The Sacramento Kings and the New Orleans Pelicans shocked the NBA world on Sunday when news started circulating shortly after the NBA All-Star Game that DeMarcus Cousins had been traded to the Pelicans.
It’s been a whirlwind of emotions and nonsense since. Kings general manager Vlade Divac had one of the most bizarre press conferences you’ll ever see, leaks found their way out detailing recent events that had soured the Kings’ relationship with Cousins, and, of course, NBA players had plenty to say about one of the biggest blockbuster trades in recent memory.
It’s been a magnificent couple of days that really highlighted why the NBA is the most entertaining professional sports league on planet earth, culminating in Cousins’ tearful goodbye to the city he once called home. The NBA news cycle is incredible.
One of the sillier things to come out of the Boogie trade fallout was the oh-so-accurate NBA 2K screengrab highlighting the fact that even a video game can understand how poorly the Kings handled trading away their star player. By nearly every metric, the Kings blew this one – NBA 2K silliness included.
In our attempt to add to the fun, we’re taking that NBA 2K bit and running with it. Yes, NBA 2K thought it was a trash trade, but how does NBA 2K feel about the future of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis together in New Orleans? You’re about to find out.
In the simulation of The Great Boogie Trade of 2017, acquiring DeMarcus Cousins with the Pelicans a few games out of the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoff race totally works. NBA 2K is predicting that adding Cousins does, in fact, allow the Pelicans to make the playoffs this season and face the Golden State Warriors in round one. How fun would that be? Considering Cousins famously telling fans “f*ck Golden State” after a Kings win vs. the Warriors earlier this season angered Kings management, I’d say pretty damn fun.
Of course, the Warriors slaughtered the Pelicans in round one with a very predictable four game sweep, and went on to win the title. DeMarcus Cousins finally made his NBA Playoff debut though! You can find the Pelicans’ playoff statistics below.
With a full offseason to play with, this really was the Pelicans’ first opportunity to build a cohesive team around Davis and Cousins. The mid-season blockbuster kind of put them in a weird spot. They were stuck with the other pieces they had. So what did the Pelicans do to bolster the Cousins-Davis frontcourt? They added Vince Carter (yay!) and Rajon Rondo (huh?) to the mix. Dammit, 2K.
NBA 2K predicted a disastrous year for the Pellies in ’17-18. Despite Cousins and Davis’ strong play, New Orleans would finish the season with a 39-43 record, missing the playoffs in year two of the Cousins era.
If there was one silver lining in ’17-18 for the virtual Pelicans, it was that they did convince Cousins to sign a long-term contract extension with the team, keeping Boogie a Pelican through 1920-21 barring any trades. At the very least, NBA 2K is predicting that the Pelicans didn’t trade away youth for a rental, which would be a huge, huge win for New Orleans.
Despite not adding a big name to the Cousins-Davis twosome, the Pelicans had a much better season in ’18-19. Maybe it just took New Orleans a few years to figure out their chemistry? Whatever the case may be, Cousins and Davis carried the Pelicans to the 5th seed in the Western Conference, which, on one hand, is nice! But on the other hand, you’d probably expect more from a team with the two most talented big men in the entire NBA on it.
The Pelicans even won a playoff series, taking down the Portland Trail Blazers in round one, only to fall to the eventual champion Warriors yet again in round two.
After failing to add another star to the core of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis in the offseason, the Pelicans were once again carried by their two stars to the 5th seed in the Western Conference. Unfortunately for the Kentucky boys, the Warriors took them out again, for the third time in four years, ending the Pelicans’ season without getting out of the first round. Uh oh.
The Pelicans finally got Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins a little bit of help this offseason in the form of Reggie Jackson and Eric Gordon. The important line there being a little bit of help. They didn’t bring in a third star, but at least they brought in something.
Unfortunately for the Pelicans, Reggie Jackson and Eric Gordon really didn’t move the regular-season needle. New Orleans finished the season 41-41, barely sneaking into the playoffs as the 8th seed. Oddly enough, the Pelicans actually took out the No. 1 seed Portland Trail Blazers in round one before taking down the Rockets in round two, and the Timberwolves in round three, taking them all the way to the NBA Finals from a .500 regular season record and the 8th seed. How bizarre would that be?
The DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis-led New Orleans Pelicans vs. the Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid-led Philadelphia 76ers in the 2020 NBA Finals. I am extremely here for that. Good on you, NBA 2K.
This is where our Cinderella story ends. The 76ers breezed through the Pelicans in the NBA Finals 4-1.
The Pelicans’ NBA Finals run was good enough to convince DeMarcus Cousins to sign another contract extension. His new deal at 31 years old would keep him a Pelican until 2023-24, which is exactly when Anthony Davis’ new fake NBA 2K contract is set to expire. Good fake general managing, fake Pelicans.
The Pelicans would also add Iman Shumpert, Kay Felder, Trey Burke, and a 37-year old, out of retirement Chris Bosh to the mix. I couldn’t make that up if I wanted too. This should be fun!
Anthony Davis delivered the Pelicans his first MVP season, but it wasn’t enough to take the Pelicans much of anywhere. They finished their 2021-22 campaign with a 46-36 record, good for the 4th seed in the Western Conference, but quickly fell to the Phoenix Suns 4-2 in round one.
Derrick Rose was the big offseason acquisition for the Pelicans in ’22-23, because sure, why not?
Without putting the entire virtual failure of the New Orleans Pelicans on Derrick Rose’s shoulders, let’s just say that this particular addition did not work. The Pelicans finished 2022-23 with a disappointing 38-44 record, missing the playoffs entirely despite another excellent season by Anthony Davis.
The Pelicans ditched Derrick Rose and brought in a now-developed Dante Exum to play point guard in 2023-24. With this being the final year of Cousins’ second extension with New Orleans, it was sort of now or never time with the Cousins and Davis era Pelicans.
To say the final season of the Cousins era in New Orleans was a disaster would be an understatement. The Pelicans finished the season at 33-49, missing the playoffs by a very healthy margin, and just like that, our simulation is over. The Pelicans didn’t re-sign Cousins after that, although Davis did land another contract extension a few seasons prior, keeping him a Pelican until 2026-27.
What did we learn here?
This is nothing more than a little bit of fun with NBA 2K‘s simulation algorithms, so we can’t read too much into it. With that being said, if you take out some of the more absurd details (like the Pelicans reaching the NBA Finals from the 8th seed), NBA 2K‘s prediction here is pretty damn realistic. From a big picture standpoint, NBA 2K predicted moderate success for the Pelicans post-DeMarcus Cousins trade, with the real backbreaker being New Orleans’ inability to bring in a third star and fully form the next ‘big three’. This is a very realistic outcome, as landing three superstars in the middle of their primes on the same team is obviously not easy. It took the Pelicans nearly five years to give Davis one superstar to play with. Landing a second one is only slightly easier at best.