It has been a year since the infamous DeMarcus Cousins trade. Since then, did the Sacramento Kings get anything of value? Did they get anything at all?
February 20th, 2017 was a crucial day for the Sacramento Kings. It was on this day, a year ago, when the Kings made the decision to trade DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans (and Omri Casspi) in return for Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, Tyreke Evans and the Pelicans’ first-round pick. The reason given by the Kings’ front office was, in their own words, “character matters“. The trade of their homegrown All-Star was a real controversy at the time. However, how does the trade look for the Kings now? Let’s break it down, component by component.
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There’s no real way around it here: in terms of the actual players received, the Kings still got a terrible return for what they gave up. Time hasn’t made the trade look any better. Up until his season-ending injury, Cousins was averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 5.9 assists a game off of 47% shooting from the floor for the Pelicans. Buddy Hield, for contrast, has been averaging 12.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists off of 44% shooting (and 43% from the three-point stripe) for the Kings. Galloway and Evans are no longer on the team anymore.
It seems massively unfair to compare Cousins and Hield, but we don’t have much of a choice. One year later, the trade was essentially a one-to-one swap of the two players.
It’s here that I should state that there’s a lot about Hield’s game I like. His perimeter shooting ability has straight-up changed the outcome of games in the past. But he will never have the same statistical value that Cousins has. I’d be stunned if he ever became an All-Star. The Kings still got hosed here.
The New Orleans pick ended up landing at the #10 spot, which the Kings then turned into the 15th and the 20th picks on draft night. They ended up using those picks on Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. The Kings had a pretty great draft all in all, but their biggest prizes thus far came off of their own picks (De’Aaron Fox, Frank Mason). The New Orleans pick netted them a big question mark and a serviceable role player with somewhat limited upside. I promise I won’t mention that Donovan Mitchell was available at #10.
All in all, the acquired pick so far does not appear to have had enough value to justify the trade. However, keep an eye on Giles. We’ll get back to him in a second.
The Locker Room
“Did anything go right for us in this trade?” Well, yes. Outside of bizarre trades (see: the trade deadline earlier this month), the drama around the Kings has largely died down. This is the flip-side of the DeMarcus Cousins experience. A fresh start and playing alongside a future Hall-of-Famer masked the fact that he was still making strange behavioral decisions on the court in New Orleans.
Meanwhile, in Sacramento, locker room meltdowns are a thing of the past. There have been no ejections for any player this season. The net talent on the court is undeniably worse, but this core enjoys and supports one another.
One can argue back and forth until the end of time who was more to blame for the toxic environment of the Kings locker room over the past seven years, DeMarcus Cousins or the Kings front office? The sins of the Vlade-Vivek era is for another article. But the on-court foundation is no longer rotten to build on. That’s something that won’t show up in a transaction report, but it matters. The Kings are betting their future on it.
The Harry Giles Question
All of the above could change depending on how Harry Giles develops. The former top high school recruit has had multiple issues with his knees and will sit out his first year in the NBA. However, there are whispers from practices that he is in great shape. If he becomes something special, then the Cousins trade doesn’t appear so bad.
Although he’s been shut down for the rest of the season, I think this is actually an encouraging move from the front office. Taking care of his knees and bringing his health along slowly is perfect. A lack of attention to the future is what brought the Kings to the moment of reckoning on 02/20/17, to begin with. Taking Giles one step at a time may truly be a sign that things are changing.