With Anthony Davis basically holding the NBA news cycle hostage, it’s a good time to reflect on the trade that was supposed to prevent New Orlean’s current predicament. When the Pelican made that 2017 all-star break trade with Sacramento, the verdict was virtually unanimous: Sacramento was fleeced, per usual, and New Orleans now had a perennial all-star to pair with Anthony Davis.
But hindsight is 20/20, or something like that.
Considering each teams current state of affairs, Sacramento won the trade. That is undeniable. But this has more to do with the pure randomness and chaos summoned by the basketball Gods than the actual trade itself. We know the story; Boogie tears his achilles during his first full season, Pelican’s get bounced in round two of the playoffs, Boogie walks in free agency, and AD demands a trade mid-season. Meanwhile Sactown is having a resurgence led by De’Aaron Fox, and (wait for it) Buddy Hield. In fact, Buddy Buckets is having a great shooting season. Like, historically great.
It’s funny how things work out. New Orleans had to make that deal. Despite Sacramento not receiving a single player on Boogie Cousins level, they had to make the deal too.
It’s not like Sacramento carried out the ultimate heist. New Orleans gave up Buddy Hield, who had a mediocre start to his rookie year, and a lottery pick which was traded for Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. As I mentioned, Buddy has turned himself into an elite shooter, Justin Jackson didn’t show much in his year and a half before being flipped at the deadline, and Giles’s future, although immensely talented, is cloudy at best. Despite some bizarre argument you might hear from a certain Kings play-by-play announcer, that’s the entirety of the haul. Ultimately they traded an All-Star for an unproven shooting guard, a few extra low-tier darts to throw at the board, and a fresh start. But it worked out. Sacramento is competing for a playoff behind a high-flying attack led by young core of Hield, Fox, and Marvin Bagley. And, well, New Orleans… Not so much.
For the Pelicans, acquiring Demarcus Cousins was meant prevent the darkest timeline, or in other words, the timeline they are currently attempting to navigate. Patience was something New Orleans couldn’t afford. By the end of this season, the Davis-led Pelicans will have been to the playoffs in only two of Davis’s seven seasons. Is that an indictment of AD or the organization? I’d lean towards the latter, but that’s not for the front office’s lack of trying. They acquired Jrue Holiday who might be the best two way point guard in the league, they thought a healthy former rookie of the year in Tyreke Evans might help, and finally they thought adding Boogie would be the key to super sized version of a big three.
Nothing has worked.
Despite not having the luxury for patience, as countdown to a disgruntled Davis began, patience might be all the team needed. Ironic. Sure they didn’t know Buddy Hield would become a mid-40’s shooter from three and be the perfect pairing next to Jrue Holiday and AD. But new Orleans took him 8th overall for a reason, likely because of his shooting potential. That lottery pick sent to Sacramento? 10th overall. Maybe they keep the pick and take a chance on Donovan Mitchell, have the opportunity to pair John Collins with Anthony Davis or acquire a much needed size on the wing like OG Anunoby.
Again hindsight is 20/20.
We will never know how a super sized frontline of Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins would have worked out in the long term, which is the most unfortunate aspect of this franchise-altering trade. Instead, the trade will likely go down as fodder to be dissected by the NBA’s revisionist historians. Despite both teams got exactly what they needed, one appears to be in a better place while one is faced with an organizational tear down. One is in the hunt for playoffs, one is bound for the lottery. One team just fired their GM, the other might have a GM with executive of the year consideration. After the trade, you never would have guessed which team was which.