DeMarcus Cousins is the best traditional center in the game today. Coming off an Olympic Gold this summer in Rio, he is averaging 28.1 points and 10.9 rebounds a game this season. He is a game-changing beast in the paint, without question.
He’s also a guy with a reputation for being a handful in the locker room, the latest sign of that being a profanity-filled outburst at a Sacramento Bee columnist last week. While Cousins didn’t like his brother being mentioned in a story (for context on a bar fight) and this columnist has long been critical of the Kings’ big man, how Cousins handled it left people around the league shaking their heads.
Every armchair GM in the NBA is devising a way for their team to trade for Cousins. The actual GMs…
Two thoughts here.
First, a lot of GMs may be hesitant, and a few would stay out of the sweepstakes, but if Cousins were actually put on the trade block a bunch of the guys who say “no” now would step forward with massive — though not equal value — offers. The idea that culture trumps talent sounds great until you don’t have as much talent as the other guy. Talent wins basketball games. Cousins is immensely talented. It’s understandable for GMs of teams with talent to be hesitant, but teams scrambling to get enough to compete? There would be big offers.
Second, Cousins is not available for a trade right now. Cousins himself doesn’t expect a trade this season, and for all their flaws the 10-16 Kings are just 1.5 games back of the Blazers for the eighth playoff spot in the West. The postseason dream is not dead in Sacramento. Also, we know that owner Vivek Ranadive is Cousins’ biggest backer in the organization. Combine that with what we know of the new CBA and the fact the Kings know if they deal him they start a multi-year rebuilding process, and it’s hard to imagine the Kings making any move here before the draft next June at the earliest.
Here’s a scenario worth thinking about: After the season, the Kings go to Cousins and his agent and say, we want to offer you the new designated veteran extension — five years, starting at $35 million a year, totaling about $207 million. (Cousins will meet the criteria needed to get that offer.) Cousins can say no, but if the Kings call his bluff as a free agent in 2018 the most other teams could offer would be four years, in the $140 million guaranteed range (depending upon that cap that year). Does Cousins want out of Sacramento bad enough to risk that financial hit? If he’s willing to turn down the extension, then the Kings have to deal, but I’d be shocked if anything happens until the season ends and something like this plays out. It’s not happening in February.