The Sacramento Kings finally did it. After years of speculation as to whether the Kings would trade DeMarcus Cousins, it happened. One of the most dominant big men in the NBA fetched this in return from the New Orleans Pelicans:
Buddy Hield, 2017 first- and second-round picks, and guards Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway.
Even if we strip away the idea that Cousins seems like a royal pain in the butt and is an impending free agent, the immediate reaction to this deal from a Sacramento perspective has to be "yuck."
It didn't help when Vlade Divac, the man who made the deal for Sacramento, said Monday that he had a better offer two days earlier.
It is the classic "three quarters for a dollar" trade often described by sports personality Bill Simmons. There is not a discernible star among the players going back to the Kings, and the first-round pick is top-three protected. The Pelicans get the potential for an overwhelming frontcourt for the next decade, if they can re-sign Cousins and pair him with Anthony Davis. The Kings get … another decade in the lottery?
The deal was also a reminder of how well the late Flip Saunders did three years ago in dealing Kevin Love.
The situation with Cousins is not identical to the one with Love, of course. Love had a full year left on his contract when he was dealt, and even though he had worn out his welcome in Minnesota he did not carry anywhere near Cousins' baggage.
But Love had boxed the Wolves into enough of a corner that they pretty much HAD to trade him at some point. Otherwise he was definitely going to walk in free agency. And as players, I would put Love at the time of his trade and Cousins right now on equal footing.
Smartly, Saunders played from as much of a position of strength as possible. He didn't wait until the trading deadline in the final year of Love's deal; rather, he dealt him the previous offseason. That kept him from having to panic or take a "here's the best we can do" kind of trade (or, you know, a "here's literally the worst we can do" trade).
That allowed Saunders to take advantage of some good timing — LeBron James returning to Cleveland and coveting a young veteran like Love to complete a Big Three along with Kyrie Irving — and cash in on a trade in which No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins was the centerpiece.
Wiggins is hardly a perfect or complete player, but that was a dollar-for-dollar trade. Love's time in Cleveland has been far from ideal, but he helped the Cavaliers win a title last season and was an All-Star this year before getting temporarily shelved by an injury. Wiggins headed into the break with back-to-back 40-point games and is clearly a key to the Wolves' future.
You can't say the same about anyone the Kings got in return. Maybe the first-round pick will materialize into something big. Maybe Hield's ceiling is higher than it appears to be right now.
Or maybe this trade is exactly what it looks like: another blunder by the Kings.