NBA Trade Grades: Pelicans Pull Off DeMarcus Cousins Heist

NBA Trade Grades

Feb 12, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins (15) passes the ball against New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) during the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center. The Sacramento Kings defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 105-99. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans stole All-Star Weekend by working out a trade with the Sacramento Kings for DeMarcus Cousins. Here are some NBA Trade Grades for the deal.

While Anthony Davis was busy setting a new NBA All-Star Game scoring record with 52 points Sunday night, the New Orleans Pelicans were actively trying to make sure it wasn’t the only victory the Big Easy enjoyed over the weekend.

After months of publicly saying he wasn’t available, and after repeatedly expressing their commitment to hammering out a long-term extension worth more than $200 million, the Sacramento Kings went back on their word, agreeing to send All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to NOLA.

News of the deal was first reported by The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The details slowly trickled in from there, with the Kings sending Boogie and fan favorite Omri Casspi to the Pelicans in exchange for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, New Orleans’ 2017 first round pick and their 2017 second round pick.

Pelicans get C – DeMarcus Cousins
SF – Omri Casspi

Kings get SG – Buddy Hield
SG – Tyreke Evans
PG – Langston Galloway
2017 1st round pick
2017 2nd round pick

Averaging a career-high 27.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.7 three-pointers, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks per game, Boogie is clearly one of the NBA’s elite big men. Pairing him with Anthony Davis will be a delight as the Pellies chase the eighth playoff spot in the West, but what are we to make of this lopsided deal?

To sort out one of the greatest superstar heists in recent memory, here’s a look at some NBA Trade Grades for both sides.

NBA Trade Grades

Feb 12, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins (15) and New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) hug after the game at Golden 1 Center. The Sacramento Kings defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 105-99. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Pelicans

What an absolute coup for Dell Demps and the New Orleans Pelicans. While it’s hard to give any trade an A+, simply because you never know how a player will fit in the locker room, when injuries will strike or when the NBA Draft Lottery might take a turn, this trade comes as close to a perfect score as you can get.

The Pelicans had been searching for a center for awhile now, hoping to move Anthony Davis to the 4 where he wouldn’t have to put so much potential wear and tear on his body. Though the Pellies boast the NBA’s eighth-ranked defense, Alexis Ajinca and Omer Asik could hardly be considered long-term solutions at the 5.

Enter Boogie, a bruising interior force who can bully opponents down low while also spreading defenses out to three-point range. He’ll probably never be thought of as a defensive anchor, but there’s too much talent here to NOT be excited about a star pairing of Boogie and the Brow.

Ever since AD signed his massive contract extension, the clock started ticking for the front office to put legitimate talent around their franchise phenom and start assembling a championship-caliber roster. This is the first move to put the Pelicans on that path, and the best part is they did it without having to give up anything too valuable.

Letting go of a promising rookie like Buddy Hield hurts, but it’s the no-brainer price you pay to add a top-10 talent like Cousins. The Pelicans rookie had averaged 8.6 points per game on 36.9 percent shooting from three-point range, but aside from already being 23 years old, he was only shooting just 39.2 percent from the field.

With the Kings clearly overvaluing Hield, the Pelicans were able to string together a deal that sends away Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and the team’s first and second round picks in this year’s draft.

Evans was showing some signs of life after missing most of the season, but he’ll be a free agent this summer and his injury-proneness was a concern anyway. Galloway is nice young player at age 25, averaging 8.6 points per game on 37.7 percent shooting from downtown, but he was entirely expendable to get this deal done.

As for the picks, ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that the first-rounder is somehow top-three protected, which means if it falls in the top three, the Pelicans get to keep it. That’s highly unlikely to unfold, since New Orleans just put itself back in serious contention for the West’s eighth playoff spot, but it’s still incredible they were able to squeeze that protection out of a trade that was already highway robbery.

Not only that, but the Pelicans also snagged a useful role player and three-point shooter in the deal by acquiring Omri Casspi! Boogie and Casspi are good friends, and the seven-year veteran shot over 40 percent from three-point range the last two seasons before posting 37.9 percent so far this year.

Basically, the Pelicans were able to turn their trade offer for Jahlil Okafor into DeMarcus-freaking-Cousins once they added Buddy Hield to the picture.

According to ESPN’s Chris Haynes, the next step will be trading Terrence Jones.

This trade comes with an inherent risk, since early reports suggest Cousins will not sign an extension this summer. As his 2018 free agency creeps closer, the pressure is still on Demps and company to put a playoff-caliber roster around this group to convince him to re-sign for the long haul.

However, while the prospect of Boogie being a 16-month rental is frightening, this was a gamble more than worth taking. It gives the Brow a second superstar to help take some of the pressure off the NBA’s 27th-ranked offense, it will help the Pelicans close the 1.5-game gap on the Denver Nuggets for a playoff spot and it presents a potential first round nightmare matchup for the Golden State Warriors.

The Pelicans absolutely fleeced the Kings in this deal, and in one night, the city of New Orleans managed to steal an All-Star Game, Wilt Chamberlain‘s All-Star scoring record and an All-Star center. Well played, NOLA.

Grade: A

NBA Trade Grades

Oct 27, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) greets fans at Golden 1 Center prior to a game against the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs won the game 102-94. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento Kings

For years we’ve made jokes about the Sacramento Kings and their dysfunction, but make no mistake about it: The might be the #KANGZ-iest thing they’ve ever done.

Sure, there had been questions about DeMarcus Cousins’ ability to lead a championship- or even a playoff-caliber team one day. His technical fouls, his locker room tirades and his general attitude could all be a problem from time to time. Not wanting to commit $200 million-plus to a guy like that, especially since he had never led the Kings to the postseason, makes sense.

By trading Cousins, the Kings were going to give themselves a shot at much-needed rebuild, stocking up on young players and draft picks to start fresh. They had failed to put adequate talent around him through the draft and free agency, and at this point, it might have been too late to do so.

And yet, somehow, the best they could do was Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, an expiring Tyreke Evans and ONE first round pick? A top-three protected pick, no less?

Even worse, the Kings plan on waiving one of the young players acquired in the deal:

True enough, it’s unlikely the Kings miss out on New Orleans’ 2017 first-rounder. The Pelicans would have to not only miss the playoffs, but somehow luck their way into the top-three against all odds in the NBA Draft Lottery.

It’s the fact that NOLA was even able to sneak that provision in there that’s alarming, because it suggests that at some point, Vlade Divac said, “Let’s see, how can we sweeten this deal for New Orleans?”

On the one hand, making this trade all but ensures the Kings will keep their own 2017 first-rounder, which is a protected pick they owed the Chicago Bulls if it falls outside the top 10. Unfortunately, the Philadelphia 76ers also reserve the right to swap first round picks with the Kings this year by virtue of the disastrous Nik Stauskas salary dump, which also gives Philly Sacramento’s 2019 first-rounder (unprotected).

So even if the Pelican’s first-rounder doesn’t fall in the top-three and remain in New Orleans, the Kings could lose their own first round pick if it’s more valuable than Philly’s.

As of right now, Sacramento is only 2.5 games ahead of Philadelphia in the standings, and given the team’s -7.1 Net Rating without Boogie this season (compared to -2.3 with him), it’s safe to say the Kings are about to plummet down the standings to put their own first-rounder at risk.

This is also why it’s so funny a meaningless win over the Boston Celtics in which Cousins was serving a one-game suspension somehow served as a “flashpoint” in this deal.

In an ugly scenario, the Kings lose their own top-10 pick to the Sixers by virtue of those pick-swapping rights, leaving them with Philadelphia’s pick and a non-lottery pick from New Orleans. In an even uglier scenario, the Pelicans somehow miss the playoffs, win the lottery to keep their own top-three pick and Sacramento swaps with Philly, leaving them with the least valuable of the three selections.

Even without all the doom and gloom of the upcoming drafts, it’s quite clear the Kings didn’t stock the cupboard with assets like they should’ve. Hield could be a fine NBA player, but Sacramento is also where careers go to die. Just ask guards like Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas, Jimmer Fredette, Ray McCallum

Speaking of Ben McLemore, this trade for a young shooting adds another sense of hilarity to the equation when you remember that he was finally showing signs of life again over the last few weeks.

The hilarity turns to outright horror when you discover the Kings had engaged in Andre Drummond trade talks with the Detroit Pistons but instead settled for Hield, Galloway (who will likely be waived), Evans (an expiring contract), a first round pick (somehow top-three protected) and a second-rounder.

They also had talks with the Los Angeles Lakers, but somehow settled on this deal when Brandon Ingram wouldn’t be included. Really? The Kings couldn’t have squeezed D’Angelo Russell or Julius Randle out of all this somehow?

Did something happen behind the scenes to so drastically change the Kings’ stance on Boogie? Is Sacramento’s front office filled with liars and wafflers? Did Divac and owner Vivek Ranadive just decide to get hammered down on Bourbon Street and brainstorm Boogie trades, only caving when Demps offered to throw in 10 pairs of beads?

Again, maybe Hield will turn into a decent player, but now he joins a team that already has McLemore and rookie Malachi Richardson at the 2. It’s also worth noting that aside from obviously being a superior superstar player, Cousins has actually been the more prolific three-point shooter so far too.

Hield is already 23 years old, while Boogie and all his awesome powers are only 26. Galloway, a useful bench player, is of course being waived, because #KANGZ. By not waiting until the deadline got closer, Sacramento pulled the trigger on a lesser deal instead of letting other bidders one-up each other.

Maybe this is an indictment of Boogie’s true value around the league. Teams like the Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns or Orlando Magic easily could’ve put together a better offer than this, but didn’t, either because the Kings wanted to much and simply overvalued Hield, or because Cousins just wasn’t worth the risk to them.

Either way, this looks far worse on Sacramento’s part, not only because they got a miserably underwhelming return that might not even include an NBA starter when all is said and done, but also because of public perception.

Boogie was a problem child, but that child was also a prodigy. By publicly having the back of that franchise player, repeatedly saying he was their guy and shooting down all those trade rumors, they burned the bridge with prospective free agents for a long-time.

Players around the league respect Boogie and most of his teammates seem to like him, or at least appreciate what he does on the court. Unceremoniously dumping him like that, especially after publicly committing to working out an extension this summer, looks really bad and just perpetuates the truth that this is the worst run organization in the NBA.

It’s rare that you see a deal that’s not only bad in and of itself, but also has sweeping ramifications that could rear their heads for years to come.

If the Kings didn’t get anything significant back in their superstar trade, if they tarnished their image for free agents and incoming draft prospects and if they could be moving down in this year’s draft AND losing their 2019 first-rounder, how does this franchise actually move forward?

The Kings have done it again, working out a trade that is downright insulting to its city and the fans that saved this franchise from relocation not so long ago. DeMarcus Cousins deserved so much better during his tenure, so it makes sense that his trade would fit the same description. In any case, #SacramentoProud has now become the most ironic NBA hashtag there could possibly be.

Grade: F

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