The NBA world was thrown for a loop on Sunday evening. No, it had nothing to do with Kevin Durant finding Russell Westbrook for an alley-oop at the All-Star Game. It surely didn’t have anything to do with Anthony Davis dropping a game record 52 points.
Instead, it was all about the news coming out of California’s capital city. The Sacramento Kings absolutely shocked the NBA world, sending All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to team up with Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Rumors of trade discussions heated up as day turned to evening on Sunday, but nothing was really etched in stone until The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped his patented Wojo bomb.
Sacramento has agreed to trade DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, league source tells @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 20, 2017
In return for their enigmatic former center, Sacramento received rookie top-10 pick Buddy Hield, wing Tyreke Evans, guard Langston Galloway, two first-round picks and a second rounder. Omri Casspi also heads to New Orleans in the deal.
Here are our biggest takeaways from this monumental in-season trade.
1. Pelicans finally find AD some help
Outside of injuries to the likes of Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, the biggest issue in New Orleans has been a lack of a supporting cast behind Anthony Davis over the past couple seasons. This is something the team has been attempting to change. In fact, the inability of New Orleans to build a supporting cast behind their elite big man was a major point of contention for us earlier in the season.
New Orleans is coming off a 2015-16 campaign that saw it win just 30 games and finish 12th in the Western Conference. This came on the heels of the team earning a playoff spot the previous season. And now, heading into the unofficial second half of the season, the Pelicans boast a terrible 23-34 mark.
All the while, Davis has been rotting away in New Orleans. He’s among the most-skilled big men we have seen come around the Association in some time now. He just didn’t have that one guy to rely on as a secondary scorer.
That now comes in the form of one of the other most-talented bigs in the game. Both Davis and Cousins are averaging north of 27 points per game, making them one of the best one-two punches in the entire game.
Davis will now move to power forward full time with Cousins taking over at the five. As we will mention later, this should lead to some major matchup issues for other Western Conference teams. Add in Jrue Holiday at point guard, and there’s a whole heck of a lot to like about this new-and-improved version of the Pelicans.
2. That’s all the Kings could get for Cousins?
The deal sending Cousins to New Orleans came after the Los Angeles Lakers turned down a trade that would have sent rookie No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram to the Kings. Looking at what the Kings ended up receiving, we can’t blame Los Angeles for passing up on that deal. Though, it does beg one major question. Is this all Sacramento could get for Cousins?
We already know Cousins’ checkered history. And in reality, that’s the primary reason Sacramento moved on from him. With all that said, Boogie is still right up there among the top-10 players in the entire game. He’s put up 24-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in each of the past three seasons.
This year alone, the three-time All-Star has tallied 40-plus points four times. He’s a force inside and has expanded his game to outside the three-point line in recent seasons.
With the shortage of talented centers in today’s NBA, some might conclude that Sacramento could have received more for the embattled big man. Teams like the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns sure had capital to exhaust here. As it relates to the Celtics, that included what could very well be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft — originally from the Brooklyn Nets.
It’s quite possible that we were valuing Cousins’ on-court performance at too high of a clip. Maybe he was seen as too cancerous off the court — that type of plague other teams simply weren’t willing to take on. Even then, two firsts and a one-dimensional and unproven youngster as the major returns here? That just doesn’t make much sense.
3. Western Conference Playoff race just got a bit more interesting
New Orleans heads into the unofficial second half just 1.5 games behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot out west. With the Oklahoma City Thunder pretty much a lock to earn a top-seven seed, this means six squads are battling for the right to likely play Golden State in the first round. Considering one of those teams is Sacramento, we can logically conclude five squads are in the thick of it.
At this point, we can’t simply conclude that New Orleans will run away with the eighth seed just because it acquired Boogie. That would be foolish. Heck, Denver added Mason Plumlee to the mix and has the capability of trading for another top-end player.
But this surely does change the entire dynamic out west. Imagine New Orleans taking on the Warriors in the first round. How exactly will Golden State defend the monster tandem of Davis and Cousins? Can we really draw the conclusion that Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee and Draymond Green have what it takes? May this force the Warriors to be more active in the trade market than they first suggested?
It also sets up a scenario where teams like Denver, Portland, Minnesota and Dallas potentially look to be more active. Simply put, trades of this ilk are rare in the NBA. That’s only magnified when said trade is made during the season and just a few days from the deadline itself.
4. No long-term commitment from Cousins
Akana: "Under the circumstances … I would find it highly unlikely DeMarcus would re-sign with a team that trades for him at this point"
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2017
Cousins has one year remaining on his contract. It was also reported on Sunday that he would avoid signing an extension with a new team this summer if he were indeed traded. This makes a ton of sense. Cousins and his reps have no idea how the entire situation is going to play out in New Orleans.
How will the dynamic of an inside scoring offense play in a Western Conference that’s filled with teams that rely on the wing for their points? Yes, we’re looking at the Warriors, Rockets and Spurs here.
Cousins can still receive a larger contract if he were to re-sign with New Orleans. It might not be as big of a deal as what he would have inked if the big man signed a long-term contract with Sacramento. Still, it’s more money than any other team around the Association can offer him. That will surely play a role here.
As it relates to the Pelicans, they pretty much gave up three consecutive drafts to add Cousins to the mix. Hield was a top-10 pick this past year, and the team handed over its next two first rounders in the trade. It’s akin to adding a top-tier free agent while exhausting assets in the process.
The obvious hope in New Orleans is that Cousins changes his ways and becomes a capable second option behind Davis. But if he attempts to make the Pelicans his own, this will cause some major friction in the locker room. Simply put, New Orleans is run by Davis. Cousins can’t expect to change that. If he does, his stay in the Bayou will be short-lived.
5. Will it lead to more blockbusters?
We’ve read the rumors about some potential blockbuster trades that could take place between now and Thursday’s deadline. Now that Boogie has been moved, it’s highly unlikely that there will be another trade that matches this in terms of impact. Though, there’s a lot of other top-end players apparently on the trade block.
Will the Detroit Pistons now see if they can find a strong market for Andre Drummond in a trade? He offers nearly the same upside as Cousins without the off-court issues. He’s also been bandied about in trades over the past week (more on that here).
Maybe a team out west looks to counter the Pelicans’ addition by offering a nice little package for New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony. It could also be possible that the teams atop the standings out west now look to add a big to counter this move as well.
There’s no real way to tell whether the Cousins’ trade shakes up the thought process of contending teams around the Association. What we do know is that Boston, Cleveland and Houston have been mentioned as teams that could be active. With the NBA world thrown for a loop following this trade, there’s a possibility more deals could be the end result.