The DeMarcus Cousins Trade: Why, Kings?

The fight for the last spot in the Western Conference playoff spot is a crowded one. Just 3½ games separate the Nuggets, who hold that eighth and final spot, and the Timberwolves, who are currently 13th in the Western Conference pecking order.

Two teams in between the two are the Pelicans and the Kings, which is to say, both in serious contention. It's not terribly common for one contending team to make a trade with another one they are directly contending with, and that's weird thing No. 1 about this trade. For two contending teams to trade with each other, both teams have to be pretty damn sure they got the better end of the deal. But the Kings can't possibly think that. Instead, the Kings made a trade that doesn't make sense for the present or the future. They've given up on a promising season, and likely vaulted the Pelicans to one of the best teams in the West not named "Warriors" or "Spurs."

It's true that Cousins doesn't have much longer to go on his current contract, and he's certainly not Mr. Distraction-Free Ultimate Team Player. Given those things, it's true that any return the Kings were going to get for Cousins would be a bit limited.

But given that, why not stick with Cousins and try to make a run this year? The Kings have won 4 out of 5 going into the break, including wins over the Warriors, Celtics, and Hawks. Granted, making the playoffs likely means a first round matchup with those Warriors, but besides displaying the ability to beat them at least at home, the Sacramento fans (the most loyal and arguably most-suffering in the NBA) deserve the quintessential David vs. Goliath matchup and all the hype (and financial windfall for the organization to reinvest in the team) that would surround such a matchup.

But okay, you don't buy that. You don't want Cousins to get away for free in return for a first round loss to Golden State when you have a chance to get some youth and wait out the older Warriors and Spurs for contention.

If so, this was not the trade to make to accomplish that. The draft pick the Pelicans gave up is protected. The Kings don't get it if the Pelicans finish in the top three. Given that Cousins is one of the ten best players in the NBA, he is worthy of holding out for a non-protected pick if you are dealing him to a potential lottery team. The young player they did get, Buddy Hield, has been a disappointment thus far.

Even more strange, the Kings already have a young shooting guard (less than a year older than Hield) putting up similar or slightly better numbers than Hield. Weird thing No. 2.

A couple of weeks ago, Hield punched Cousins in the nuts on the court. Now his organization has done the same to Sacramento off of it.

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