warriors. You have to love the passion, but that is a terrible image for your star player to give himself and your team. After years of behavior like this, that would’ve been my last straw with Boogie. It clearly wasn’t resulting in winning, so get what you can while you can.
I really do think the Kings can win big with this deal. The best case scenario is they get two top ten picks in this year’s draft and don’t have to deal with Boogie’s antics and distractions. Buddy Hield is a good prospect and has time to develop. Tyreke Evans was drafted by the Kings and is respected by the front office.
Worst case scenario: The Kings end the year with one of the 10 worst records and subsequently lose the rights to their 1st round pick to the 76ers, the Pelicans make the playoffs, make noise in the playoffs, and Boogie proves that he can be a winner when paired with good coaching and surrounding talent. If this happens, the deal blows up in the Kings face and they’re ridiculed forever. It’s possible.
It isn’t the value you’d expect to receive for a player like Cousins, but if you think about it, any value for someone like Boogie is good value.
That’s because he’ll never win an NBA championship.
This post was updated to reflect the correct rights of the Kings 1st round pick.