By Sam Belden
The NBA’s latest blockbuster trade, made official on Monday night, was an absolute doozy. After months — no, make that years — of rumors and anticipation, DeMarcus Cousins is finally on the move.
The 26-year-old center is a generational talent, but for the Sacramento Kings keeping Cousins’ immense two-way production on the roster apparently became more trouble than it was worth. On Sunday night, news broke that the team was sending Cousins, along with forward Omri Casspi, to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, Buddy Hield and a pair of draft picks.
The transaction marks the end of Cousins’ tenure with the team that drafted him. His time in Sacramento was fraught with dysfunction — viewed as a high-maintenance player, the Alabama native clashed with everyone from teammates to media members and has also run multiple head coaches out of town.
Still, the numbers don’t lie, and Cousins’ numbers say that he’s the best traditional big man in today’s NBA. During his time in Sacramento, he put up per-game averages of 21.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.4 steals, and this season alone he’s averaging 27.8 points per contest.
All of this leads me to my two main takeaways from the deal: that the Kings absolutely made the right decision by trading Cousins, and that the Kings will absolutely go down as the losers of the trade.
Just take a look at the numbers. Cousins has been a productive player for all of the last seven seasons, but the Kings have become no better than they were before his arrival, peaking with a whopping 33 wins last year.
Look around the league. What other team has done so little with a player of such talent? Maybe the Knicks with Carmelo Anthony, but that’s not exactly something to aspire to.
For that reason, the Cousins trade was a smart move for the Kings. The Kentucky product’s contributions just weren’t translating in the win column, so better to tear down now and hope for the future than slog through more mediocre seasons with an unhappy and expensive presence at the 5.
And yet, this trade casts the Kings as the clear losers. A player of Cousins’ caliber is essentially a unicorn in today’s NBA — if you find one, you hold onto it. Even worse, the players they got in return don’t look like they’ll be of much use to a rebuilding team. Evans will do little beyond providing veteran minutes, while Hield and Galloway are intriguing support pieces and nothing more. Meanwhile, Cousins looks poised to produce for a city that just might be more accepting of his mercurial ways.
To be sure, the Kings’ Cousins situation was a stressful and unproductive one, and they were wise to end it. But on this one, they’ll end up on the wrong side of history — no matter what.