The Toughest Division in the NBA is the Southwest Division.

Oct 27, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts to a play against the Sacramento Kings during the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center. The Spurs won the game 102-94. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 27, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts to a play against the Sacramento Kings during the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center. The Spurs won the game 102-94. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
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Since the New Orleans Pelicans acquired DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings, it made the Southwest Division the toughest in basketball.

Life for the San Antonio Spurs just got a little bit tougher.

Immediately following the All-Star game Sunday night, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Sacramento Kings agreed to trade DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, Tyreke Evans, a protected 2017 first round pick, and a 2017 second round pick.

It’s speculated that Kings owner Vivek Ranadive’s obsession with the Golden State Warriors was a determining factor in getting this trade done. Ranadive was co-owner and vice chairman of the Warriors from 2010 until March 21st, 2013 when he and two other investors purchased the Kings.

Hield was the key piece in this trade, which is why Ranadive recently compared Hield to both Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

"He shoots like Steph and he's big like Klay." – @Vivek

— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) June 28, 2014

Statistically, the first part is inaccurate. Curry is one of the best, if not the best, shooters of all-time. The second part is almost accurate. Thompson is 215 pounds, while Hield is 214 pounds. However, Thompson is 6’7″, while Hield is 6’4″.

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Ranadive must consistently reminisce about the Warriors because comparing Hield to Curry is completely blasphemous.

Nevertheless, Ranadive’s decision to move on from Cousins has resulted in a massive upgrade for the New Orleans Pelicans, which in turn, has resulted in an upgrade for the Southwest Division.

The Spurs currently lead the Southwest Division with a record of 43-13. The Houston Rockets are second in the division with a record of 40-18, followed by the Memphis Grizzlies at 34-24.

The Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks round out the division with records of 23-34 and 22-34, respectively. If you add up the win totals of every division, the Southwest comes in at first with 162 wins. The next closest division? The Central division in the East with 148 wins.

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It should be noted: The Southwest division was already the most competitive division in the NBA prior to Cousins coming to the Pelicans. With this trade, the Southwest division undoubtedly becomes the most challenging division in basketball.

It’s also worth noting how similar many of these teams are structured.

The Spurs have a large front-court of Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol. The Grizzlies have a large front-court of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. The Pelicans just added Cousins to play alongside Davis, and the Mavericks have a tandem of Dirk Nowitzki and Andrew Bogut.

The Rockets are the only team in the division who aren’t built inside-out.

A final note: Alvin Gentry, the current coach of the Pelicans, has close ties to other coaches in the Southwest Division. Gentry was an assistant coach in San Antonio during the 1988-1989 season under head coach Larry Brown.

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  • After becoming an assistant for the Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat, Gentry returned to San Antonio in 1999-2000 to serve as an assistant under Gregg Popovich.

    He eventually left San Antonio to coach the Clippers for a brief period of time, until becoming an assistant coach under Mike D’antoni and Terry Porter during their tenure with the Phoenix Suns.

    Not only are the teams structured similarly in the Southwest Division, but the coaches are familiar with each other and run similar styles of play.

    It remains to be seen the damage that Cousins and Davis can cause together. Many people have them as a lock to secure the eighth seed in the West, but people should pump the brakes.

    Success doesn’t happen overnight, and incorporating Cousins’ game with the Pelicans style of play will take some time. However, given Gentry’s past ties with both Popovich and D’antoni, there is confidence that he can make this tandem work.

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    It may be the year 2017 outside of the Southwest Division, but inside the division it’s easily 1996. Who said the Big-Man era in the NBA is obsolete?

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