The DeMarcus Cousins era in Sacramento came to an awkward, abrupt close. The Kings unceremoniously shipped the 26 year old All Star center to the New Orleans Pelicans for Rookie Buddy Hield, swing man (and former King) Tyreke Evans, reserve guard Langston Galloway, and the Pelicans’ first and second round picks in this year’s draft. (our own Jesse Blanchard dove into the trade here, read up). The move drops the curtain on one of the most fascinating relationships in sports; despite proclamations from both sides that the partnership would continue, the emotionally charged player with the superstar game and the bombastic, ineffective Kings front office finally went their separate ways.
For the Pelicans, the trade marks the dawning of a new era in New Orleans. Anthony Davis is one of the most dynamic talents the league has ever seen, but the Pelicans have spun their wheels in recent years trying to build roster to match his excellence. In one fell swoop, the Pels transformed themselves from a 23-34 afterthought slogging near the bottom of the Western standings, to one of the most intriguing, dangerous teams in the league.
To sort through the tumultuous trade, I’m joined by Greg Wissinger, editor of SB Nation’s Sactown Royalty, and Rick Stone, editor of Fansided’s Pelican Debrief, to get insight into one of the oddest NBA trades in recent memory.
Well. Certainly didn’t see THIS coming. After months of reassurance from the front office and DeMarcus himself saying Sacramento was where he wanted to be, all the talk about Boogie signing for $200+ million soon, Vlade Divac pulls off a bombshell trade like this. What in blazes led to such a 180° turnaround? Let me into your thought process after hearing about the trade.
Greg Wissinger: I think it came down to cold feet. The idea of committing so much money to Cousins was more than ownership/management wanted to commit to, so the Kings made a quick move.
Buddy Hield (8.6 points per game, 36.9% from three) is going to be decent, I suppose, but Kings owner Vivek Randives allegedly feels there’s something Stephen Curry-like about the rookie. Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a top 3 protected New Orleans 1st round pick, and a 2nd round pick seems criminally cheap for DeMarcus. Can you talk me through what Sacramento may be thinking?
Greg: We’re seeing a lot of conflicting reports right now, and it’s difficult to know what’s real. But the general consensus is that there may not have been a better offer out there. Cousins is a great talent, but trading for him could cost a GM their job if it doesn’t work. In the days to come, I suspect we’ll learn more about what other offers existed. Ultimately though, the Kings could have gotten much more if they traded Cousins earlier.
But what about Vlade Divac himself saying he had better deals in the days prior? And surely Danny Ainge could have been coaxed to part with better picks than what these will amount to.
Greg: Yeah, that was some brilliant public relations there. Until we know more about what the deal was it’s hard to judge, but it supports the idea that the Kings didn’t maximize their value.
I don’t think they could have gotten much from Boston though. Ainge overplays his hand and overvalued his assets, like we recently saw with Serge Ibaka.
The turmoil in Sacramento’s front office last year, the questionable moves like the Nik Stauskas-pick dump, last year’s drafting of more centers, and now this. Moving forward, does all of this effect Sacramento’s standing with free agents?
Greg: It has to, right? The Kings told Cousins and his agent that they wouldn’t trade him hours before completing the deal. The Kings are a joke, and no agents are going to steer their clients to Sacramento.
What is the absolute best case scenario from the Boogie trade? Is there any light at the end of the tunnel for you?
Greg: Best case is that it turns out Boogie was the problem. The Kings play team basketball, Hield is a star, and the Kings hit with their draft picks. Pretty unlikely. I think most Kings fans would be happy if one or two of those things happened.
It’s tough to see light at the end of the tunnel right now. Until management and ownership demonstrate some competence, it’s tough to get excited for the future.
On the other side of the trade, the mood in New Orleans is decidedly more upbeat, for obvious reasons.
An hour or two before the trade was announced, I tweeted about how Anthony Davis needed help…So….You’re welcome. I’m sure this is a monumental day in Pelicans history. What exactly were you doing when the trade broke? Describe your initial reaction in 5 words or less.
Rick Stone: I was actually playing a video game online while I was checking Twitter. The exact words I said were “No ****ing way!”. To be completely honest, all of the Pelicans fans took all the “Serious Talks” as a fun joke. To say that anyone actually believed this was possible would probably be a lie. Boogie’s price tag seemed pretty darn high from past deals Sacramento has declined. New Orleans had no real assets. The assumption was there was less than a 0% chance of them getting Boogie. And yet, here we are. Reaction can be put simply as: Stunned.
Brow is arguably the best power forward in the league, and DeMarcus is the most dominant center in the league. Jrue Holiday is forever underrated. On a scale of 1-10, how strong do you feel about the current roster? Talk to us about how adding Boogie will affect the on-court product. Any concerns about Cousins’ attitude?
Rick: Before the Boogie deal, I’d probably have put them at a 3. Now? While Boogie’s a BIG deal, it doesn’t push them over 6.5, mostly because it’s tough to look at what’s behind the trio of excitement. Even looking at that trio is questionable: Davis and Holiday have had real injury issues in the past. Boogie will help for sure, but there’s still durability questions. Past those three, there is not a starting NBA player on the roster. E’Twaun Moore is great, just not a starter on this team, due to his poor shooting. Solomon Hill…well he’s a frustrating player to watch, to say the least. After that, it’s just a collection of “That guy can do one thing pretty well and nothing else”. Terrence Jones is lovely, but expectations are that he will be traded. There is hope. The Miami Heat got it done with their Big Three. Maybe New Orleans is a better free agency destination now for veteran players who want a title shot.
There will be a feeling out period, and this summer general manager Dell Demps will tweak the roster to try and maximize Brow and Boogie. Play GM: what 3 moves need to happen? Project the Pelicans next year in a Way-Too-Early 2018 preview.
Rick: Wait, we’re trusting Dell Demps on this? Oh gosh….Look, Dell made a GREAT deal here. However, it’s hard to take this from seeming like New Orleans made a joke offer to Sacramento and got floored that the Kings actually accepted it. I’m not sold on Demps just yet. However, he could certainly make up for it by doing this team roster correctly.
First off, before ANY moves are made, Demps needs to find out what kind of team he wants built. They need an identity. Up-tempo track fest will likely go in the back-burner if you want to utilize Davis and Cousins’ post-up/interior games. He needs to look at his trio and think about what players will benefit them the most.
The second step is this: If New Orleans needs something right now, it’s consistent long-range shooting. The Pels have been depending on Langston Galloway and Terrence Jones for long-range makes. That will not do. If they are going to spend their cap space, they need a long-range specialist. Who that can be is another question.
The third priority is doing what Demps does best: Filling the rest of the roster with cheap players who can be steals. The Pelicans have done a great job over the years at getting minor steals from the free agency pool. That will be VERY important now, building a roster to try and compete in the West. No more playing safe. Demps needs to go all out for this team
Did you have any specific targets in mind? Like, what do you think it would take to pry Anthony Morrow out of Oklahoma City?
Rick: That would be really interesting, since he’s played in New Orleans before. They could be a third-team trade partner for the Denver Nuggets for someone like Will Barton. Seems weird for a team they’re fighting for the playoffs with, but Denver’s likely to deal at the deadline. I’ve heard Marco Belinelli thrown around as a possibility too. They need a shooting guard marksman, so whoever fits that bill at a cheap price.
Let it all out. DeMarcus Cousins just got traded to the 23-34 Pelicans to join Anthony Davis. The floor is yours.
Rick: Words are still hard to come by after a deal that can only be described as a dream just two days ago. The Pelicans finally have a second superstar. A team who is likely the least popular NBA team fans wise is now in possession of arguably two of the top 20 players in the league. This is stunning.
There may be risks here that many have highlighted, but honestly, it’s hard for me to see any risk in this deal. Buddy Hield had a limited ceiling and Anthony Davis needed a second star to have any chance of staying on this team. New Orleans was never getting anyone better than Boogie, and gave up nearly nothing for him. This is a victory.
Is this season likely the one New Orleans figures it out? No. Dream scenario is the eighth seed. The next two months should just be celebrating Boogie and making him feel as at home as possible The fans need to show him how welcoming and great this city can be for him and A.D. Celebrate good times, New Orleans. Celebrate it!