DeMarcus Cousins has been all the rage around here (pun certainly intended) lately. The Kings are hosting the Celtics tonight so it only makes sense to take the latest rumor from Marc Stein and pull the threads a bit. The Celtics are interested, for sure, but what about the other side of the equation? Are the Kings interested in trading him? Well, yes, no, and maybe so.
I spent some time reading over at Sactown Royalty (one of my favorite non-Celtic blogs anywhere) and feel a lot more educated about this subject than I was before. While I'd encourage you to do the same, I'll also try to summarize and interpret from a Celtics fan's point of view here.
First of all, things are dysfunctional in Sacramento. This is important because somebody has to make a decision on Cousins and what his true value is. You'd think that would be the GM right? I mean, that's his job right? Not in Sacramento where Geoff Petrie is a lame duck GM apparently passing the time till retirement.
Petrie's record over the past seven years is such that the writing has been on the wall: he's no longer a good GM. He's terrible at managing a franchise, and only decent at spotting and acquiring talent. (The comparison between the Kings and Warriors over the last four years goes here.) The culture of the franchise is abysmal. Over the past two years, you can blame that on the Maloofs' wanderlust. Before that, you can credit Petrie. I maintain that this nasty situation with a winning team would have a much different complexion.
So it isn't Petrie making the final call anymore, then it must be the Maloofs then, right? It is reported that they are "reluctant" to trade Cousins because his value is as low as it has ever been. That's not so much a basketball decision as it is a value one. In fact, all they really care about right now is value. They are preoccupied with selling the team. One reason they have been so adamantly against signing a long term lease in Sacramento is because if they sell to a new ownership group without a lease, that new group could move the team anywhere they want. That's worth more millions than just a team in Sacramento because there will be more bidders.
What does all of this have to do with DeMarcus Cousins? Well, a lot actually.
I'm no brain doctor or psychologist or anything like that, but from what I remember from school is that any personality is part nature and part nurture. Cousins has been flammable since college and likely since birth and he absolutely, positively has to take ownership of that. However, there's something to be said for the complete dysfunctional environment that he's in out there in Northern California. (Note: If you can't follow this analogy that I swiped from SR, then click the link and read the whole piece - it is worth it)
This isn't to absolve Cousins, who absolutely knows he can't be yelling at his coach. But raise a Labrador in a wolf den and you're gonna get a wolf. When the chief wolf tells the Labrador to stop acting like a wolf and go to this doctor who will tell you how to stop being wolf ... that's not likely to be successful. I mean, how does Geoff Petrie or a Maloof seriously tell someone with a straight face to take some personal responsibility? For real?
Great, so we've got a volatile player playing in a no-win situation and in his own words he's "stressed out" by all the losing. Management is telling him to seek counselling but they might need some of that counselling themselves. To sum up, things are not great there.
That means an opportunity for the Celtics right? Buy low right? Stein said that they are looking for "veterans" so we can toss Jeff Green and Courtney Lee and Brandon Bass into a trade machine blender and come up with enough of a milkshake to make them bite, right?
Um, in a word, no.
I went to Tom Ziller himself to get his take on it from a Sacramento perspective. Two things to keep in mind here - a) I respect Tom about as much as I respect any blogger - so trust him. b) On the other hand, he might be smarter than the current Kings management group, so you never know what could happen.
1. The Kings aren't deep up front. Losing Cousins would leave just Jason Thompson, Chuck Hayes and Thomas Robinson as traditional big man. James Johnson has been playing power forward more recently (and fairly well). But chances are that a deal sending out Cousins will require a big man coming back.
2. The Kings don't really have bad contracts to attach to Cousins. Francisco Garcia's deal can expire this offseason. (The team has an option for 2013-14.) John Salmons' deal expires after 2013-14, and while it's above and beyond what Salmons is worth, he's a moderately useful player and the Kings don't lack for financial flexibility. Travis Outlaw, signed for two further seasons at $3 million each, is probably the worst contract on the books.
3. The Kings do have a full roster without many droppable players. So these 3-for-1 deals aren't going to work unless the team getting Cousins is taking back one or two players. Tyler Honeycutt could be waived, but I imagine the Kings would prefer not to do that.
4. The Kings stink at small forward and have had mixed results at point guard and both big positions. (That gives you a clue about Cousins' erratic production this season.) Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton are a good if not great shooting guard rotation.
While we can all hope that Jeff Green can progressively improve over time, we have to understand that he has a negative trade value right now. Meaning any deal involving him and his contract will likely have to package together someone who is under paid - like say Avery Bradley and or Jared Sullinger.
Do the Kings really need another shooting guard or two? Not unless they are sending one going the other way but the same can be said for the Celtics. I've seen it said that a deal that makes more sense for Sacramento is dealing both Cousins and Evans for Rondo. I want no part of that but I can see the rationale at least from their perspective.
Can the Celtics make a deal with the Kings that would make sense for both Boston and Sacramento? Sure, it is possible, but it is very, very complex. Something to keep in mind when you hit the trade checker.