Sometimes something big happens and you need to scrap everything you’re working on.
I was supposed to be doing a piece on all the teams vying for the eighth seed in the Western Conference for today. I had it all ready to go, and you will still get it this week, but man almost everything in it was rendered null and void by the biggest blockbuster of a trade that I’ve seen in a while.
The Sacramento Kings have traded one of the best players in the NBA, DeMarcus Cousins, along with swingman Omri Caspi to the New Orleans Pelicans for a package consisting of Tyreke Evans (who was originally drafted by the Kings in 2009), rookie swingman Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway and the the Pelicans 1st and 2nd round picks in the 2017 draft.
To call this deal a steal would be ridiculously underselling how lopsided it is.
DeMarcus Cousins is one of the best players in the entire league. Not just now, but one of the best players in the history of the league. I can this in a time where CBS Sports is willing to put Dwight Howard on its list of 50 Greatest NBA Players and honestly I’ve been saying it about the man affectionately known as Boogie for a longtime.
Stuck in the basketball hell that has been Sacramento for all seven years of his career, Boogie has thrived and put up some ridiculous numbers. This season he’s averaging a career-best 27.8 points per game to go along with a career high 4.9 assists per game. Cousins is also having his best ever year from three point range, shooting 35% from there. It’s an aspect of his game that he’s worked really hard on. Going from attempting 0.1 threes a game to 2014-15 to 3.2 per game last year to an incredible 4.9 per game this season. In an era where bigs are increasingly expected to stretch the floor, Boogie not only understood the importance of this aspect of his game but thrived on it in order to improve the Kings’ offense.
Cousins possesses a great deal of agility which allows him to be a very athletic defender for a man with 6’11”, 270 lb frame. His impressive 1.4 steals a game certainly attests to that. He’s a constant presence in the league’s top 20 in blocks as well, averaging 1.3 per game this season. His defensive box plus/minus, at 2.6, is good enough for 12th in the entire association, which is astounding given that he’s playing on the Kings. In fact, Boogie’s play is a large part of why the Kings have managed to actually be in the middle of the pack in terms of team defenses rather than bottoming out, which is likely where they will head without the big man.
Boogie’s value to the Kings on the court cannot be overstated. He ranks 7th in the NBA in value over replacement. His overall box plus/minus, at 7.1, is good enough for 9th in the association ahead of Steph Curry and just behind Kawhi Leonard. His usage percentage is 2nd in the league behind only Russell Westbrook and he’s tied for 9th in the NBA in player efficiency rating.
At the time of the trade, Cousins was leading the Kings in four of the five major statistical categories. The only exception was steals per game which he trailed the injured Rudy Gay by 0.1 steal. Boogie wasn’t just the the franchise’s best player. He had the Kings organization on his back from an on-court perspective.
Toiling away in Sacramento, however, has not been as good a fit for DeMarcus Cousins.
In his seven seasons with the Kings, the team hasn’t qualified for the playoffs a single time. One of the NBA’s biggest stars hasn’t been able to play one minute in the postseason.
That’s because the Kings have made some questionable decisions to say the least. Especially under the current regime of Vivek Ranadive and GM Vlade Divac.
When Ranadive bought the Kings in 2013, he was purchasing a team on the rise. Cousins was just 22 years old and not even in the prime of his career but was already recognized as one of the elite big men in the NBA. They also had an emerging young star in small, speedy and dynamic point guard Isaiah Thomas, a former rookie of the year in Tyreke Evans, and a cast of recently drafted young players who playing under a coach in Mike Malone that not only brought out the best in all of them, but had a great relationship with the future franchise cornerstone. After a tumultuous relationship between Boogie and former coach Paul Westphal and even more reported problems with the coach that followed him, Keith Smart, having someone in place that Cousins both trusted and enjoyed playing for was huge for the Kings.
Of course, Ranadive would systematically destroy everything that he inherited. A process that was completed with last night’s trade.
Tyreke Evans was traded in a three team deal that brought Greivis Vasquez to the Kings. Vasquez lasted about 20 games before he was dealt along with Patrick Patterson, John Salmons, Chuck Hayes and cash to the Raptors for Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray. The deal immediately gave the Raptors a second unit and saw them go from an afterthought to a playoff team.
The Kings failed to make the postseason.
The following off-season, Sacramento opted to part ways with Isaiah Thomas by shipping him to the Phoenix Suns for a $7 million trade exception and the rights to Alex Orakhi. This move was to allow the Kings to sign the older, slower Darren Collison in a move that virtually eliminated the team’s ability to fast break and still makes no sense to this day.
Thomas is currently an all-star with the Boston Celtics, a surefire MVP candidate and arguably the best player in the entire Eastern Conference this season.
The Kings would also make the decision to draft gunner Nik Stauskas (AKA Sauce Castillo) with the 8th pick in a loaded 2014 draft class. There’s nothing wrong with Stauskas as a player, but nobody really understood how a rookie gunner would fit with what would become a slower, plodding offense with Collison on the point. The answer was, of course, that he didn’t.
Stauskas would be traded to the Philadelphia 76ers after one season with the Kings along with Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, a 2019 first round pick and the rights to swap picks in 2016 and 2017 for Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic. They then used the cap space to sign Rajon Rondo, Kosta Koufos and Marco Belinelli. Only Koufos remains on the team.
That December, while DeMarcus Cousins was out with viral meningitis, the Kings would fire Mike Malone. Again, it’s a move that nobody understood then or understands today. The worst part is the team’s best player found out like the rest of us: by watching ESPN. Cousins and Malone were close. If there was a point where it was clear that the relationship between Boogie and the Kings should have ended, it was here. But unfortunately for Cousins, it continued.
Malone is currently chasing a playoff sport with the Denver Nuggets while the Kings would eventually replace him with George Karl who had ugly public feuds with DeMarcus Cousins before being mercifully put out to pasture after a season and a half of embarrassment for everyone involved.
The Kings have been a total disaster. Every time a story surfaced about DeMarcus Cousins’ attitude problems, my reaction was always “no shit”. The team has seemingly bent over backwards to self-destruct and ensure that it would never compete as long as they had Boogie to fall back on.
For Cousins part, there were some definite growing pains that played into those stories. He was famously sent home by then-coach Paul Westphal in his second season. He was suspended for two games in the 2012-13 season for angrily confronting San Antonio Spurs commentator Sean Elliot after Elliot had characterized Cousins as a “bully” for his play against Tim Duncan. Cousins would later apologize to Elliot. Just a month later, in December 2012, Boogie was suspended indefinitely by the Kings for “unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team” which was the result of a blow out with coach Keith Smart. It was more of a embarrassing footnote in Kings history than anything else as the suspension lasted a grand total of two days and just one game.
There were also the technical fouls. Boogie has amassed 109 technical fouls over his career. Including 19 this season. He’s been ejected 11 times. Now some people would characterize that as attitude, but when you consider that the rest of the top five in technical fouls this season includes Russell Westbrook, DeAndre Jordan, Draymond Green and DeMar DeRozan, I think you could just as easily argue it stems from passion and intensity as well.
DeMarcus Cousins is nothing if not passionate. Not just about basketball, but about community activism as well.
When he signed his extension with the Sacramento Kings in 2013, Cousins donated $1 million to Sacramento area families in need. In November 2015, Cousins quietly covered the costs of a Sacramento-area high school football player’s funeral after he was killed shortly before a playoff game. DeMarcus Cousins never said a word about his kind act. It only went public when a Sacramento city councillor revealed what Cousins had done at a vigil. Just last Thanksgiving, he personally bought Thanksgiving dinner for 300 families in Sacramento and that was just a week after he took 150 underprivileged kids to a movie.
These are just some of the charitable acts that DeMarcus Cousins was loved for in Sacramento. You can question his on-court antics at times, but never question the type of quality human being that DeMarcus Cousins is. I’d like to see more athletes with these types of “character issues” or “attitude problems”. Boogie is a role model for all of us in that sense.
He will definitely be missed in Sacramento just as much as he will be loved in his new home.
The New Orleans Pelicans are suddenly looking like a lock to make the playoffs. Currently sitting 2.5 games out of the Western Conference’s 8th seed, the Pelicans just added the biggest weapon available in the NBA arms race and paired one of the league’s best big men with another of the league’s best big men.
DeMarcus Cousins is now going to play with Anthony Davis. Boogie and The Brow. When was the last time two big men this talented were paired together? Tim Duncan and David Robinson? The entire league is on notice right now. And with good reason.
Anthony Davis is a phenom. He’s every bit as talented as Cousins on the offensive end averaging 27.8 points per game on 50% shooting. He can stretch the floor as well as Cousins and where Cousins thrives in the post, Davis is the league’s best pick and roll man. That pick-your-poison attack to going to destroy a lot of teams with poor interior defense (I’m look at you, Golden State Warriors). The Pelicans offense lead by these two is going to be downright terrifying in terms of what it can accomplish.
Davis is also an even better defender than Cousins. He’s 4th in the NBA in defensive win shares, has the 6th best defensive rating, and is just behind Rudy Gobert in blocks per game with just under 2.5. Additionally, I don’t know how any team is going to grab a rebound against the Pelicans anymore given that both Cousins and Davis are averaging double digit rebound totals.
It’s kind of beautiful that immediately after setting the All-Star game points record and winning the MVP in front of his home team crowd, Anthony Davis didn’t just receive a KIA or something like that, he got DeMarcus Cousins as a teammate. That’s probably the best MVP award ever received at an All-Star game.
The second half of the season can’t come soon enough. These are two of the best, most versatile, exciting and dynamic big men that I’ve ever seen in all of my years of watching basketball and now they’re playing together. I can’t wait to see it. The Pelicans have suddenly become must-see TV. Two Kentucky products teaming up to tear apart opposing defenses is appointment viewing for sure.
The guys going the other way are almost an afterthought and that’s too bad. Tyreke Evans is probably going to get bought out and hopefully acquired by a team that is in need of a solid veteran swingman. For Evans sake I hope it’s a playoff team. He’s a solid player and deserves that chance. Buddy Hield will got a lot of touches and opportunities to develop his game with the Kings. Same goes for Langston Galloway who should work into the Kings rotation.
But nobody will remember any of that. They’ll remember it as one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history. And it is. Make no mistake. People can’t even do it in video games.
Given the Kings’ recent draft history, the odds of them hitting on a major talent outside of the lottery aren’t very good. The Pelicans might even be a playoff team, meaning that neither pick is going to be very high.
The trade also asks some intriguing questions. The foremost on to me is if that was all it took to get DeMarcus Cousins, why didn’t he end up in Boston where Danny Ainge has way more to offer than the Pelicans did? It could add a lot of legitimacy to the Jimmy Butler-to-Boston rumours as what promises to be the most exciting NBA trade deadline ever looms largely over all of us.
This trade has upped the ante in major ways and we might see some major shake-ups going forward. I can’t wait.
The most important aspect of this trade, though, is that it got DeMarcus Cousins out of a terrible situation in Sacramento. The Kings were incapable of putting the right talent around Boogie and even when they had good young players couldn’t seem to get rid of them fast enough. Now they can go forward in their ineptitude without squandering the prime of one the NBA’s biggest talents.
Boogie deserves the chance to win. Now teamed with Anthony Davis, he finally has it. He’s finally free of the pressure and bullshit that came with the Kings organization. One that he never would have left without this trade.
Cousins was committed to the community of Sacramento. He stated many times that he wanted to stay. He has a loyalty tattoo. Loyalty is also the name of his clothing line. He probably never would have left the Kings organization even though he had every reason to. Even though the organization never truly appreciated what they had in DeMarcus Cousins while he was there.
He’s now free of all that. Free to thrive in a new market with a new organization that will embrace him in ways that the old one never did. Free to partner up with another superstar to form what promises to be one of the most potent combinations in the history of the NBA.
Most importantly, he’s free to himself. Free to be DeMarcus Cousins. Free to be Boogie.