As the dust settles from the asteroid that was Sunday night’s blockbuster trade of DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, we have to start looking at more than merely the top-level analysis of who did well in the trade (the Pelicans) and who didn’t (the Kings). So who won, who lost, who is it too soon to call for? Let’s take a look at the winners and losers from the Pelicans-Kings trade.
DeMarcus Cousins: Cousins has an unbelievable opportunity here. He gets to start over -- in a city that will embrace him in a way that few will. You want a redemption story? New Orleans is a great place to find it. You want somewhere that wants its guys a little less than squeaky clean? Try the Big Easy. He joins a good friend and fellow Wildcat in Anthony Davis, who also happens to be a top-10 player.
He gets to change everything about his career. If he keeps his emotions in check (unlikely) and embraces the defensive end, he’s going to have a chance to do real damage in this league. Davis can play power forward next to him, and their combination of scoring, rebounding and passing is going to be a nightmare for opponents.
More than anything, though, Cousins is out of Sacramento. Was he responsible for a big part of the dysfunction? Absolutely. But the fact remains that the organization has consistently made mistake after mistake in not merely the overall decisions but how they’ve conducted business, and that has carried through all the way to this week, when they reportedly informed Cousins he would not be dealt.
Before, both Cousins and the Kings could point to one another as the source of the problem. Now, even though the Pelicans aren’t in a great position, at least they don’t come with the chaos of Sacramento. Now Cousins can determine his own fate.
Anthony Davis: Not every day you land a megastar you can trust to boost your squad and put you on the map. Davis now has the best teammate he has ever had (and likewise for Cousins). The secret with Davis has always been that he needed a big man to play next to, but that Omer Asik was too limited on offense to allow Davis space to operate. That’s not longer a problem. Cousins is also a phenomenal passer, which will open opportunities for Davis. This opens up so many opportunities for Davis and gives him someone with whom he can win. There are plenty of ways this can go awry, but so many more ways it can lead to the Pelicans being elite. Davis has a max contract, is the franchise face, and now his squad has added Cousins. This worked out nicely.
Jrue Holiday: The Pelicans’ point guard has been lights out the past two seasons and looks like he might have finally overcome his injury woes. He’s a master in the pick and roll, and guess who just added a monster screener, shooter and finisher? Imagine Holiday in a dual-screen set with Davis and Cousins, with one rolling to the rim and one popping out. It means there will be more space for him to shoot on the perimeter. There will be more opportunities for outlet passes from Cousins. The fit here is incredible: a game manager who can shoot next to a post-up big who can also slam opponents with devastating screens.
Dell Demps: This guy went from being on thin ice to having pulled off the deal of a lifetime. Sure, Cousins could leave in 17 months, rendering the deal an epic whiff, but the fact remains that with a transcendent talent like Anthony Davis, Demps went out and got another talent like Cousins to play next to Davis. That is the gamble GMs are paid to make, especially with how low the Pelicans’ reservoir of talent was. Plus, they gave up Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, Tyreke Evans, and one first-rounder. Demps knocked this one out of the park.
Vivek Ranadive: The Kings owner just looks more chaotic than ever. He has long been tabbed as a loose cannon and someone who believes too much in his own ideas over the common sense of his lieutenants, but now he has dealt the franchise centerpiece, with no marquee returning piece, and done so after telling Cousins they wouldn’t be trading him. The Kings just opened their beautiful new arena, and now the marquee player that plays there is either Ty Lawson, Matt Barnes or Tyreke Evans. No amount of liking Buddy Hield makes that a good call. Ranadive comes off as an owner who continues to act impulsively and without regard for asset management.
Vlade Divac: Divac was either complicit in going back on assurances Cousins would not be traded (and therefore able to sign for $30 million more than he is now) or is subject to the whims and follies of his owner. And now he’s left to build around Willie Cauley-Stein and Buddy Hield, while his pick has been compromised as well. (The Sixers can swap if it lands top three; if it lands past 11, the Bulls get the pick. All of this because they wanted to create room to pursue Rajon Rondo in free agency. Whoops.)
Dave Joerger: This was not what he signed up for when he went to Sacramento. The Kings were slowly figuring out his system, and now he’s rebuilding with a partially veteran, partially young team. He wanted fresher legs when he coached in Memphis, but this probably wasn’t what he asked for.
The Other 8th Seed Contenders: Denver, Portland, and Minnesota now face an actual challenge for the eighth seed. They’ll have to actually be good if they want to hold off the Pelicans, not merely the least-bad as it stands now. The bar just got raised.
TOO SOON TO TELL
Alvin Gentry: Gentry gets another All-Star, so what could be the downside? Well, if he doesn’t make it work, you can bet there will be talk of a replacement. He has to figure this out, and do so quickly.
The Other Kings: There’s just no telling what happens from here. There’s going to be an expectation, wild as it is, for them to actually improve without Cousins because of his collective drain on the organization. Meanwhile, they could be traded or waived. It’s all in the air.
|DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are teammates now. Getty Images|
Trade grades: Biggest winners and losers in DeMarcus Cousins deal
Pelicans get: Center DeMarcus Cousins and forward Omri Casspi
Kings get: Guard Buddy Hield, Guard Tyreke Evans, Guard Langston Galloway, New Orleans' 2017 first-round pick and the Sixers' 2017 second-round pick
Kings, Pelicans agree to DeMarcus Cousins trade, sources say
The Sacramento Kings stunningly changed course Sunday night and agreed to trade DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans just two weeks after publicly proclaiming that the All-Star center was off the market, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN that while Sunday's All-Star Game in New Orleans was playing out, the Kings and Pelicans came to terms on a trade that will send Cousins and swingman Omri Casspi to the All-Star hosts in exchange for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a 2017 first-round pick and a 2017 second-rounder.
The first-round pick that Sacramento will acquire in this fast-moving blockbuster deal is top-three protected in the June draft, ESPN has learned. That means New Orleans must immediately surrender the pick if it lands at No. 4 or lower.
Sources say the deal is likely to be submitted Monday for league approval.
The immediacy of landing two picks in the trade from what is widely projected as a strong draft, as well as the chance to start over amid growing internal concern about Cousins' unpredictability and run-ins with referees, were chief among the lures that convinced Sacramento to go forward with this trade late Sunday night, as opposed to playing the process out until Thursday's 3 p.m. trade deadline.
Sources added the Kings are also quietly hopeful that their expected slide in the Western Conference standings in their remaining 25 games this season will ensure that they get to hang onto their own first-round pick in the June draft, which must be sent to Chicago if it falls outside of the top 10. Sacramento should thus wind up with two lottery picks in June to start reshaping its roster in earnest post-Cousins.
League sources told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne that the Pelicans, meanwhile, are confident they will convince Cousins to sign a contract extension to stay in New Orleans in the near future.
Cousins would have been eligible to sign a five-year, $209 million extension with the Kings this summer had he stayed in Sacramento and has spoken openly for weeks about his desire to spend his entire career there, despite the club's decade-long playoff drought.
"That's home," Cousins said of Sacramento in an interview with ESPN Radio earlier this week. "I'm loyal to the city, I'm loyal to the fans and I'm loyal to the organization. This is part of my legacy and I want to bring us back to the promised land."
Earlier Sunday night, before both teams committed to the deal, Cousins' agent, Jarinn Akana, told ESPN that the 26-year-old would likely pass on an extension with any team that traded for him before Thursday's deadline.
Cousins has one more season left on his current contract and can become a free agent in the summer of 2018; New Orleans would be able to offer him a five-year extension worth an estimated $179 million in July.
"I have spoken many times recently with [Kings owner] Vivek [Ranadive] and [general manager] Vlade [Divac] about DeMarcus' future with the Kings," Akana told ESPN.
"They have assured me, and DeMarcus, that the Kings won't trade him and are committed to signing DeMarcus long term. In fact, Vlade has gone on record saying exactly the same thing. If the Kings flip-flop on what they committed, that is on them.
"Under the circumstances and given the Kings' commitments, I would find it highly unlikely that DeMarcus would re-sign with a team that trades for him at this point."
On Feb. 6, Divac told ESPN: "We're not trading DeMarcus ... we hope he's here for a long time."
Divac's public statement, sources said, followed a face-to-face meeting days earlier in which he assured Cousins and his representatives that there would be no trade and that the sides were on track for the extension this summer.
But the Pelicans -- knowing Cousins grew up some 90 minutes away from New Orleans in Mobile, Alabama -- aren't concerned about their ability to sell the former Kentucky star on a long-term future alongside another former Wildcats star in Anthony Davis.
"I don't think they would have done the trade without a lot of confidence they could re-sign him," one source with knowledge of New Orleans' thinking told Shelburne.
The Pelicans have been looking for an offensive-minded center to play alongside Davis dating to last season's trade deadline, when they flirted with dealing for Milwaukee's Greg Monroe. New Orleans has also pursued Philadelphia's Jahlil Okafor and Brooklyn's Brook Lopez in recent weeks before focusing its efforts this week on trying to pry Cousins away from the Kings.
ESPN's Justin Verrier reported earlier Sunday that New Orleans also tried to engage the Indiana Pacers in trade discussions involving Pacers star swingman Paul George, desperate to land some top-level help for Davis, who earned All-Star Game MVP honors Sunday after scoring a league-record 52 points in the West's 192-182 victory.
"This is an unbelievable weekend," Davis told ESPN's Jeff Goodman after learning of the trade following his MVP news conference, greeting the news with a smile and a big thumbs-up.
"All-Star MVP and now getting Boogie. It doesn't get better than this."
Davis told Goodman he hasn't heard anything official from management or talked to Cousins yet.
Cousins, averaging 27.8 points and 10.6 rebounds this season, played only two minutes in Sunday night's All-Star Game. Sources told ESPN that Cousins asked Western Conference coach Steve Kerr to keep his minutes down before the game for reasons unrelated to the trade talks.
Cousins was flying back to Sacramento on a private plane with his assistants and family and is expected to return to New Orleans on Tuesday, a source told The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears.
The three-time All-Star was recently forced to serve a one-game suspension after accruing his 17th technical foul this season and will be forced to serve additional suspensions with every other tech he incurs for the rest of the regular season.
Sources told ESPN's Chris Haynes that the Pelicans will now seek a trade partner to take on power forward Terrence Jones and ease their frontcourt logjam.
The Los Angeles Lakers also pursued Cousins in recent days but felt Sacramento's asking price was too high, sources told Shelburne.
Talks quickly fizzled, according to Shelburne, once the Kings informed the Lakers that they weren't interested unless they would receive 2016 No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram as part of a Cousins deal.
The Kings get a player with a lot of potential in the 6-foot-4 Hield, although he has been inconsistent during his rookie season out of Oklahoma, where as a senior he was one of the best players in the nation.
Hield is averaging 8.6 points but has been explosive at times, with a season high of 21 points.
Evans won the NBA's Rookie of the Year Award in Sacramento in 2010 -- beating out Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry -- before joining New Orleans in the summer of 2013 in free agency via sign-and-trade.
The 6-foot-9 Casspi has been playing about 19 minutes per game for the Kings this season, averaging 5.9 points and 4.1 rebounds.