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Was the Rondo trade worse than the Cousins trade?

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Measuring two of the worst trades in NBA history

Houston Rockets v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The trade deadline always churns up plenty spirited debates over which GM made the worst move or which team came away with the biggest steal, and this one was no different. After it was announced that the Sacramento Kings would trade DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans for Buddy Hield and a 30 day free trial of Blue Apron, I got into a lively argument with a young teen online.

This guy had the gall to suggest that the Rondo trade, not the Cousins trade, was the worst basketball decision in recent history. Oh boy, I knew I had a real chump caught in my crosshairs then. I immediately fired off some smug tweets that really put this guy in his place, but then I looked up the details of both trades and realized..... that he might have a point. Let’s break down each trade and decide for good which fanbase has the right to complain the loudest.

Round 1: What each team gave up

Kings

DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi

Mavs

Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, a 1st round pick, and a trade exception

Even though the Mavs gave up way too much, I would still argue that the Kings gave up more. Letting go of the first round pick was horrible in hindsight, but the 2014 Mavs were 19-8 when the trade took place and looking to win now, so it made sense that they would bet the house on a big trade. Jae Crowder gets a lot of “the one that got away” love from Mavs fans — and for good reason, he’s a solid NBA wing player on both ends of the floor — but his presence doesn’t change the fortunes of his team. In the NBA, one true superstar can fundamentally alter the course a franchise takes for years to come. Front offices scheme day and night to find the next one. So to finally have a player like that on your roster who’s openly willing to sign another multiyear deal with your team, but choosing to give him up anyway is inexcusable.

Mavs Win/Kings Lose.

Round 2: What each team got in return

Kings

Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a 1st round pick, a 2nd round pick

Mavs

Rajon Rondo, Dwight Powell

All due respect to Dwight Powell but this round goes to the Kings. We have the benefit of hindsight here, but I don’t see anyway for Buddy Hield and the other players that the Kings took with him to self destruct more than Rondo did in Dallas. He was meant to take the surging Mavs from play off team to contender but instead he became the monkey wrench in the Mavs’ offensive machine. Before the Mavs traded for Rondo, they were on pace to be the most offensive efficient team in NBA history at 114 points/100 possessions. Afterwards, their offensive efficiency dropped 9 points/100 possessions and in Rondo’s 34 playoff minutes against the Rockets, the Mavs were outscored by 36 points. Will Buddy Hield live up to the “shoots like Steph, big like Klay” hype that Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé has forced on him? Of course not, but he can’t crash as bad a Rondo did.

Kings win/Mavs Lose

Round 3: Effect on the franchise

Kings

Gave up a known 25 & 10 superstar, launched (another) rebuilding phase.

Mavs

Derailed 2014 season, gave up 2015 pick and promising young players, botched last chance for Dirk to win a title.

That last sentence hurt to type, but it’s true. The Mavs emptied the chamber during the Rondo trade in a last ditch attempt to put title level talent around Dirk Nowitzki. Instead it essentially ensured he’d would never see the Finals again. Not only that, but giving up a first round pick and two promising young players stunted the Mavs’ ability to rebuild after it became evident that Rondo wasn’t going to work out. That is a high cost to pay, especially for 19-8 team months before the trade deadline. With Cousins, the Kings were vying for a playoff spot. Without him, they will have the second worst lineup in basketball (next to the Nets) and move even further away from breaking one of the longest playoff droughts in the NBA. That’s hard pill to swallow as well.

What separates the two is the reason each trade was made. The Mavs made a risky bet on Rondo to give Dirk one last shot to win it all, and had it blow up spectacularly. The Kings front office traded Cousins because they weren’t capable of managing his personality, putting skilled players around him, or finding a better trade option in six years of trying. Which leaves the worst taste in your mouth?

Maybe it is a toss up after all.