New Orleans Pelicans Trade for DeMarcus Cousins

Published: February 20, 2017

The New Orleans Pelicans will land DeMarcus Cousins in trade, per multiple reports came out after the conclusion of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. Reports of discussions built before and during the game. This will be fleshed out in the coming days, but here’s the primer.

The Trade

  • New Orleans Pelicans Receive:
    • DeMarcus Cousins
    • Omri Casspi
  • Sacramento Kings Receive:
    • 2017 1st Round Pick, Protected 1-3
    • 2017 2nd Round Pick, from Philadelphia
    • Buddy Hield
    • Tyreke Evans
    • Langston Galloway
  • Other Considerations:
    • The Kings need to create a roster spot or the deal needs slight modification, as the trade would leave them with too large a roster
    • The Pelicans will be looking to add backcourt depth, possibly by moving frontcourt pieces, with Jones being a strong candidate. They could bring Lance Stephenson back, as well.
    • Cousins is under contract for this season and next, but he will likely not renegotiate or extend due to various limitations. He will likely have to re-sign in the 2018 off-season, which is a risk the Pelicans are taking. The Pelicans, however, will be able to offer him the most money at that time.
    • This trade goes a long way toward signalling a commitment to Jrue going into this offseason.

Salary Cap Implications

The New Orleans Pelicans will likely remain over-the-cap, under-the-tax for this season. The trade for Cousins with Holiday’s cap hold and existing salary that is likely not moving will limit the Pelicans to the Mid-Level Exception, and small, when it comes to free agents. They currently without and will likely be without a pick in the first round of the 2017 draft. However, as McNamara suggested repeatedly, they will tout Diallo as their new blood. They will be able to sign Jrue to a max this summer, Cousins the following off-season and likely remain below the tax. These would be pursuant to Bird Exceptions, not one of the Designated Exceptions in the new CBA; neither is eligible. They can make moves to get under the line if they end up that high, but they are also willing to pay the tax, despite what you may have heard. The Pelicans are intact with respect to draft picks beyond this season, and currently have no official dead money after this season.

On the Court

Everything changes.


It’s a new team, led by Davis, Cousins, and Holiday, in that order. Everything else is fodder. Forget where Jrue plays, he’ll play. In fact, that’s part of his strength. Look for an emphasis on wing defense, with some outside threats . . . not necessarily 3pt threats, but standard kind of triple threat guys that will include some credible 3pt shooters. Look for the scoring to come from the big men who are not nailed to the basket. Erman and Davis will have to work on Cousins’ defense, and they will all have to learn to play as a team.

This roster goes against the grain of the NBA, which is one reason the Pelicans did it. As I’ve written about a number of times, the Pelicans are all about taking risks other teams will not take. It can blow up in their face, just like this can, but it’s one reason the prices are low. Expect them to try to iron out the roster this week, then start to try to get some wins under their belts, as they try to make a push for the 8th seed, as they have no pick to try to pump up with losses.

Off the Court

Expect a full court press on Cousins’ character. He does a good deal that is good that is unreported, and expect that to come to light, just as negative stories are unleashed from elsewhere. Character matters to this team, and I do not think that Cousins fits outside what they look for that’s important. They want work ethic and a sense of community. They don’t need guys to be super pleasant or lack passion or a past. As noted, they have taken guys whose image and body needed rehabbing on numerous occasions. They’ll protect Cousins, no worries about that.

Expect a full court press on the business side of things, too. They will be some seat-slinging salespeople working the phones as soon as they can say Cousins’ name. They’ll also try to get some people in the building Thursday, which will be super tough given the parade schedules. They’ll be trying to get the sponsors lined up once they see the effect Cousins has on the vibe in the City about the team.

Why the Trade Happens

The “new” ownership in Sacramento was cool on Cousins to start, and they have botched many of their early moves. The common interpretation is that they are just incompetent. This may be true, but maybe they are just not competent enough to deal with a talent and personality like Cousins whose timeline is very different from theirs. By moving Cousins, maybe, they can put into practice what they’ve learned and actually make progress.

In New Orleans, the franchise has been in a similar position, but they are trying to establish a business. The idea has been that this was through some win-now mandate, but history should tell us that this is complete drivel. After all, where are the consequences? Hmmmmmm?! Riddle me that, then I’ll consider your comments again. They tried to build excitement from winning, which makes perfect sense, but they can do it other ways, and this is one. This is why they looked at Dwight Howard. Line up some names, some offense, and enough defense to ring up some wins, and there you go . . . at least after a couple of years.

All the talk will be and should be about winning and titles and Davis, but the real story is trying to feel confident that the business end of the franchise will solidify and real habits will begin to take hold. Kids who grew up only knowing New Orleans with the NBA and never knowing otherwise will be buying tickets of their own soon. Talking to coworkers and fellow students out-of-town soon. Having their own kids soon. The coming years are critical, and you can bet that there are those in the building on Airline that watch the financial reports far more than box scores, and those numbers speak much more loudly. The ownership crises is behind us . . . though we are sort of assuming what the resolution is . . . and we may be able to extend this period of relative stability to one unprecedented in New Orleans Basketball history: 6 years.

We’ll see.

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