It finally happened.
DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Caspi have been traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a 2017 first-round pick and a 2017 second-rounder, according to multiple outlets.
The city of New Orleans played host to NBA All-Star weekend for over last few days, but the party for the Pelicans began as soon as the weekend ended. For what seems like giving up pennies on the dollar, the Pels have put together the best front court duo since Robinson and Duncan, and are now poised to make a run at the playoffs. Whether or not Cousins will re-sign with New Orleans in the summer of 2018 has yet to be determined, but the Pelicans have become exponentially more talented.
As for Sacramento? The Kings have officially cemented themselves as the most dysfunctional organization in American professional sports. Forget the Browns. Forget the Nets. Phil Jackson and James Dolan are laughing at us.
DeMarcus Cousins was more than just the face of the franchise. He was the only face that anyone cared about. He' s a top-10 player in the NBA and arguably the most talented big man. He is the only Sacramento draft pick in over a decade to develop into a star player for the team. He loved and was loyal to the city, and the city loved him back. Without a doubt the most popular King since Chris Webber, Cousins was the reason that there were butts in the seats. Golden 1 Center should be nicknamed The House That Boogie Built.
The backlash for GM Vlade Divac and owner Vivek Ranadive will be immense and well deserved. But the problem is not that they traded Cousins; instead, it's the small haul that they received in return: a rookie in Buddy Hield who is struggling with his shot, the oft-injured Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and two draft picks (2017 first and second round, reportedly). After months of flirting with the idea of acquiring picks and talent from Boston, and despite recent rumors of discussions with Phoenix, Sacramento wound up trading a silver dollar for two dimes and a nickel. All of it is made worse by recent proclamations by Divac. On February 6th, the GM said publicly that he “will not be trading DeMarcus Cousins.” Making that kind of commitment to a star player and then reversing stance is an unattractive trait to impending free agents and only makes Sacramento a less desirable destination. Whether or not coach Dave Joerger had any say in the decision to trade Cousins is unknown, though it is doubtful. In fact, there is a possibility that Vivek made the final decision himself without the help of his GM or coach. Judging by the fact that the Kings were publicly adamant about not trading Cousins, it is fair to assume that Joerger was assured that Cousins would be there long term when he interviewed for the coaching job last summer. Is Joerger on board for a rebuild? Was he a part of the decision making process? This trade is so bad that it may even affect the coaching situation.
Sacramento currently sits a game and a half behind the Nuggets for the 8th seed, but it may as well be 15 games. The Kings are vastly less talented without Cousins and should find themselves at the bottom of the Western Conference in no time. There will be a spike in minutes for many younger players; including first round picks Georgios Papagiannis and Skal Labissière. How the backcourt rotations will go is yet to be seen, considering the reports of a buyout for the newly acquired Tyreke Evans, but Hield may be responsible for taking some of Ben McLemore’s minutes. Whichever way Joerger decides to go with the lineups, the Kings will have difficulty beating pretty much anyone for the rest of the season.
The 2017 draft pick acquired in the trade is top-3 protected, but with the Pelicans sitting just 2.5 games out of a playoff spot and after the addition of Cousins, that point is nearly moot. There is a seven-game gap between the seventh and eighth playoff teams, so it is likely that the pick will fall somewhere in the 14-20 range. Their pick will be much more valuable, though there is a stipulation that hampers the Kings even further. Philadelphia owns the rights to an unprotected pick swap with Sacramento. If the Sixers, who are two games back of the Kings, finish with a better record, the swap will diminish the value of the Sacramento’s first selection. To make a guess, the Kings will end up with the 6th and 15th overall picks. What they do with them is the issue.
To put a cherry on top of this terrible tasting milkshake, the Kings also shipped off fan-favorite Omri Casspi.