On Sunday, the Sacramento Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans. Here are some of the reasons why this trade is inexplicable from Sacramento's standpoint:
- For all of his temperament issues on the court, Cousins is one of the best players in the league, and was set to sign a $200 million-plus extension this summer. Even if the Kings didn't want to commit long-term to their franchise player, they didn't need to rush and trade Cousins now. The summer would have given them more time to field offers, and even if Cousins didn't sign the extension, he was under contract through the 2017-18 season, anyway.
- If owner Vivek Ranadive really did change course on Cousins and decide the Kings needed to start over, was this the best offer he could have gotten? Evans and Galloway are unlikely to be long-term fits in Sacramento, which means the centerpiece of this deal is Buddy Hield, a rookie guard who has made fewer three-pointers than Cousins this season. So, why did Vivek approve of this deal? Well, he thinks Hield has "Steph Curry potential."
- Vivek, a former minority owner of the Warriors, has made it clear he wants to replicate the Golden State model: He championed the drafting of Nik Stauskas with the 8th overall Draft pick in 2014 and compared him to Curry and Klay Thompson; he signed Steph's brother Seth Curry in 2015; and now Hield is the next Steph Curry in Vivek's mind. The Kings just got the bare minimum for their superstar player because their owner is intent of chasing specific players he believes in.
- General manager Vlade Divac told reporters on Monday he had a better deal for Cousins two days ago.
- In isolation, the Cousins trade is terrible, then you add in the fact before the 2015-16 season, Divac cleared cap room by trading Stauskas, Carl Landry and Jason Thompson to the Philadelphia 76ers and agreed to also give the Sixers the right to swap first round picks in 2016 and 2017 and an unprotected 2019 first round pick. The Kings are 24-33, and expected to fall in the standings after the Cousins trade. If they fall below the Sixers -- who are currently 21-35 -- they won't have their own first round pick. And if the rebuilding process takes them through 2019, they won't have their first rounder in that year as well. Essentially, the Kings decided to mortgage the future and then backtracked and now want to rebuild through the draft but without most of their upcoming draft picks.
The Pelicans were very close on a deal for Jahlil Okafor about 10 days ago, offering a similar package except it didn't include Hield.- Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) February 20, 2017
But where does the Kings-NOLA swap rank among the worst deals in recent history? Let's look at the swaps of the past 15 years, going from worst to not as bad (but still pretty bad).
1. The Raptors trade Vince Carter to the New Jersey Nets for Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams and Aaron Williams and two first round picks (December, 2004)
Widely considered the worse superstar trade of all-time, Raptors general manager Rob Babcock was in a tough spot since Carter had demanded a trade, pouted his way through his final few months in Toronto, and generally eroded any leverage Babcock had. Still, the Raptors -- like Vivek and the Kings -- were in no rush to make the deal even if Carter wanted out, and here's what they got:
- Alonzo Mourning never reported to Toronto and was bought out by the team;
- Eric Williams played 62 games for the Raptors, and averaged 4.7 points in his best season with the team;
- Aaron Williams played 37 games for the Raptors, and averaged 1.8 points in his best season with the team;
- The two first round picks turned into Joey Graham and Renaldo Balkman who was drafted by the Knicks in a separate trade.
2. Sacramento trades DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi to New Orleans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and the Pelicans' 1st and 2nd round pick in 2017 (February, 2017)
For the reasons stated above.
3. The Raptors trade Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks for Steve Novak, Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson, a 2016 first-round pick and second round picks in 2014 and 2017. (July, 2013)
On the bright side for Raptors fans, general manager Masai Ujiri and his Blackberry phone was able to convince the Knicks to send him a first round pick (which turned into rookie center Jakob Poeltl) in exchange for former first overall pick Andrea Bargnani, whose value was plummeting around the league.
Bargnani appeared in just 71 games in two seasons with the Knicks, and currently plays for Baskonia of the Liga ACB of the Euroleague. There was a trickle down effect as well. After dealing with Ujiri while he was the GM in Denver in the Carmelo Anthony trade, and being widely criticized for giving up draft assets for Bargnani, Knicks owner James Dolan balked later that year at an agreed-upon deal to send Kyle Lowry to the Knicks. It's a great what-if for a Knicks team that's been looking to pair Anthony with superstar players without much success.
For Kings fans, here's a sobering thought: The Raptors got as many first round picks for Bargnani as Sacramento did for Cousins.
4. Orlando Magic trade Tracy McGrady, Tyronn Lue, Juwan Howard and Reece Gaines to Houston for Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato (June, 2004)
After a 21-61 season, Tracy McGrady told management in Orlando that it might be best for him to move on. The Magic settled on acquiring Steve Francis as a centerpiece in return for their franchise player. The Magic would win 36 games each of their next two seasons and miss the playoffs. Francis was traded to the Knicks in 2006 for Penny Hardaway and Trevor Ariza. Meanwhile, the Rockets paired McGrady with Yao Ming and won 50-plus games in four of the next five seasons.
5. The Cavaliers acquire Baron Davis and a 2011 first-round pick from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon (February, 2011)
The Cavs were going through a terrible season after LeBron James' departure to Miami, but in a stroke of luck, they made a salary cap dump deal at the trade deadline with the Los Angeles Clippers by acquiring a first round pick in addition to taking on the remainder of Davis's contract. The pick, which had a 2.8 percent chance of landing at number one, in fact did just that. If you want the full butterfly effect: taking on Baron Davis's salary allowed the Cavs to draft Kyrie Irving, which was a key factor in LeBron deciding to return to Cleveland in 2014. So, in retrospect, you could call this the best trade in Cavs history.
6. The Nets acquire Gerald Wallace from Portland in exchange for Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and a top-three protected 2012 first round pick (March, 2012)
Not even Billy King's masterpiece during his tenure as general manager of the Nets (that one is below), but in 2011, desperate to add win-now pieces around Deron Williams in an effort to convince him to re-sign with the team, King traded for veteran Gerald Wallace, who was on the downside of his career, and in the process gave up a first round pick, which he defended at the time because he only liked three players in the draft. The pick turned out to be Damian Lillard, who has become a franchise cornerstone in Portland, while Wallace played just one full season with the Nets, averaging 7.7 points.
7. The Nets acquire Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and D.J. White from Boston for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans and three first round picks (2014, 2016, 2018) and the right to swap first round picks in 2017 (June, 2013)
In 2013, King pushed further all-in by trading for Pierce and Garnett from the Celtics, even as they neared the end of their careers. To get the two veterans, King mortgaged a majority of future draft assets in what amounted to four first round picks. The following happened since:
- With Pierce and Garnett, the Nets made it to the second round in 2014;
- The following season, Pierce left to join the Washington Wizards, while Garnett was traded midseason to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Thaddeus Young;
- The Celtics used last year's first round pick from the Nets to draft Jaylen Brown third overall. The Nets have the worse record in the league this season, and with the right to swap first rounders in this year's draft, the Celtics are in position to have the highest odds to land the first overall pick in the draft lottery, and still have Brooklyn's first rounder next year to continue building through the draft or to use as a valuable trade chip
8. The Oklahoma City Thunder trade James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, Lazar Hayward to Houston for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick (October, 2012)
This is the trade that pushes the limits of revisionist history. At the time, Harden was not a MVP-caliber player, but a Sixth Man of the Year who was behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (and arguably Serge Ibaka) in the pecking order in Oklahoma City. Also, general manager Sam Presti was faced with a decision with the existing salary cap system of having to move Harden in order to avoid a large luxury tax bill that would have capped the Thunder's opportunity to add players to their core group.
Despite that, Presti continued to position the team for the future even after the team had just made the NBA Finals the year before. In retrospect (revisionist history!), Presti probably overmanaged the team's championship window, which has closed with Kevin Durant's departure last summer. Injuries and bad luck contributed to it, but we'll never know if the Thunder could have won a championship if Harden had come back for one more season in OKC.
One of the draft picks turned out to be Steven Adams, but the price of it was letting go of a superstar.
9. The Mavericks trade Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson, a 2016 first round pick and second round pick to Boston for Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell (December, 2014)
Back in December 2014, the Mavs had one of the best offenses in the league and Rajon Rondo was still considered an elite point guard who could help a contender, which made this deal a natural fit. Instead, we'll likely remember this as the last nail in the Dirk Nowitzki era and the end of Rondo's run as a point guard on a winning team.
Rondo's brief tenure in Mavericks was marred by constant in-fighting with head coach Rick Carlisle. In February, he was suspended one game for conduct detrimental to the team after a heated argument with Carlisle. The Mavericks were eliminated in the first round. Rondo signed with the Sacramento Kings that offseason.
10. The Lakers acquire Dwight Howard, Earl Clark and Chris Duhon. The Philadelphia 76ers acquire Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, Christian Eyenga, Josh McRoberts, a 2013 second round pick, a 2014 first round pick, a 2015 first round pick and a 2017 first round pick. The Philadelphia 76ers acquire Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson. The Denver Nuggets acquire Andre Iguodala. (August, 2012)
A perfect example of a blockbuster multi-team trade that ended up working out for nobody. The Lakers thought they had acquired their next franchise center in Howard, who ended up spending just one season in Los Angeles in which the Lakers switched coaches, lost Kobe Bryant late in the season to injury and were swept in the first round, then watched Howard leave via free agency to join the Rockets. The 76ers thought they were rebuilding around Bynum, who ended up missing an entire season due to injury and never played a single game in a 76ers uniform. The Nuggets upgraded with Iguodala but he left for Golden State. The Magic made out of this deal well by getting a starter in Vucevic, but have yet to return to the playoffs and after trading Ibaka last week to Toronto, are starting another rebuilding process. In the end, the lesson as always with all these trades: working on blockbuster deals are hard, and often, it does not pan out.