The Celtics need a star. The Celtics have the assets to trade for a star. The problem for over a year now has been that the list of available stars is very short. We missed out on Kevin Love and the team has been patiently waiting for the next star to become available. While nothing is imminent or even inevitable, it is starting to sound like the DeMarcus Cousins situation in Sacramento is becoming untenable.
Yesterday, Tom "Ghost Face" Ziller (famed Kings fan and wonderful NBA blogger) finally hoisted the white flag and declared that it is time for the Kings to move on from the Boogie Era. One reason why the time might finally be right is the continued dysfunction in Sacramento.
The recent downward spiral all started with a fourth quarter collapse against the Spurs on Monday, but CSNCalifornia.com has confirmed that the locker room was set ablaze by a profanity-laced tirade by Cousins, aimed directly at Karl. According to the Sacramento Bee, Karl asked general manager Vlade Divac to suspend the 25-year-old center for two games. Divac refused.
As usual, Cousins and the Kings are trying to put a positive spin on things.
"It is no secret that we are all frustrated with losing — me more than anyone. I let my frustrations get the best of me in the locker room after the San Antonio loss — that is my bad. For the record, my frustration is not about any one person or player or coach. There is no one person to blame. All of us are accountable. My frustration is that we are 1-7 simple as that."
I don't doubt that Cousins' frustration is primarily due to the losing. It must be hard to be a competitor and to experience losing season after season. However, it has to be even more infuriating to see the team's management flounder, flip-flop, and fail to build a team around you. At some point, you have to wonder if it would be best for both parties to move on.
Which brings us back to the Boston Celtics. It is no secret that the Celtics have had interest in Cousins in the past and they have the best set of assets in the league to offer up in trade.
Boston holds Brooklyn's unprotected first-rounder. Brooklyn has not won a game this season. Simply trading Cousins for that pick would likely net Sacramento two top-five picks: their own after the Philly swap and that of the Nets. The Kings can try to also pry additional picks (of which Boston has plenty) or Marcus Smart. The Celtics have in David Lee a suitable dead-weight contract to include. (Ainge has another unprotected first from the Nets in 2018 and a 2017 swap option, plus a future Grizzlies pick and all of his own selections. One or two of Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller, James Young and Jared Sullinger could help round out the offer.)
We have all fallen head over heels in love with that Brooklyn Nets unprotected 2016 pick. Each Nets loss has us giddy with glee. But the best case scenario for that pick is that it becomes a player that will someday become as good as Cousins is right now. The draft can be unpredictable at best (remember when Durant vs. Oden was a legit debate?), while Cousins is a young star on a team friendly contract that's still getting better.
I was curious about how fans felt about giving up that pick for Cousins so I posted a poll on twitter.
There are some interesting similarities and contrasts to the deal where Kevin Love was dealt to the Cavs. A struggling team (the Wolves) traded their star big man to a team for the first pick in the draft. Of course the Cavs had just picked up LeBron James and wanted another star right away. Also, the Wolves knew exactly who they were getting in Andrew Wiggins. The Kings wouldn't know exactly how good that Nets pick is going to be. The Celtics have some promising players in place (including Cousins' former teammate Isaiah Thomas) but obviously nobody close to LeBron's magnitude. So different situations, but an interesting comparison anyway.
If they do decide to move him, the Kings are going to demand a big return for Cousins. The better that Nets pick looks, the less the Celtics will have to give up in addition. So some of those "good rotation guys" that we've got would potentially stick around and be good for us (around Cousins). Or perhaps instead of having to give up several draft picks, the Celtics could hang on to a few of the more valuable ones (like future Nets picks).
Also, as Zach Lowe points out, it isn't a given that the Celtics would agree to give up the Nets pick. The Kings will ask for it, and the Celtics will refuse at first, preferring to cobble together a package of other assets. Then negotiations will happen and it is anyone's guess where it would end up.
Of course it is easy for us fans to approve of a fantasy basketball type of trade and assume that adding a potential 20 and 10 guy will help us get to the next level. But there's a lot more to consider.
For one thing, if Cousins has as much of an attitude as he seems to have from afar, isn't there a danger that he wouldn't exactly play nice with others in Boston? Furthermore, with the Celtics and the rest of the league moving to a pace-and-space style of play, does Cousins fit into that plan?
Regarding the attitude, that's certainly a concern but the hope is that putting Cousins in a stable environment with a solid management structure from the owners down to the coach would be a breath of fresh air. Also, if Brad Stevens can win with non-stars, how much more could he do with someone like Cousins? If winning is really all that matters to DeMarcus, I feel like he'd buy in to what Stevens is already doing here in Boston. In addition, the team has added a lot of high-character, tough-minded players (Amir Johnson, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley) that should set a positive tone in the locker room in good times and bad.
As for the fit, I'm not overly worried about that either. While Cousins is a throwback back-to-the-basket player, that doesn't mean he can't thrive in today's game (in fact he already is, albeit with limited support). If anything he's a walking mismatch because there are fewer and fewer rotation guys that can defend the post these days. Also, DeMarcus is an underrated passer that can use the space and ball movement provided by a Stevens type system to his advantage.
The other concern could be his defense but from what I understand from people that watch him play regularly, he's improved in his defense and (when motivated) he can play well within a team defensive system. Besides, in theory his offensive impact far outweigh's his defensive shortcomings.
I say "in theory" because that hasn't exactly worked out well in Sacramento. Only time and a fresh start could prove that DeMarcus Cousins can be part of a winning team. It would be fun to see if he could accomplish that in Boston.
As a Celtics fan, I don't think we could have asked for better developments on other teams. The Nets are really bad (despite picking up their first win last night), the Mavs are mediocre, and the Wolves are better than expected. If the Kings situation keeps heading in the direction that it has thus far, we should see trade rumors heat up before Christmas. It is at least a situation worth monitoring.