Winners and Losers: DeMarcus Cousins joins Anthony Davis; can they make it work?

As the dust settles from the asteroid that was Sunday night’s blockbuster trade of DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, we have to start looking at more than merely the top-level analysis of who did well in the trade (the Pelicans) and who didn’t (the Kings). So who won, who lost, who is it too soon to call for? Let’s take a look at the winners and losers from the Pelicans-Kings trade.

WINNERS

DeMarcus Cousins: Cousins has an unbelievable opportunity here. He gets to start over -- in a city that will embrace him in a way that few will. You want a redemption story? New Orleans is a great place to find it. You want somewhere that wants its guys a little less than squeaky clean? Try the Big Easy. He joins a good friend and fellow Wildcat in Anthony Davis, who also happens to be a top-10 player.

He gets to change everything about his career. If he keeps his emotions in check (unlikely) and embraces the defensive end, he’s going to have a chance to do real damage in this league. Davis can play power forward next to him, and their combination of scoring, rebounding and passing is going to be a nightmare for opponents.

More than anything, though, Cousins is out of Sacramento. Was he responsible for a big part of the dysfunction? Absolutely. But the fact remains that the organization has consistently made mistake after mistake in not merely the overall decisions but how they’ve conducted business, and that has carried through all the way to this week, when they reportedly informed Cousins he would not be dealt.

Before, both Cousins and the Kings could point to one another as the source of the problem. Now, even though the Pelicans aren’t in a great position, at least they don’t come with the chaos of Sacramento. Now Cousins can determine his own fate. 

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DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are teammates now. 

Anthony Davis: Not every day you land a megastar you can trust to boost your squad and put you on the map. Davis now has the best teammate he has ever had (and likewise for Cousins). The secret with Davis has always been that he needed a big man to play next to, but that Omer Asik was too limited on offense to allow Davis space to operate. That’s not longer a problem. Cousins is also a phenomenal passer, which will open opportunities for Davis. This opens up so many opportunities for Davis and gives him someone with whom he can win. There are plenty of ways this can go awry, but so many more ways it can lead to the Pelicans being elite. Davis has a max contract, is the franchise face, and now his squad has added Cousins. This worked out nicely.

Jrue Holiday: The Pelicans’ point guard has been lights out the past two seasons and looks like he might have finally overcome his injury woes. He’s a master in the pick and roll, and guess who just added a monster screener, shooter and finisher? Imagine Holiday in a dual-screen set with Davis and Cousins, with one rolling to the rim and one popping out. It means there will be more space for him to shoot on the perimeter. There will be more opportunities for outlet passes from Cousins. The fit here is incredible: a game manager who can shoot next to a post-up big who can also slam opponents with devastating screens. 

Dell Demps: This guy went from being on thin ice to having pulled off the deal of a lifetime. Sure, Cousins could leave in 17 months, rendering the deal an epic whiff, but the fact remains that with a transcendent talent like Anthony Davis, Demps went out and got another talent like Cousins to play next to Davis. That is the gamble GMs are paid to make, especially with how low the Pelicans’ reservoir of talent was. Plus, they gave up Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, Tyreke Evans, and one first-rounder. Demps knocked this one out of the park. 

The Sixers: To review, the Sixers have swap rights with the Kings. They are behind the Kings by 2.5 games. What if the Kings win the lottery? The Kings’ best player right now, healthy, is Ty Lawson. Maybe Arron Afflalo. Think about that! The Kings basically kicked off a major tank move despite not having rights to their own pick. 

LOSERS

Vivek Ranadive: The Kings owner just looks more chaotic than ever. He has long been tabbed as a loose cannon and someone who believes too much in his own ideas over the common sense of his lieutenants, but now he has dealt the franchise centerpiece, with no marquee returning piece, and done so after telling Cousins they wouldn’t be trading him. The Kings just opened their beautiful new arena, and now the marquee player that plays there is either Ty Lawson, Matt Barnes or Tyreke Evans. No amount of liking Buddy Hield makes that a good call. Ranadive comes off as an owner who continues to act impulsively and without regard for asset management.

Vlade Divac: Divac was either complicit in going back on assurances Cousins would not be traded (and therefore able to sign for $30 million more than he is now) or is subject to the whims and follies of his owner. And now he’s left to build around Willie Cauley-Stein and Buddy Hield, while his pick has been compromised as well. (The Sixers can swap if it lands top three; if it lands past 11, the Bulls get the pick. All of this because they wanted to create room to pursue Rajon Rondo in free agency. Whoops.)

Dave Joerger: This was not what he signed up for when he went to Sacramento. The Kings were slowly figuring out his system, and now he’s rebuilding with a partially veteran, partially young team. He wanted fresher legs when he coached in Memphis, but this probably wasn’t what he asked for.

The Other 8th Seed Contenders: Denver, Portland, and Minnesota now face an actual challenge for the eighth seed. They’ll have to actually be good if they want to hold off the Pelicans, not merely the least-bad as it stands now. The bar just got raised. 

TOO SOON TO TELL

Alvin Gentry: Gentry gets another All-Star, so what could be the downside? Well, if he doesn’t make it work, you can bet there will be talk of a replacement. He has to figure this out, and do so quickly.

The Other Kings: There’s just no telling what happens from here. There’s going to be an expectation, wild as it is, for them to actually improve without Cousins because of his collective drain on the organization. Meanwhile, they could be traded or waived. It’s all in the air.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Moore's colleagues have been known to describe him as a "maniac" in terms of his approach to covering the NBA, which he has done for CBS Sports since 2010. Moore prides himself on melding reporting,... Full Bio

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