The recent trade of NBA All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans has the Sacramento Kings’ faithful rolling their eyes thinking “here we go again.”
And rightfully so; this is not the first time that Kings’ ownership has made a head-scratching decision in the front office. This Sacramento franchise has not made the playoffs since 2006, has repeatedly drafted poorly, shown questionable decision making on trades and instability at the head coaching position.
On Feb. 19 — hours after the NBA All-Star game in New Orleans — the Kings traded Cousins and forward Omri Casspi to the Pelicans for shooting guard Buddy Hield, forward Tyreke Evans, point guard Langston Galloway, along with first and second round picks in the 2017 NBA Draft.
By the numbers, Cousins, 26, is posting career highs in points per game (27.8), assists per game (4.8) and a 35 percent 3-point shooting percentage, while shooting above 45 percent from the field and averaging over 10 rebounds a game.
The players the Kings received in return from the Pelicans: Hield, who is averaging just under nine points per game and shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc in his rookie season; Evans, a former King who is averaging career lows in points per game (9.7), assists per game (3.5) and field goal percentage (40 percent) and Galloway, who is averaging 8.6 points per game.
Statistically, the players the Kings got in return will not make up for the absence of Cousins — especially down low in the rebounding and blocking categories.
But what about those draft picks? Yes, Sacramento fans can bank on the addition of two more draft picks in a deep draft class, but the terms of that first round pick can backfire on the Kings if the Pelicans miss the playoffs this season.
New Orleans’ draft pick that was sent to the Kings is a top-three protected pick. This means if the Pelicans happen to miss the playoffs and finish in the bottom 14 of teams in the league, they have a chance to land a top-three NBA draft pick and keep it away from the Kings.
For example, let’s say the Pelicans finish with the 10th worst record in the NBA. On draft lottery day, New Orleans would have a 4 percent chance to land one of the top-three picks and the odds only get higher the lower the Pelicans finish.
Now, let’s not forget that Cousins is under contract through the 2017-18 season and said in past interviews that he wanted to sign an extension with Sacramento.
Perhaps the Kings’ ownership did not truly believe Cousins was going to re-sign and figured they should get something in return for him? Or maybe the Kings made the trade because of Cousins’ attitude and antics on the court?
The day after Cousins was traded to New Orleans, Sacramento Kings’ Vice President of Basketball Operations Vlade Divac said at his press conference, “winning begins with culture and character matters.”
Pretty hypocritical of Divac and the Kings’ staff considering just this past offseason the team signed forward Matt Barnes — who had been fined, suspended and arrested multiple times during his 13-year NBA career before being eventually waived by the Kings Monday — and guard Ty Lawson after he had been arrested for driving under the influence four times in the past three years. The Kings also held onto guard Darren Collison after he pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge of domestic battery after a May incident involving his wife.
Regardless, the Cousins-Kings’ front office saga finally comes to an end.
The new era for the Pelicans began with a 30-point loss to the Houston Rockets Thursday but Cousins had one of the best nights a player in a Pelicans’ uniform has had this season with 27 points, 14 rebounds, five steals and four blocks.
On the other end in Sacramento, a hopeful start to the post-Cousins era began as the Kings defeated the Denver Nuggets 116-100 after career-best performances from second-year center Willie Cauley-Stein (29 points, 10 rebounds) and rookie forward Skal Labissiere (12 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field). Hield and Evans also contributed with 16 and 15 points, respectively.
Some Kings’ fans will remember Cousins for his contentious relationship with previous coach George Karl, receiving technicals after losing his temper on the court and the endless amount of trade rumors that swirled around him during his tenure.
However, Kings’ fans should remember Cousins for his production on the court. During his six years with the team, Cousins was the leading scorer for four of those years, the leading rebounder and gave the franchise its first player to rally around since the likes of Mike Bibby and Chris Webber.
Instead, you can add the departure of Cousins to the list of recent great talents the Kings front office has given up on — a list that includes players such as two-time All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas and young talented center Hassan Whiteside.