FILE PHOTO: Report claims that the Sacramento Kings All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins is “virtually untouchable” in trade deals. Reuters/Godofredo Vasquez
(The Sports Xchange) – The Sacramento Kings made official on Monday that center DeMarcus Cousins is heading to the New Orleans Pelicans in a blockbuster trade involving five players and two draft picks.
Cousins, the centerpiece of the deal, and forward Omri Casspi are heading to the Big Easy in exchange for rookie guard Buddy Hield, swingman Tyreke Evans, guard Langston Galloway, a 2017 first-round pick and a 2017 second-round pick obtained from the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 6-foot-11 Cousins, who is averaging a career-best 27.8 points in his seventh season, will form a dominant frontcourt with Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, who averages 27.7 points and is coming off a record 52-point performance in the All-Star Game.
“It was time for a change and I decided this was the best direction for the organization,” said Kings vice president of basketball operations and general manager Vlade Divac.
“Winning begins with culture and character matters. With the upcoming draft class set to be one of the strongest in a decade, this trade will allow us to build the depth needed for a talented and developing roster moving forward.”
Although Cousins can be a free agent after next season and Sacramento considered signing him to a five-year contract extension worth approximately $210 million last month, his departure ends a tumultuous 6 1/2 seasons for the fifth overall draft pick in 2010.
Cousins, who leads the league with 17 technical fouls, clashed with coaches and the media at times but has lifted his scoring average in each of the last four seasons.
“He’s a great player, dominant in this league, of course, with all the numbers he put up,” Davis said Sunday immediately after reports of the trade surfaced. “DeMarcus is an elite player in this league.”
Both Cousins and Davis were college standouts at the University of Kentucky, with Davis selected No. 1 overall in the 2012 draft.
Evans returns to Sacramento, which selected him in the first round (No. 4 overall) of the 2009 draft. He earned NBA Rookie of the Year honors and averaged 17.5 points in four seasons with the Kings before being sent to New Orleans in a three-team trade in July 2013.
Evans, who has an expiring contract, averaged 9.5 points in 26 games this season after returning from a knee injury.
Hield was selected by the Pelicans with the No. 6 overall pick out of Oklahoma last June. In 57 games, he is averaging 8.6 points.
Galloway also averaged 8.6 points in 55 games for the Pelicans after spending his first two seasons with the New York Knicks. According to initial reports after the trade, Galloway is expected to be waived.
Casspi, 28, is averaging 5.9 points in 22 games this season. He hasn’t played since Jan. 13 due to a calf injury.
To make room on the roster, Divac announced the Kings waived veteran forward Matt Barnes, who is averaging 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds.
(Editing by Andrew Both)