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Mitch Kupchak should explore DeMarcus Cousins again

Los Angeles Lakers center Roy Hibbert, left, blocks a shot by Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, March 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
AP Photo/Chris Carlson

The Sacramento Kings have long held the public position that they have zero interest in trading away franchise center DeMarcus Cousins. Then again, what else are they supposed to say? The Kings may not be running the tightest ship these days, but even they’re not dopey enough to publicly acknowledge a desire to dump him.

Even if they haven’t come out and said it, though, they haven’t done themselves much of a favor if they leaked this information to Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee:

A year ago, Cousins was untouchable.  A year later, the sense within the organization is Divac is tempted by the prospect of pairing his center with his personally selected coach but that he has become increasingly frustrated by his center’s ongoing issues and, for the first time, is willing to test the market for the two-time All-Star.

The disconnect between Karl and Divac, and Karl and Cousins, is rivaled closely by the discord within the fragmented locker room. Apart from Rondo, Cousins has few friends among his teammates. Several players privately have complained to management about his mood swings and disrespect for those around him, including his coaches and in particular Karl.

Last year around the time of the NBA Draft, there seemed to be major momentum around a potential deal that would’ve brought Cousins to the Los Angeles Lakers. Per Adrian Wojnarowski the Lakers would’ve had to part ways with a sizable haul (including Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and the No. 2 pick which became D’Angelo Russell) in order to land the mercurial center. Obviously, those talks fell apart.

Now that Cousins is reportedly available once again, though, should Mitch Kupchak call Vlade back and try to reignite a discussion?

With Kobe Bryant gone the Lakers have officially fully entered the rebuilding phase. Assuming they bring back (restricted free agent) Clarkson, those aforementioned three along with a potential top-three pick in the upcoming draft seemingly gives LAL a nice crop of youngsters around which to build. If the Luke Walton hire proves to be a hit, the team should once again become relevant within 2-3 years.

The primary question when it comes to potentially trying to skirt the rebuilding timeline and move now for Boogie Cousins is: How much would it take? Cousins is coming off another fantastic statistical season during which he averaged 27 points, 11.5 rebounds and just over a block a game. He even extended his range to the three-point line, where he shot a respectable (for a big man) 33%.

As mentioned above, though, the question marks about his personality could force the Kings to settle on a 50-cents-on-the-dollar type package. Any trade is a risk, but it doesn’t get much more risky than selling off promising young assets in exchange for a guy with a reputation as a difficult coach killer.

March 10, 2016 - Los Angeles, CA, USA - The Lakers' Julius Randle battles with the Cavaliers' Tristan Thompson during their 120-108 loss to Cleveland at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on March 10, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)

March 10, 2016 – Los Angeles, CA, USA – The Lakers’ Julius Randle battles with the Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson during their 120-108 loss to Cleveland at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on March 10, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)

With another Kings coach having been jettisoned on Boogie’s watch, there would seem to be a strong possibility that the Lakers could get away with not having to trade all three of Russell, Randle and Clarkson.

Sacramento has been trying to build a winner around Cousins for the last couple of years, as evidenced by the Rudy Gay and Rajon Rondo acquisitions. Clearly, it hasn’t worked out. If they’re going to be ridding themselves of the franchise’s centerpiece, one would imagine they’d want promising youth as opposed to older players in return.

The key here may prove to be the Lakers’ draft position. The pick has to fall somewhere in the top three. Otherwise, it gets conveyed to Philadelphia. As owners of the NBA’s second-worst record this past season, odds are obviously good that LAL will get to keep it.

This is considered by many to be a two person draft, with Brandon Ingram and Ben Simmons headlining the class. After that, it seems to get murkier. Should L.A. wind up with the No. 1 or No. 2 selection, would that along with Randle or Clarkson (or both) be enough to entice the Kings to send Cousins south?

In a basketball vacuum, pairing Cousins with D’Angelo Russell seems to give the Lakers a super strong foundation. Walton also has a reputation as someone who can relate to players, which may be exactly what the doctor ordered for Boogie.

If the Kings are adamant that Russell must be in any Cousins deal, the Lakers should hang up the phone and continue on their current path. If Randle and/or Clarkson plus the top-three pick is enough to get it done, though, Kupchak should pull the trigger without thinking twice.

The Nick Young fiasco may have the Lakers questioning Russell’s own future with the team, but the primary task at hand should be to surround him with as much talent as possible.

It’s not often a player of Cousins’ caliber becomes available, and the Lakers would be foolish to overthink the situation by worrying about a potential personality clash. If you’re able to nab the league’s most dominant young center without completely gutting your roster (not that there’s much to be gutted), you do it and worry about the rest later.

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