Accumulating assets is an art — a necessary art for any NBA front office seeking to chase an elusive championship. Superstar players that move the needle are scarce and paramount to being the last team standing, and in most cases you need two or maybe even three of them to really have enough oomph to get there.
More times than not, the best way to acquire said superstar is at the top of the draft, giving credence to ambitious ventures like THE PROCESS (the actual process, not the human form). Other than the draft, front offices (namely Boston, Phoenix, and even the Lakers) have launched into an arms race to rack up a flurry of draft picks and young players to throw into a trade package at team with a disgruntled star. Daryl Morey did it with James Harden, and now a handful of teams are ready to pounce when similar opportunity knocks.
Since the Suns have been regarded as one of the teams with enough “assets” to bargain a trade for a star player, it was assumed that they would be strong suitors for the likes of DeMarcus Cousins. Yet each time I refreshed my Twitter feed in anticipation of the next grenade from Woj last night, the New Orleans Pelicans were at the head of the trade discussion.
The New Orleans Pelicans? WHY?
But the Pelicans’ involvement got me thinking: Sometimes the amount in which you have to offer is not the most important factor of making a trade. Instead, being willing to throw all of the chips into the middle of the table without restriction can psychologically perk up the other side. (You could argue that the Pelicans did not even throw all of their chips in, but that is a story for a different time.)
A box of cheerios, a bottle of Sunkist, and two loafs of bread that you stick in the freezer for later https://t.co/ojhjuZ4Dip— Owen Sanborn (@owensanborn) February 20, 2017
Through the majority of the negotiations, the Kings were being told “no” to most of the players they desired in a return package. Orlando balked at including Aaron Gordon. Boston apparently halted at including Terry Rozier (for reasons that remain unclear to me if true), per the Dunc’d On pod. The Lakers stifled any thought that included the gangly Brandon Ingram. One can assume that Ryan McDonough was not willing to part ways with Dragan Bender and/or Marquese Chriss (although you could make a case that the Kings were not interested in either because they have 458,606 bigs).
From the Kings’ perspective, hearing resistance over and over will only dry up your excitement to strike a deal with the other party. My guess is that the Pelicans were willing to give up what the Kings wanted, and that is a huge component to why this trade was consummated.
New Orleans won because their treasure chest of assets was not as shiny as their competition — they could provide enough quality in conjunction with sufficient quantity. There was no hang up to go all in on their end because there is minimal likelihood that they will regret relinquishing any of the pieces that they forked over. There was no top five pick or potential future pick to be illusioned by, and that is one of the more lethal negotiating positions to be in when you are chasing a big fish.
While other teams were limiting the Kings on what they could and could not have, the Pelicans front office said: Take what you want. Let’s do this.
The haul garnered by Sacramento may say more about the league’s perception of Boogie than the incompetence of the Kings’ front office. If this really was the best offer on the table for them — classifying best offers is a subjective game — then it is pretty clear that no team wanted to take their stab at withstanding the Boogie barrage of emotions.
Are teams right to not want to infest their culture with Boogie’s potentially overbearing personality? That remains to be seen — there is a chance that overbearing turns to teddy bear now that Cousins has been rid of an organization drowning in instability.
With that said, if I were Ryan McDonough, I would have shot my shot with a headlining trio of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, and Cousins and figured the rest out later. Talent trumps all in the NBA, and there is a real chance that the Suns kick themselves for not pursuing a deal with more urgency.
Draft picks and young players are fantastic vehicles to sell a narrative revolving around hope to a fan base, but each of those assets have a ticking time bomb attached. Juggling the opportunity cost of cashing in on assets is one of the most difficult decisions to maneuver for a front office, and it will be fascinating to retroactively look back at the outcome of this deal five years down the line.
Hopefully the Suns are able to cash in before the register becomes bare.