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How the Sixers won the DeMarcus Cousins trade

By doing nothing, Philly’s assets are even stronger.

The Philadelphia 76ers are huge winners in the DeMarcus Cousins trade to the New Orleans Pelicans, and they weren’t even directly involved. They have Sam Hinkie to thank for that.

Two summers ago, the Kings were trying to clear cap to pursue free agents to join Cousins. Obviously that never happened. The failed effort cost them 2014 No. 8 pick Nik Stauskas, a pick swap with Philly for their first-round picks in 2016 and 2017, and their 2019 unprotected first-round pick. The Kings only received the right to a pair of 2015 second-round picks who may never play in the NBA from Europe.

That trade was a miserable one for Kings fans from the start. In trading Cousins, it’s now in the conversation as one of the worst in NBA history.

The Kings won’t even benefit from being awful

Without Cousins, the Kings are a terrible team that will compete for the league’s worst record for the foreseeable future. But because of the Stauskas trade, their first-round pick this season and in 2019, will go to Philly. Sacramento will only receive the worst of the two picks this year.

Sacramento is going to plummet fast without Boogie or Rudy Gay, who is out for the year with an Achilles injury. That means Philly could be looking at another top-three pick in an incredible draft class. We can’t know for sure what that means now, but it could be the difference between a franchise cornerstone or not. Sixers fans can start rooting for wins again, because Sacramento is going to be doing the losing for them.

But even more devastating is the Kings doling out their 2019 pick with no restrictions. The damage owner Vivek Ranadivé and general manager Vlade Divac have done is likely to dissuade any talent from inking a contract there. They proved to be as untrustworthy and volatile as rumored after they traded Cousins despite explicitly saying they wouldn’t.

So that will likely be another high lottery pick coming Philly’s way. And for that heavy cost, the Kings never even sniffed the playoffs.

Now, the Kings’ cupboard is bare

The only way the Kings can rebuild is through the draft — which they’ve already given up the aforementioned picks — or through trades, which they have few coveted assets of interest. The Kings are likely to be a similar disaster in two years and for many more years to come.

Meanwhile, the Sixers are stocked with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, the Kings’ 2017 first-round pick, the Lakers’ 2017 pick if it lands outside the top three, their own picks, and another high lottery pick in 2019. Even if Philly has no interest in using the 2019 pick, it just gained a huge trade asset to go after a superstar talent.

The ghost of Sam Hinkie lives on.