DeMarcus Cousins, Harrions Barnes

Report: Celtics, Mavericks among four teams trying to work Cousins trade


Know this — the scenario about to be laid out tells you what DeMarcus Cousins and his people are thinking and hoping for. What it does not do is tell you the reality of the situation. Not in the least.

The reality here is a complex dynamic that starts with Cousins firing his long-time agent and hiring Dan Fegan, the guy who brought us the Dwightmare and an agent known for getting his players traded if they want out of somewhere.

I don’t think there is any doubt Cousins wants out of Sacramento, which leads us to a report from the well-connected Kentucky Sports Radio (hat tip to Tom Ziller for this one):

Today KSR has spoken with a source close to DeMarcus Cousins both that confirms trade talks are ongoing and Cousins is hoping a deal will be worked out soon. According to the source, the four teams that are most likely to end up making such a deal for cousins are Boston, Dallas, Orlando and Charlotte. The USA Today story reported that Detroit, Houston and Washington are also potential destinations, but the source tells KSR that Cousins has been told those are all unlikely for a variety of reasons.

Let’s start here — it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that KSR’s sources here are pretty one sided. This is Cousins dream scenario, to get traded to a team where he can win and/or be a franchise anchor going forward.

What this ignores is the entire Kings side of the equation. There we have the Maloof brothers, who own the team, are big fans of Cousins and are not interested in trading him, reports Sam Amick of USA Today.

The decision to reinstate Cousins on Dec. 24 was made unilaterally by the team’s owners and went against the wishes and planned protocol of the team’s front office, according to three people with knowledge of the situation who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. Specifically, one person with knowledge of the situation said Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof initiated a dialogue with Cousins on Dec. 23, had him discuss the situation with Smart and then made it clear that Cousins would return to the team the following day at practice…

The team’s uncertain status in remaining in Sacramento could be causing a ripple effect here, as well. The Maloofs have long since targeted Cousins as the prized asset of their organization and have been extremely reluctant to trade him thus far.

All this has reportedly frustrated long-time general manager Geoff Petrie, but Petrie is essentially a lame-duck GM who will not be back with the team after his contract expires this summer.

So the problem with trading Cousins start with the owners don’t really want do and may well veto any deals.

Next problem: The offers the Kings will get. The deals the listed teams can offer are not going to thrill Sacramento — they are giving up a potential franchise player and in return they will want good young players and picks to rebuild with. What’s more, the Kings are not loaded with horrific oversized deal to balance out a big trade. Plus the Kings have a full roster of guaranteed deals so they are not looking for 3-for-1 deals.

Boston can offer two nice role players where there are injury concerns in Avery Bradley (coming off shoulder surgery) and Jared Sullinger (his medical red flags at the draft were about how long he could last in the league). Then who you going to throw in, Fab Melo? The Celtics are desperate for big man help but are leaving him in the D-League. Nobody wants Jeff Green on his contract. Honestly, the only player that fits the Kings needs is Rajon Rondo and obviously Boston isn’t moving him.

Then go down the list, Dallas has squat on that roster in terms of young quality players. Orlando can throw out there Andrew Nicholson, Mo Harkless and maybe Gustavo Ayon, but that shouldn’t get the job done without a lot of picks. And even them probably not. Charlotte has Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and squat else.

All of which is to say, there is going to be a lot of Cousins trade talk as Fegan tries to work his “magic” but he has a long way to go. First he has to find a deal that doesn’t totally suck, which doesn’t easily appear among the teams mentioned. Then he has to convince Kings ownership — which is distracted by trying to find someone to build them an arena in another city — to give up the guy they want to build around. Good luck with that.

A trade of Cousins is certainly not impossible, but the idea of soon and to the teams currently in play is highly unlikely.

More likely, this just ends badly.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.