Reflecting on the Demarcus Cousins trade three weeks later

The NBA trade deadline came and went this year without much excitement, and the two biggest stars who were rumored to be available, Paul George and Jimmy Butler, ended up staying with their respective teams. However, the biggest trade of the season happened before the deadline when the Sacramento Kings’ Demarcus Cousins was shipped to the New Orleans Pelicans for well … what didn’t seem like much at the time. The Demarcus Cousins trade is a classic case of “time will tell.” Without further adieu, let’s dive into the trade and see what happened.

Pelicans receive Demarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi, Kings receive Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a top-3 protected 2017 first-round draft pick and a 2017 second-round pick. 

Pelicans grade: A-

This was considered an A+++ at the time of the deal, but nearly three weeks in it looks a little worse. The Pelicans had to make a move, as the roster pre-Cousins trade was obviously broken, and the deal came out of nowhere, culminating with a trade at the All-Star Game.

It remains amazing that the Pelicans were able to acquire such a talented big man for only one first-round draft pick, but the team clearly sacrificed some depth for star power. The Pelicans have been pedestrian since Cousins has suited up for them and are firmly on the outside of the playoff picture at present. Whether or not the Pelicans make the playoffs, they are entering a hugely important summer. If everything breaks right in free agency, the Pelicans could enter next season with the proper depth to complement Anthony Davis and Cousins and hope for a deep playoff run. However, if things break the wrong way, Cousins could bolt in free agency and the Pelicans will have sacrificed 2016’s lottery pick (Buddy Hield) and likely a 2017 lottery pick for one and a half seasons of Cousins.

Kings grade: B-

The whole trade situation surrounding Demarcus Cousins was strange to begin with. However, this dysfunctional organization did not help matters by promising to keep Cousins, to only trade him for a confusing return of pieces only a few days later. Cousins’s monster stats and outsized reputation made him a fan favorite in Sactown, but his behavioral issues and mercurial personality were clearly wearing on the franchise. Even so, why not keep things quiet and trade him for a proper package? Anyway, that is neither here nor there at this point, so let’s see what the Kings ended up with.

A 2017 lottery pick is a very valuable asset in a strong draft class. The Kings also needed to play a little worse to keep their own lottery pick (which is top-10 protected). Philadelphia technically has rights to swap their pick with the Kings this year, but right now that looks unlikely to happen. Hopefully, the Kings can find point guard and power forward help in the draft with their two lottery picks. Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway were basically salary filler, and it would be very surprising if either remained in Sacramento beyond this season. That brings us to the last real “prize” of the Cousins trade: Buddy Hield. Hield was an electric scorer at Oklahoma, and despite being a rookie at 23, he has a chance to become a good wing player in the NBA. He might follow a similar career arc as J.J. Redick, though the Kings owner, Vivek Ranadive, allegedly thinks Hield could be the next Steph Curry (umm, what?).

Like the Pelicans, grading the Kings will take some time. If the squad uses its projected lottery pick from the Pelicans on a solid point guard or power forward, and Buddy Hield becomes a rotation player averaging over 15 points per game, this trade will look a lot better. Right now, it is baffling why the Kings did not attempt to receive two first-round draft picks, but only time will tell who the real winner of this trade is.

Contact CU Independent Grapevine Editor Gavin Daugherty at

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