These days, elite big men are a rare breed, so it’s always important to try and secure one. DeMarcus Cousins is an elite big man who could be on the move, because his Sacramento Kings are struggling again.
Does that mean Cousins is a hot trade target. Not exactly. Why?
Because he comes at huge cost. And that cost isn’t just Cousins’ salary or the chips teams will have to part with to pry Cousins away from California’s capital.
The Kings are struggling again and headed nowhere and even Cousins can’t get them anywhere. They won’t even be on the fringe of playoff contention and it’s a feeling Kings fans have grown accustomed to. Another feeling they have grown accustomed to is anger. And that’s not just because of Sacramento’s struggles.
It’s because of Cousins, who has gotten into numerous arguments and scuffles during his time in Sacramento. Cousins leads the league with 12 technical fouls and three ejections and he has been suspended a couple of times this year. In addition, his attitude has brought the Kings down. He isn’t a complete locker-room cancer, but he’s not helping the chemistry in the Kings’ locker room either.
There’s not much of a point for the Kings to keep Cousins going forward. While the franchise may believe that he, along with the franchise, could get a boost if the Kings move to Seattle, most people believe it will take a lot to motivate Cousins. After all, he has been suspended for arguing with his coach and the San Antonio Spurs‘ radio commentator (on separate occasions).
However, others believe that he would be more motivated if he was traded to a good team, such as the Miami Heat. For as good as the Heat are, they’re a terrible rebounding team without a true big man and Cousins could fill a need at center. Miami is last in total rebounding and they are among the worst in rebounding differential.
In just 31.4 MPG (minutes per game), Cousins is averaging 10 rebounds, translating to 15.3 rebounds per 48 minutes, a mark that puts him up there with some of the best big men in the league.
Teams would be astounded at how good Miami would be with Cousins in the lineup. The Heat would start Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Cousins, which is a lineup that could challenge the Western Conference All-Star team. After all, three of the players in Miami’s current lineup (Wade, Bosh and James) are starting the All-Star Game.
While some might suggest that he could hurt the positive vibe in Miami, I believe winning would help Cousins. In the three years Cousins has spent with the Kings, they have posted a repulsive record of 65-137. The Heat could realistically win 65 games in just one season with Cousins and I think that would change his attitude and minimize his tantrums.
If Miami is willing to take him in, it will shake up the whole league. It’s a huge risk, considering that the Heat already have a championship caliber team and that they are only grabbing 1.7 less rebounds than their opponents (per game). The same goes for any team that needs a big man, especially teams that are already looking good. There are other talented big men out there, such as Al Jefferson, and for teams in need of a power forward, Paul Millsap is out there.
Basically, I’m saying that Cousins is a monumental risk and that guys like Al Jefferson, who has the 12th-best EWA (estimated wins added) in the NBA (9.1), would be a lower-risk and better fit in the locker room and probably on the court as well. However, there are teams that could use Cousins and those teams are similar to the ones that crave the presence of Jefferson.
The Hornets could use a big man, as they could pair up No. 1 draft pick and star defender Anthony Davis with Cousins down low while moving sharp-shooting Ryan Anderson (87.9 percent from the charity stripe and 40.2 percent from beyond the arc) to small forward. Greivis Vasquez averages 9.4 assists per game, and that number could balloon to over 10 with the presence of another dominant big man. Eric Gordon is a talented shooting guard, as he almost made the U.S. Olympic team.
Robin Lopez is a decent player and he could be headed to Sacramento in a trade. New Orleans could ship out a draft pick as well, but they won’t have to give up much. Why?
Because Cousins isn’t worth all that much and he could get frustrated by the Hornets not winning. New Orleans is 19-34 and will not make the playoffs and that is not going to sit well with Cousins.
If it takes time to develop chemistry, that will hurt greatly. As I said, the Hornets aren’t going anywhere this year and while the future looks promising, there is the risk of Cousins’ attitude getting in the way of a losing team. Millsap would be a better fit in New Orleans, as he has a 7.5 EWA (Cousins has a 7.6 EWA) and a 20.66 PER. Cousins owns a 20.5 PER and that doesn’t factor in his attitude. Davis can play center, and a frontcourt with Davis and Millsap is still very good.
Atlanta also needs a big man (26th in total rebounding), but they have Al Horford at center and Josh Smith at small forward, so Millsap would be a better fit as a power forward. The Celtics could use some help, as they have an appalling rebounding difference of -3.7. Kevin Garnett is best as a power forward, and having Cousins and Garnett would definitely terrify some opponents.
However, according to Jay King of MassLive.com, the Celtics are even shopping Garnett and they are 28-24 and don’t seem to be going anywhere with the Heat sitting atop the East and the Knicks, Pacers and Bulls also looking like legitimate contenders. It’s unlikely Boston, a team without Rajon Rondo and without a fountain of youth, makes a move for someone like Cousins. There don’t seem to be many fits for Cousins and while there are teams in need of a big man, there are also plentiful obstacles.
Cousins is a headache and not many teams will take him, unless they are absolutely sure that they need him and would benefit from him. Cousins is one of the elite, talented big men in the league yet he will not pique much interest. Elite teams like the Heat don’t need him and struggling teams like the Hornets could have chemistry destroyed by a guy like Cousins.
A team could take a risk and I would expect the Heat and Hornets to be the front-runners. However, Millsap and Jefferson are more intriguing options and they don’t come with as many risks. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Kings found a partner, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Cousins stayed in Sacramento for the rest of the season.
Why? Because he is too much of a risk to be a highly regarded trade target.
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