Cooney: What the DeMarcus Cousins trade means to the Sixers

Cooney: What the DeMarcus Cousins trade means to the Sixers

Cooney: What the DeMarcus Cousins trade means to the Sixers

FOR THE PROPONENTS of 76ers management taking its time when it comes the inevitable trade of a big man or two, Monday was a good day.

For those who want team president Bryan Colangelo to do something right away, or believe that the trade value of Jahlil Okafor is plummeting, the anxiety continues.

The Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans pulled off the biggest deal of the trading season that concludes Thursday when the Kings traded star center DeMarcus Cousins and got back Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, and first- and second-round picks in this year’s draft.

What does this have to do with the Sixers? Quite a lot, actually.

Who is most likely to be traded?

First, it negates any chance the team had of unloading Okafor to the Pelicans, who reportedly were close to giving up a protected first-rounder, a player with an expiring contract (a source says it was not Chester native Evans) and a second-rounder to the Sixers before the megadeal between with Sacramento went down.

Second, and even more important for the Sixers, it means the Kings are in full-out, blow-up-the-ship mode, and this trade really got them little in return. The Sixers own the right to swap picks with the Kings in the coming draft, provided the Kings’ pick is in the top 10 and is better than the Sixers’. Sacramento stands at 24-33, only a game-and-a-half out of a playoff spot in the West.

However, now that they have dealt Cousins, the Kings might not manage too many more wins. They have the 11th-worst record in the league and certainly could fall below the Trail Blazers (23-33), Pelicans and Knicks (both 23-34), Mavericks (22-34), Timberwolves (22-35), Sixers (21-35) and Magic (21-37).

The Sixers, of course, have played pretty well of late, as they’ve won 14 of their past 25 games, even though Joel Embiid has missed 14 of the past 15 and 11 straight. The three keys for the team in the remaining 26 games is continued improvement, the health of Embiid and trying to get rookie Ben Simmons on the floor. They now appear to have the luxury of not having to worry about winning too much, as the Kings have taken over tanking mode. That makes the draft lottery on May 16 even more intriguing.

Then there is the matter of the Sixers’ owning the Kings’ 2019 first-round pick, which is unprotected and unrelated to the pick-swapping of this year. If Sacramento is in rebuild mode, which entirely seems so, imagine how good that pick would be in two years.

Thanks to this Sacramento-New Orleans trade, the Sixers seem even better off than if they had dealt Okafor to the Pelicans. That is the enviable position the previous workings of Sam Hinkie has put them in. And that doesn’t even factor in the top-three-protected Lakers pick that the Sixers own this year.

Thinking of the possibility of two picks this June in the top 10, Embiid and Simmons starting next season in full health, the growth of Dario Saric, the possibility of having one of the stronger benches in the league and then another high pick in 2019, Colangelo doesn’t need to make a trade right now to elicit excitement. In fact, standing pat for now might have just been the better move.

So now, what about Okafor and Noel? Where might they land and when?

I don’t see the rush to do anything, unless it’s something that blows Colangelo out of the water, and that possibility seems to have dried up, for now.

Undoubtedly, with a draft full of shooters and few free agents among big men, Noel will garner interest as a restricted free agent. Whether that is now or during the offseason will have to be seen. His price will surely rise this offseason, maybe beyond what Colangelo is willing to play. But losing Noel and getting nothing in return isn’t the president’s M.O., so seeing how this will play out is intriguing.

Usually, anxiety accompanies a trade deadline as much as second-guessers. All the luxuries that Colangelo inherited, however, ease those feelings. And so does the latest trade made by Sacramento.

cooneyb@phillynews.com

@BobCooney76

Blog: philly.com/Sixersblog

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Published at Tue, 21 Feb 2017 08:11:17 +0000

Categories: Sixers

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