When the Sacramento Kings traded Demarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans right after this year’s All Star Game, the whole world thought they were crazy. Why would any team in their right mind trade one of the game’s best big men for Buddy Hield and some draft picks?
Why trade Demarcus Cousins? There’s a few reasons.
First off, the game is changing. No longer can a team ride a dominant big man like in the 90’s and early 2000’s. The game is now won from behind the 3-point line.
Look at this year’s NBA finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers were 2nd in the NBA this past season in 3-point field goal percentage, while the Golden State Warriors were 3rd. While Cousins has started to develop his 3-point game over the past two seasons, he’s still not a guy who’s going to light it up from outside compared to other stretch bigs like Kevin Love or Dirk Nowitzki.
Second, and most importantly, Boogie has an attitude problem. Plain and simple. Granted there were some spotty management decisions made during his six-plus years in Sacramento, but there’s no denying that Cousins’ attitude didn’t help anything.
There’s a reason the Kings didn’t win more than 33 games in a season during his time there. He’s hard to play with. He gets himself thrown out of games. Every year of his career he’s been in the top five in the NBA when it comes to technical fouls. This past year he led the league.
As a star player, it’s your job to keep your team in games, not get ejected from them.
Lastly, it was time for a change in Sacramento. Since drafting Cousins in 2010 the team has been stagnant, with no signs of growth or improvement going forward. They tried the Boogie experiment, and it failed.
So when New Orleans offered the Kings their first and second round picks as well as Buddy Hield, it was a no brainer for Sacramento to pull the trigger on the deal.
With the trade done, the Kings now had the 5th and 10th overall picks in this year’s draft, add 2016 lottery pick Buddy Hield, and the Kings were now looking at 3 lottery picks on their team going into the 2017-18 season.
The Kings put themselves in a great situation to become the “winners” of this trade, all they had to do was make the right decisions during the draft.
And that’s exactly what they did.
They started off by using the 5th overall pick to take De’Aaron Fox, a guard from Kentucky who showed during his one year there that he can get buckets in bunches. That scoring ability was best on display in Kentucky’s Sweet 16 matchup with UCLA where Fox scored a career high 39 points on 13-20 shooting while matching up against 2nd overall pick Lonzo Ball. Fox also held ball to just 10 points in the win.
Sacramento then traded the 10th pick to Portland in exchange for the 15th and 20th picks in the draft. Those picks were used on Justin Jackson out of North Carolina, and Harry Giles from Duke.
Jackson, a long 6’8 wing who can also score in bunches, is coming off a great Junior season at UNC in which he won ACC Player of the Year, and well as a National Championship.
Giles is one of the draft’s wild cards. He was highly touted coming out of high school, as a 6’10 big man with a ton of athleticism and talent. Unfortunately, multiple knee surgeries forced him into limited minutes this past year at Duke, but should he stay healthy, the sky really is the limit for this kid.
Sacramento also received the 4th pick of the 2nd round from New Orleans, and they used that pick on Frank Mason III out of Kansas. Somewhere down the road people may look back on Mason as the steal of the 2017 draft.
Mason may be undersized (6’0 190 pounds) but you don’t win the Big 12 Player of the Year by accident. This past year Mason showed he could do it all averaging 20.9 points. 5.2 assists, and 4.2 rebounds a game. He shot 47% from 3-point range, and also averaged 1.3 steals per game. He may lack size, but something that he certainly doesn’t lack is heart, grit, and fight.
Sacramento now has what they’ve desperately needed for some time now: Something to look forward to. Fox, Jackson, Giles and Mason all have a boatload of talent and potential to become stars at the next level.
Meanwhile, since arriving in Sacramento, Buddy Hield’s points per game increased from 8.6 to 15.1, while his field goal percentage increased from 39% to 48% and his 3-point percentage increased from 36% to 42%.
The Kings not only traded away their biggest headache, but gained an incredibly bright future.
On the other side of the trade you have the Pelicans who have two of the league’s best big men in Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins…and not much else.
Their backcourt talent is lacking, they have no trade assets, and they didn’t have a single pick in the draft this year. Yes, Davis and Cousins are world class talents, but all they have to show for it is one playoff appearance between the two of them.
Both teams still have a way to go in terms of become legitimate playoff contenders in the West. The difference: Sacramento has the pieces needed to put it all together and become one, while New Orleans is still in search of them.