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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

Stempak: Pelicans win in trade for DeMarcus Cousins

NBA All-Star weekend saw less defense than usual in the All-Star game, another big-man-winning-the-skills competition, some stuff about the earth being flat in the three-point contest and yet another disappointing dunk contest.

Anthony Davis won All-Star game MVP honors, but that was quickly shoved to the back of the trophy case because he found out he won a lot more after the game: Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans won DeMarcus Cousins.

The Sacramento Kings’ front office has clearly had enough of the drama surrounding Cousins and his famed temper, as Cousins leads the league in technical fouls with 19 on the season. But to get so little in return for the superstar raises a lot of questions.

The centerpiece of the trade was rookie Buddy Hield, the former Oklahoma Sooner who led his team to a deep NCAA tournament run. Hield — despite being a rookie — is only three years younger than Cousins, who is a young 26. He is averaging unremarkable numbers, but Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadive is reportedly fixated on his belief that Hield — the same guy who wants his team to play four-on-five to get a cherry-picked basket every time — will be the next Steph Curry.

Along with Hield, the Kings received two draft picks, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway, while the Kings sent Omri Casspi with Cousins to New Orleans.

Poor Tyreke Evans. Evans was stuck on the Kings for four years before going to the Pelicans, and now he is forced to go back to an organization with less talent and more dysfunction than when he was traded by it the first time.

Simply put, if your friend offers you what the Pelicans offered for the Kings for Cousins, you probably just kick him out of the fantasy league. The simulation of the Kings in NBA 2K17 would stop talking to you after you propose this trade. I feel bad for Kings fans.

No matter how it works out, this trade will send ripples around the league. The Philadelphia 76ers, who have the right to swap first-round draft picks with the Kings, have to be very happy right now. In a best-case — though not improbable — scenario, the Sixers could have picks No. 1 and No. 4 in this loaded 2017 draft class. This is contingent on the Lakers’ pick — which the Sixers also have conditional rights to — falling outside the top three, but the chances for earning the top pick are increased with Sacramento now in the mix for worst record in the league. Down the road, the Sixers also have the Kings’ unprotected first-round pick in 2019. If the Kings continue down their path of incompetent management and drafting, it is looking like former-Sixers’ general manager Sam Hinkie’s sacrifice will reap more rewards as the years go by.

The Golden State Warriors now potentially have to deal with the best frontcourt in the league since Tim Duncan and David Robinson played together with the Spurs in the early 2000s for their first round matchup in the playoffs. Don’t put too much stock into it, but if Cousins and Davis can channel an incredible Kentucky-alum dynamic, they can be a matchup nightmare for the Warriors, whose greatest weapon of small-ball will be difficult to use against two elite big men.

The Boston Celtics, who have been looking for a superstar to trade for over the last few years due to their stash of future assets, will now have to move on from Cousins. They reportedly have their sights set on Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls, but if that trade does not materialize, the Celtics are sitting pretty with unprotected Nets first-round draft picks for this year and 2018. With the Nets at the bottom of the league standings, the Celtics can do nothing and come out with the No. 1 pick to add, without further cost, to a top-three Eastern Conference squad.

Beyond the specifics and back to the court, this Pelicans team will be marvelous to watch. Both Cousins and Davis are averaging over 27 points and 10 rebounds a game this season, and how they play together will test if zigging while the rest of the league is zagging works out in practice. Teams will not be able to go small — as is the recent trend around the league — against these two monsters, and even regular lineups cannot counter the duo. Either Cousins or Davis will have a mismatch every night, and if they are able to maximize each other’s talents, New Orleans could vault into the championship discussion within the next three years.

Who doesn’t want to see a Cousins-Davis pick and roll every time down the court? Both are skilled enough to handle the ball and pass, and they have great shooting ranges for big men.

This is going to be a wild race for the eighth seed out West. The NBA never disappoints.