The NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans has come and gone and our regularly scheduled games will begin again on Thursday, February 23rd. The weekend brought with it a mediocre dunk contest, an increasingly lackadaisical All-Star Game, a heartwarming tribute to Craig Sager and the Sager Foundation, and a blockbuster trade that has sent DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans.
The West All-Stars beat the East All-Stars by a final score of 192-182, a defensive battle this was not. Anthony Davis was crowned the All-Star MVP and he finished with 52 points shooting 26-39 from the floor. In a game with almost zero defense, Davis essentially glided towards the rim with ease whenever he wanted to (it almost looked like he was playing against the Timberwolves...). Russel Westbrook was also his usual ferocious self, although he was able to tone his normal 150% effort somewhat for this exhibition game.
The long-anticipated moment of Westbrook and Kevin Durant playing together once again culminated in a happy moment when the duo connected for a give-and-go alleyoop
The rest of the West’s bench was ecstatic during the next timeout, as it was almost like a dark cloud that had been hanging over the team had been lifted as Westbrook and Durant were at least able to momentarily reconcile on the Basketball court.
In his first All-Star debut, Giannis Antetokounmpo provided quite a few highlights as he showcased his incredible athletic ability with a bevy of thunderous dunks. None were better than when he rose up for a put-back dunk right over the back of Steph Curry, who earlier had actually laid down on the court to avoid getting posterized.
Essentially, this was a game full of heat-check threes, ridiculous alleyoops, and absolutely zero defense. These guys were just out there to have fun.
One of the unheralded parts of the NBA, although it is often seen in a negative light, is that due to the relatively small pool of players who play Basketball at an elite level, these guys are friends. They all know each other, often at an intimate level. The “AAU” mentality has been decried due to the lack of true rivalries among NBA stars, but a benefit of this is that it truly is fun to see how much these guys simply enjoy hanging out with one another, cracking jokes and relishing their time “off.”
DeMarcus to the Pelicans
The real news, unless you are a flat-earth truther, that came out of the All-Star Weekend broke right after the All-Star Game. A #Wojbomb was dropped and DeMarcus Cousins was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. The eventual full details of trade revealed that the final trade package was DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, the Pelicans 2017 first round pick (protected 1-3), and Philadelphia’s 2017 second round pick that New Orleans held.
Now, simply put, when Buddy Hield and a lightly protected first round pick are your main haul for a superstar trade, there is a problem. The Kings’ return is actually not all that different than what the Wolves received for Kevin Love, as the Miami Heat pick ended up being traded for Thad Young. The real difference is the level of prospect between Andrew Wiggins and Buddy Hield, which was very different at the time each player was traded.
There are a few countervailing arguments going around the league right now in terms of this trade.
- Cousins’ value was much lower than initially perceived. The likely bidders did not materialize with the Nuggets, Lakers, or Celtics. All three of those teams may have valued their assets more than acquiring a potential problem in Cousins, who will also be a free agent in the off-season after next season.
- The Kings done goofed. While there are reports that the value for Cousins was lower than expected, for example the Lakers balked at including Brandon Ingram and the Pelicans refused to include a 2019 first round pick, the Kings did receive better offers but the front office was enamored with Buddy Hield. Thus, the Kings keep on being the Kings.
Another aspect of this trade is that this is very bad look for the Kings front office, as they had been publicly promising that they were not trading Cousins. Now, lots of this is semantics, but reports indicate that this news really caught Cousins off-guard. In fact, right after the All-Star game, the press knew about this before Cousins did.
Breaking down how this looks for both teams
They are going all-in on Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, which certainly are two good players to go all-in on. If the Pelicans lock up Jrue Holiday, they will pretty much have their team in place. Davis, Cousins, and Holiday create a really nice core and if the Wings that the Pelicans signed over the last offseason in Solomon Hill and E’Twaun Moore live up to their contracts, that is a pretty good team. Of course, the pairing of Cousins and Davis will be extremely interesting to watch, as the Pelicans are directly opposing the small-ball focus of today’s NBA. It will be a blast to follow.
The problem of Buddy Hield being your main haul from trading your current superstar is that there really isn’t a lot left on the Kings. Before any players are moved or waived, the Kings now have seven shooting guards on their team. I guess the “core” that they will build around is now Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Georgios Papagiannis?
The Kings will obviously have to build up through the draft and it is likely that their current veterans will be shipped out in an effort to garner more young talent/draft picks. The Kings are going to be very bad for likely a long time. They do not have a ton of assets as they have a pick-swap with the 76ers this year and are also giving an unprotected pick to the 76ers in 2019.
The 76ers are the real secondary winners of this trade, as they fleeced the Kings when they took on Nik Stauskas and extra salary, forcing the Kings to depart with draft picks and pick-swaps. Sam Hinkie bet on an incoming Kings implosion and the 76ers will reap the benefits.