In his tenure as President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge has shown to be anything but afraid to make the big move. Late Sunday night “Trader” Danny released free agent pickup Jarvis Varnado and promising 2nd round prospect Kris Joseph in a decision that forced many to think that Ainge was freeing up roster spots for a possible multi-team transaction*. Shortly after came a report from Comcast Sportscast New England’s A. Sherrod Blakely that the Celtics were interested in acquiring the extremely talented yet often troubled, Demarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings. The following will show the Planet Fun’s thoughts on the likeliness of this occurring, and if it’s the right move for the Boston Celtics.
Demarcus Cousins’ time in Sacarmento has been anything but quiet. His issues on and off the court have been well documented: He came into the NBA with the title of a “thug”, he battled with a coach he eventually got fired, he was suspended by the league for getting into an altercation with an opposing team’s television color commentator, he was suspended for hitting an opposing player in “the sensitive area“, and was recently suspended (and has since been reinstated) for an altercation with hiscurrent coach.
So, trade him, right? Well, not exactly. Because while Cousins’ problems have been well documented, his play on the court has unjustifiably not been. The man is outright brilliant in the low post, while being a gifted enough of a passer to inspire THREE seventeen minute ‘Best of DeMarcus Cousins: Passing Edition’ videos. THREE! At 16 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, a block and a steal a game in hist first three seasons Demarcus Cousins might be the association’s best kept secret. In this league bigs are expected to take years to mature, Cousins is already putting up elite numbers.
And while there are some knocks on his game – specifically his shot selection (his .438 field goal percentage is way below average for a big man) – I want to dismiss it, just like I want to dismiss many of the off court issues he’s had, because I think more than anything Demarcus Cousins is frustrated. Frustrated, because GM Geoff Petrie has assembled this Kings roster like a fantasy team; completely based on talent, without a thought in regards to chemistry. The result is that Cousins is forced to play with a roster filled with players who’ve not once caught the ball and passed it. These guys are ALL ball stoppers. Guys just completely incapable of developing a rhythm of flow for their teammates.
Basketball players can enjoy this comparison – you know how annoyed you get when you play a night of pickup with a bunch of guys who don’t get you the ball at the right points? Imagine playing 82 games a year with notorious ball hogs like Tyreke Evans (30.9 minutes per game), Marcus Thornton (26.9), John Salmons (29.1) and Aaron Brooks (23.8). Maybe it wouldn’t cause me to hit another man in his ‘sensitive area’, but maybe I have an entourage of psychologists traveling with me to every game to make sure I don’t.
So…. don’t trade him, right? That’s certainly what Sam Amick of USA Today, and perhaps more importantly formerly of the Sacramento Bee is reporting. Sacramento has been insistent that Cousins is a building block and won’t be moved. That being said, what exactly are they supposed to say about their knucklehead (whether he be justified or not) big? Yes, they’re actively looking to move him? Tanking his trade value, and turning a bad locker room into a nightmare of one.
And there’s certainly an argument to be said that NOW is the time for the Kings to move Demarcus Cousins, because with his rookie contract set to expire at the end of the next season, it’s much easier to get value under the umbrella of “this guy is knucklehead” than the umbrella of “there is no possible chance this guy will resign here” that saw the Orlando Magic acquiring Aaron Afflalo and 20 McNuggets for Dwight Howard. Combine his experience with the Kings combined with the cap inflexibility that several bad contracts have cost them (Marcus Thornton will make 8.75 mil in 14/15, Chuck Hayes 5.96 in 14/15, and Jason Thompson 6.5 in 15/16) the Sacramento Kings may literally have zero percent chance of retaining Cousins past next season.
That brings us to the Boston Celtics.
Not only would acquiring Cousins provide them with a heckuva bigman prospect, but combining him with Kevin Garnett on offense would provide the Celtics with a strategic advantage over the Miami Heat that they frankly don’t have right now; many remember that the Celtics took the Heat to 7 games last season, but it’s often overlooked that an unhealthy Chris Bosh only played in two. And I don’t believe any of the Celtics roster additions will offset what a healthy Bosh would mean to a series.
The great post play and interior passing of a KG and DMC combination would force the Heat to either have LeBron James give up at least 3 inches in the post (where he’s less familiar), or go big and be forced to give Joel Anthony significant minutes. Both options seem favorable to the Boston Celtics.
And this, is where I rack up the hate-comments from a certain faction of the Celtic nation –
A Demarcus Cousins – Kevin Garnett combination would require the Celtics to run their offense from the inside out. And possibly the worst point guard in the league to run an offense that needs to operate from the inside-out? Rajon Rondo. While Rondo has certainly made great improvements to his shooting stroke – specifically from midrange – he just simply isn’t a spot up, catch-and-shoot type of player. And to turn him into that is to utilize roughly 8% of his talent.
So while many Celtics fans love the idea of acquiring DeMarcus Cousins, I think the underwritten story is that in order to do so the Celtics would have to part ways with their all-star point guard. Not just because that’s what the Kings would demand, but because it’s probably the right basketball move
The good news for Celtics fans is that the Kings would jump at the chance to acquire Rajon Rondo. Not only does Rondo have one of the league’s friendliest salary, but he represents a more concrete building block that not only could you assemble a team around. And perhaps more importantly for an ownership that is looking to either sell or move their team, is a guy who can put butts in seats and jerseys off the racks. Even if he’s just signed for two more additional years that’s still a big win for them, so much so that they even may be willing to slightly overpay him.
So where exactly does that leave us? With this trade idea, inspired by a similar idea by Grantland founder Bill Simmons.
The hangup here would be if the Raptors would sign off on the trade. While Kyle Lowry is somewhat injury prone and currently coming off their bench, at 26, he is one of the league’s best defenders, is an above average shooter from distance,is more than a capable at running an offense, and is signed to one of the league’s best contracts. Still, in return they would get a half year tryout at the high risk – high reward prospect (and undervalued defender) in Tyreke Evans (one of 4 players in NBA history to average 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in his rookie season), as well as promising sophomore prospect Isaiah Thomas (no relation), and the D-League sensation Fab Melo (who could be a nice pairing with the more offensively polished Raptor-prospect Jonas Valanciunas). That’s a pretty decent haul for a team that isn’t likely to be able to truly utilize Kyle Lowry’s talents in the near future.
The Kings start over. They get rid of their oil and vinegar two prospects, and begin to rebuild (and sell) with a bonafied superstar at Point Guard who is an absolute treat to watch night in and night out. And a player who could possibly attract another start, maybe Josh Smith, to come to Sacramento to play. Something Demarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans would not be able to do.
The Celtics overhaul their roster, and get ready to make a run at the title. They get a reliable Point Guard, who is not just a better shooter than Rondo, but a much better on ball defender. Who, combined with uber defensive stalwart Avery Bradley, could legitimately cause opposing back courts to lose sleep at night. They also get Chuck Hayes, who just may be the league’s Avery Bradley in the post. An incredible hard worker who refuses to give up an inche down low.
And they get the roll the dice by building behind Demarcus Cousins. A riddle of a player that could get this writer to write 1,500 words after not having written anything in months. If nothing else, it’d be exciting.
* This might’ve just been simple economics. This post by Jeff Clark on Celticsblog breaks it down well