It happened: DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins was traded from the Sacramento Kings. It wasn't the deal many thought they'd get, however, as the Kings managed to acquire only a package based around young guard Buddy Hield and a protected first-round pick from New Orleans for their star center.
Let's break down the winners and losers of the deal:
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Winner: New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans managed to land perhaps the most talented post player in the league at age 26 for half what many people thought he'd go for. There is baggage, sure, but sometimes it's best not to overthink deals too much -- the Pelicans just landed an absolute star for not a whole lot.
The Pelicans can now give this team a real shot building around two of the most talented young bigs in the league, Cousins and Anthony Davis, who left Kentucky for the NBA just two years apart, are said to get along well, and have games that could be very complementary. There are concerns, to be sure, but none of them is big enough to second guess anything here. The Pelicans just outright robbed the Kings in this deal.
Loser: Sacramento Kings
My colleague Dieter Kurtenbach wrote it well: This deal is so bad for the Kings it not only solidifies them as the most inept team in the NBA, it might cement them firmly as the most sad team in all of sports. It's that bad. (I keep checking to see if the NBA is going to veto the deal.)
The Kings did acquire the expiring contracts of Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway in the deal, so they can clear some cap space, and by tanking could have two lottery picks in next year's draft. (They had traded their first-round pick to the Bulls, but it's top-10 protected.)
But still: Giving up their franchise player for some waiveable fodder, a decent young guard in Hield and a pick? How could nothing else be available? The Celtics have the Nets' first-round picks until the end of time (it feels like) ... they couldn't have put together a better package for Boogie?
This trade is a disaster for Sacramento, plain and simple.
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Winner: DeMarcus Cousins
Cousins gets to hit the reset button, is paired up with fellow Kentucky alum Anthony Davis and escapes the toxic situation in Sacramento. He grew up in Mobile, Alabama, too, so he knows the area well and feels comfortable in New Orleans.
What's also good for Cousins: His contract expires after next season, so he can feel out NOLA, see whether the team is working well and sign a lucrative extension ... and if it isn't, well, he can move on and see what else is out there. This is a low-risk, high-reward situation for Cousins. Either he makes a home in NOLA and he and Davis form a frontcourt duo for the ages, or he sees it's not right and goes and finds the right team for himself.
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Loser: Vivek Ranadive
The Kings owner came into the NBA with lots of talk about Silicon Valley philosophies and out-of-the-box thinking that would revolutionize the league.
And while he may have thrown a lot of buzzwords around in meetings, this latest trade is more proof that this franchise under him has been nothing but incompetent. Interior squabbles, coaches forced out too soon, lopsided trades, poor play ... it's all there.
This is the latest embarrassment for the franchise under Ranadive, and it's the biggest one. I never thought their "we'll just play four guys on defense and have a cherry picker" plan would be outdone, but here we are.
Winner: Buddy Hield
Hield is the forgotten part of this big deal and will unfortunately be labeled as the bum who got traded for Boogie.
But Hield will also get a fresh start in Sacramento on a team that will give him every opportunity to play and prove himself, and if this whole ordeal gives him an even bigger chip on his shoulder, that will bode well for him. Hield will have a few big moments in this league, I predict, and this trade could be great for him.
Loser: The Pelicans ... if they can't keep Boogie
I know I already said the Pelicans are the unequivocal winners of this deal ... but they still have work to do.
If they can't win now, with this talented a frontcourt, and Cousins decides not to sign an extension with the team and moves on, that speaks incredibly poorly of the team and head coach Alvin Gentry. NOLA looks great after this deal, but you have to remember that outside of Sacramento, the Pelicans might have been the most ineptly run franchise in the NBA over the past five years.
This is their chance to make up for it. Let's hope they don't blow it.
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Winner: Anthony Davis
Davis gets the scoring partner he needed in NOLA and a chance to finally break through and make a splash in the Western Conference. The team is still painfully thin at the wings, and if Jrue Holiday gets hurt again I'm not sure who will play point guard (Boogie, maybe?). They have too many bigs as well -- Omer Asik still has three (!) years on his deal.
But Davis finally has a partner in crime, and that might be enough. With Cousins commanding a double-team down low, Davis will have his pick of 15- to 18-footers. And if Boogie wants to step out to the perimeter and take 3s (which he can), Davis will have more room to work inside. This could work extremely well for both of them.
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Loser: The collective mental well-being of Kings fans
I don't even know what to tell Kings fans this morning. Maybe try getting into the Premier League?
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Winner: John Calipari
Calipari gets two of his Kentucky big men together in New Orleans, where they can show off that Wildcat basketball and serve as a big advertisement for all the greatness that comes with playing for John Calipari. He's delighted by all of this.
Loser: Vlade Divac
General manager Vlade Divac is the man ostensibly pulling the strings in Sacramento, though who really knows any more. A few weeks ago he said: "We're not trading DeMarcus ... we hope he's here for a long time."
Was he feinting? Did he really believe that? Is he really in control of the situation in Sacramento? If he is, did he actually think this was the best deal out there for Cousins? All real questions Divac must answer.
Winner: Tyreke Evans
Evans is on an expiring deal and could well be bought out by the Kings ... in which case, the former rookie of the year would immediately be a top target of a team desperately in need of a playmaker: the Cleveland Cavaliers. I wouldn't be surprised to see Evans being recruited to join the Cavaliers and make a run at a title this postseason.