DeMarcus Cousins quietly had a monster season for the Sacramento Kings this year. It seems odd to use the word “quietly” with regard to Cousins, but when you put up the stats he did on a team that wins less than 30 games, it’s not hard to imagine flying under the radar. Statistically speaking, Cousins may have developed into the top center in the NBA.
In around 34 minutes per game, Cousins put up career highs with 24.1 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.7 blocks per game. Those are monster numbers. To put it into proper perspective, only one other current active center in the NBA has put up a season with averages over 24 points and 12 rebounds. That would be Tim Duncan, who last did it in 2001-2002. So ‘Boogie’ is in elite company.
But things aren’t perfect in Sacramento. Recently, as the Kings were closing the book on another disappointing season, new head coach George Karl made some comments that were less-than-reassuring about Cousins remaining with Sacramento, according to Bill Herenda of CSN Bay Area.
“I think we can make a big step next year. As an organization, we have to be aware of what if? What if we get offered (a good trade)? What if? That’s Pete and Vlade’s (Divac) area of expertise … I’ve had some great players and I’ve never had one player that I have said is untradeable. You always got to be ready for the possibility of a great trade that could come your way.”
Not exactly a vote of confidence, but I can understand why he said it. Karl was presiding over the Sonics when they traded Shawn Kemp, the Bucks when they dealt Ray Allen, and he was with the Nuggets when they traded for Allen Iverson, traded away Allen Iverson and traded Carmelo Anthony. In short, it seems that Karl isn’t afraid to shake up his roster. Does that mean Cousins is a top candidate for a trade?
Cousins signed a four-year extension in 2013 that officially began this season. His contract status doesn’t protect him from trade, however, because his deal looks like a bargain when you consider his production. Anyone that trades for Cousins is going to get him for the next three years at $47.3 million. Rudy Gay, on the other hand, could likely be had in a trade with three years, $40 million left. However, with Gay being 29 years old next year, the 25-year-old Cousins is the more attractive asset.
What would it take to pry Cousins away from Sacramento? Probably a lot, knowing Karl. He has historically had a lot to do with the personnel moves on his teams’ roster, and this would be no different, no matter what he says. If he wants Cousins moved, then Cousins will be gone. As we’ve seen in the past, the idea of trading a star for draft picks and rookies doesn’t really appeal to Karl. Kemp brought back Vin Baker, Allen was swapped for Gary Payton and Iverson was traded for Chauncey Billups. If Cousins has to go, it’ll be because an established star is coming back.
So the easiest way to narrow down whether Counsins may be traded or not is to ask the question, “What stars are available in a trade this summer?” The answer isn’t very clear right now. But there are a few teams that are worth bringing up in the conversation.
The Nets would love to trade for Boogie, but the problem is that they have to convince the Kings to work out a deal with them. I suppose it’s possible the Kings really like either Deron Williams or Brook Lopez, but the fit really doesn’t seem to be there with the Nets. Either way, they earn mention on my short list because I think they’d do any deal possible to get Cousins to Brooklyn, although not having ANY legitimate draft assets hurts as well.
New York Knicks
The Knicks would also love to bring in Cousins, but the problem is the lack of established stars on the roster that could be traded at this point. Carmelo Anthony isn’t going anywhere, in part because he just re-signed last offseason and also in part because there are concerns about his knee. The Knicks could offer a deal involving players like Jose Calderon, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Shane Larkin, but that’s just flat insulting to the Kings. New York has that top draft pick in 2015 to dangle, but again, that plus role players isn’t going to get a deal done. I wouldn’t bet on him landing here without the help of a third team in the trade.
It’s possible the Kings have interest in Miami Heat free agent Goran Dragic. If this is true, the only way they could land him is through a sign-and-trade, because of their lack of available cap room. DeMarcus would fit on the Heat, taking pressure off Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to be high-volume scorers every night. A deal of Dragic, Shabazz Napier and Hassan Whiteside for Cousins and Darren Collison could be palatable for both teams. While there’s no rumor behind this made-up trade scenario, this is the first real fit I’ve found in a potential trade partner.
Portland Trail Blazers
Although we won’t know until the playoffs are over, the people up in Portland may feel like some roster shaking up is in order. If that’s the case, a swap of LaMarcus Aldridge for Cousins could make for some fun trade talks. Both are proven players and gifted scorers, but Cousins is the superior defensive player. It’s also possible that a third team is brought in on the deal if the Kings are looking at something other than Aldridge, but to speculate any further at this time would be silly. The likelihood of this kind of trade happening is low.
Because of the likely demand that the Kings receive a star quality player in return, it’s going to be difficult for them to trade Cousins over the summer. If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Cousins starting the season in Sacramento next year. But that’s not to say it can’t happen; we know that Karl isn’t shy about allowing his players to be traded if it helps the team win.
We saw with the list of teams that could be interested in Cousins that finding appropriate trades are difficult. Realistically, there are probably more NBA teams that would give up the farm for Cousins, so I could have listed more teams. (For example, the Boston Celtics have a ton of draft picks and young talent, but no really high draft picks and no star players.) The problem is that I don’t buy Karl being willing to give up one of the brightest young stars in the league without bringing back a real star in return. And I simply don’t see many scenarios where a star is being offered.
At least, not yet. When it comes to stealth moves, Cousins isn’t the only one that knows how to fly under the radar. Trading Cousins is a potential mistake that could haunt the franchise for years, but Karl and the Kings aren’t worried about all that. They just want to make the best possible moves to position their franchise to win. I wouldn’t count on Cousins leaving being one of those moves.
Not right away, anyway.