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Breaking Down the DeMarcus Cousins–Pelicans Trade

New Orleans now has two top-15 NBA players

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Deal

New Orleans reportedly sends Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, and first- and second-round picks from 2017 to Sacramento for DeMarcus Cousins.

The GM Who Approves of This the Most

Pictured above: Dell Demps, Alvin Gentry, Danny Ferry. What an absolute heist. Masai Ujiri–esque from the Pelicans front office. Something must have gone profoundly wrong between the February 16 publication of an ESPN story, in which Cousins told ESPN that he wanted his jersey to hang in the Sacramento rafters and that he planned to sign an extension with the team, and Sunday night, when a funny rumor turned into a blockbuster trade in a matter of hours.

The Winner

Make no mistake: The Kings got fleeced. Hield is a rookie shooting guard (a 23-year-old rookie, at that) who has a pretty obvious ceiling as a useful spot-up shooter. Sacramento has already ridden the Tyreke Evans roller coaster. That Pelicans first-rounder might not be that attractive if Cousins and Anthony Davis go full Godzilla-Mothra on the Western Conference.

The Pelicans now have two top-15 NBA players and the best frontcourt in the league. You could wait a generation to say something like that about an NBA team.

But the real winner here is Cousins. He gets a new start, in a new city, with a new coach, and a new superstar teammate to help shoulder the load. Boogie is no longer the face of a franchise; he is one of the faces of a franchise, and that’s exactly what he needed.

He is an unrestricted free agent after next season, and prior to the trade going through, his agent told ESPN that Cousins was unlikely to “re-sign with a team that trades for him at this point.”

Maybe New Orleans becomes a Western Conference powerhouse and Boogie’s jersey hangs from the Smoothie King rafters. Or maybe he moves on after an interesting but ultimately failed New Orleans experiment. Either way, he has a new lease on his basketball life.

The Caveat

The market for Boogie among NBA fans may have been much greater than the actual market for Boogie among NBA teams. Boston could have topped this offer. Denver probably could have topped this offer. Philly could have topped this offer. They didn’t. That the Lakers didn’t want to part with Brandon Ingram for the chance at a foundational big man to join the long legacy of purple-and-gold paint patrollers should tell you everything you need to know: Maybe the Kings got what they could for their enigmatic and combustible center — and maybe they were happy to get rid of him.

As recently as last week, Kings coach Dave Joerger was singing Boogie’s praises to The Ringer’s Chris Vernon.

Maybe that was a smoke screen to drive up the price and make interested parties believe that it would take a lot to pry Cousins loose. Or maybe it’s straight up, and the institutional chaos is such that Joerger had no idea this deal was coming. If that’s the case, the trouble in Sacramento may just be starting. But much like Boogie, the Kings are starting a new chapter.

There was no evidence that this marriage would ever work, despite recent signs that the Kings and Cousins were learning to love one another. The Kings were unlikely to win a title with Cousins, but his talent meant the Kings would never hit the absolute basement — and that was a problem.

You can almost imagine a civil war happening in the Sacramento front office, with one side hoping to build around Cousins, and another agitating to move on from an often-disruptive force who could bring them back some important pieces for the future.

If that was the case, we see who won.