DeMarcus Cousins Traded to Pelicans for Tyreke Evans, Buddy Hield and More

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2017

SACRAMENTO, CA - FEBRUARY 06:  DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings looks on against the Chicago Bulls during an NBA basketball game at Golden 1 Center on February 6, 2017 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

You would be hard-pressed to find many better ways for an NBA team to improve its low-post presence than the addition of DeMarcus Cousins, and that is exactly what the New Orleans Pelicans did.

The Kings confirmed Monday that they traded Cousins and Omri Casspi to the Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and its 2017 first-round and second-round pick to Sacramento.

The Kings also released Matt Barnes to clear roster room as part of the deal.

Kings general manager Vlade Divac commented on the decision to part ways with Cousins in the release:

It was time for a change and I decided this was the best direction for the organization. Winning begins with culture and character matters. With the upcoming draft class set to be one of the strongest in a decade, this trade will allow us to build the depth needed for a talented and developing roster moving forward. We thank DeMarcus for his contributions and wish him all the best in New Orleans. The fans in Sacramento are the best in the world and we are all committed to building a team that will continue to make Sacramento proud.

The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the deal.

Marc Stein of ESPN reported on Monday that the Kings are "expected" to waive Matt Barnes to make room on the roster to complete the trade.

The Pelicans are "confident" they can re-sign Cousins, who is from Mobile, Alabama, per ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne

"I don't think they would have done the trade without a lot of confidence they could re-sign him," a source told Shelburne.

Wojnarowski broke down why this might impact how players view Sacramento's front office: 

Prior to confirmation of the trade, the Pelicans sent out a tweet alluding to the move:

While Cousins' name has been frequently included in trade rumors in the past, this is somewhat of a shift from where he reportedly was before the 2016-17 season. Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reported in August "the Kings and Cousins have agreed to take a fresh-start approach to the relationship."

Kyler noted Cousins was apparently a fan of head coach Dave Joerger, and "incoming calls from other teams have been dismissed. There seems to be zero desire to even talk about a Cousins trade from the Kings' side."

What's more, Amico Hoops (h/t Sporting News and Yahoo Sports) noted opposing general managers said the Kings were asking for too much in return in possible deals.

However, Arizona Sports' John Gambadoro reported in January the Kings and Phoenix Suns had trade discussions.

Alas, Cousins was traded Sunday before he became a free agent in 2018, which means the Kings at least received something in return for one of the best players in the league before he potentially hits the open market.

Cousins did have a strained relationship with former coach George Karl before the latter was fired after the 2015-16 campaign. According to Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead, Cousins called the coach out after a November 2015 loss. Sam Amick of USA Today (h/t James Herbert of CBSSports.com) previously noted "Cousins' camp was reportedly against the Karl hire in the first place."

Any fresh start with the Kings and Joerger ended with this trade, and his new team landed a three-time All-Star and a two-time member of the All-NBA second team.

Entering 2016-17, Cousins had three straight seasons averaging more than 22 points and 11 rebounds per night, and he is a double-double threat every time he steps on the floor. It is not every day a team can land an impact playmaker like that, and he even provides solid interior defense after averaging better than a block per game in the last four campaigns: 

DeMarcus Cousins' Career Per-Game Stats
SeasonGamesPointsReboundsBlocksField-Goal Percentage
2010-118114.18.60.843.0
2011-126418.1111.244.8
2012-137517.19.90.746.5
2013-147122.711.71.349.6
2014-155924.112.71.746.7
2015-166526.911.51.445.1
2016-175527.810.71.345.1
Source: ESPN.com

As if Cousins wasn't valuable enough as a dominant scorer and rebounder on the inside, he added a three-point shot to his game last season. The big man is shooting 35.4 percent on 4.9 attempts per game this year. His previous high in attempts was last season (3.2). 

Cousins is also only 26 years old and theoretically in the middle of his prime, which is a scary proposition to opposing defenses.

Despite his individual brilliance, Cousins has never reached the postseason in his career. He does have a gold medal as part of the United States national team at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, so his new team can take solace in the fact he has experience playing in a pressure-packed environment. 

Pelicans fans have rightfully criticized general manager Dell Demps for the team's failure to surround Anthony Davis with a strong supporting cast. Prior to Cousins' arrival, New Orleans looked destined for a second straight year out of the postseason with little hope for significant improvement in the near future.

Together, Cousins and Davis will form one of the most formidable frontcourts in the NBA. Although the Pelicans, who are 11th place in the West at 23-34, are still a few players away from being a title contender, Cousins is the star the team desperately needed to pair with Davis.