Stop me when you’ve heard this one before: The Kings are thinking of trading DeM... (ok, you stopped me already—just let me finish the sentence) DeMarcus Cousins.
Yes, we’ve played this game show and gotten the complimentary take-home version before. We’ve heard these rumblings for the last 4 years. So why would this round be any different?
Well, because it just sort of seems like the Kings are running out of options. They have tried everything they can to win with Cousins, and it just isn’t working out for them. The Kings themselves will deny it, but the buzz around the team is growing.
But take heart, because there’s reason to think that by the time February’s trade deadline comes around, Cousins will no longer be with the Kings — and a move could come in the first half of December. That’s the speculation among front office executives around the league, at least.
“I’d say they have three months, tops,” one Western Conference general manager told Sporting News, requesting anonymity because he is not allowed to speak about other teams' players. “Probably more like a month, or month-and-a-half, because the closer they get to the (February trade) deadline, the less they’re going to get back. If you’re trying to trade him the week of the deadline, it’s going to be tougher.”
Cousins is what he has always been in Sacramento, an incendiary talent on the court in every sense of the word. Seriously, I think he might burst into flames at some point.
So the Kings would probably be wise to move on from him and get what they can in return. A lot of teams would be interested in taking a chance on Cousins but only at a certain price.
Should the Celtics be one of those teams? And at what price?
There are competing opinions on that first question. One camp tends to believe that with the right surrounding and solid infrastructure Cousins would excel and take full advantage of his prodigious talents. He certainly seemed to thrive in the Olympics. The Celtics have a solid core from ownership down to Brad Stevens and teammates like Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas would help keep DeMarcus focused on the goal at hand. Even in a shaky organization like Sacramento he’s putting up All Star numbers.
Of course there are plenty of people that believe that Cousins is a locker room cancer and poison for your franchise. While Cousins has put up good numbers, the wins have never come and he’s left a lot of ex-coaches in his wake. Rumblings from around the league indicate that he’s not a lot of fun to be around.
So does it make sense for the Celtics to take the gamble? ESPN’s Zach Lowe had the following to say about the situation (as transcribed by Jay King):
"I don't think Brad Stevens wants to touch DeMarcus Cousins with a 10-foot pole. And that carries a lot of weight there. Not only that, they just signed a center. And they think Al Horford is a center, and will play more center as pieces come and go in Boston. And so I don't know what that does to Boston's hunger to acquire a superstar big man who is going to be a locker room question mark."
After some talk about Isaiah Thomas' relationship with Cousins, a former teammate, Lowe concluded: "Right now I would lean Danny Ainge is a maybe, the Celtics overall are a no."
So it sounds like if Ainge wants to make a move on Cousins he’ll need to get his coach on board with the plan. Danny has the ultimate say in the decision but it would be foolish to go against Brad’s wishes since he’s currently the cornerstone upon which this latest version of the team is being built upon.
Even if everybody gets on board with a Boogie to Boston plan, the next key question is “at what price?” Of course Sacramento is going to demand a (ahem) King’s ransom.
One one hand, they are losing negotiating power the closer he gets to free agency. His prickly reputation may drive the price down as well. On the other hand, all it takes is for one or two teams to start bidding up the price to offset those factors. With all his baggage, Cousins is still a star and teams will go far to take a chance on him.
I would imagine a starting point would be at least one of the Nets’ picks. It would likely cost a valuable rotation player or two as well. The Kings might want Jaylen Brown and I’m sure they’d love to lump Rudy Gay into the deal (for more value) as well. The Celtics would prefer to counter with salary matching bigs (Zeller, Johnson) but the Kings have their fill of big men and will be looking for backcourt help and young prospects (which the Celtics have in abundance).
All which could be a steep price to pay for a guy that could melt down like Homer Simpson’s nuclear power plant. Danny Ainge has carefully positioned himself to be ready to pounce when a star becomes available. If the Cousins experiment goes sideways, he’ll have expended most of his chips for nothing.
The Celtics have been seeking star-level players for years. This summer they landed Al Horford and they could make a move for another star this winter. DeMarcus Cousins has the talent to put the Celtics in contender status but the baggage that could derail what the team has built to this point. Is he worth the risk? We may find out how the Celtics feel within the next couple months.