Landing Spots for DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins is one of the three best players to come from the 2010 NBA draft. I think many–myself included–would agree that he is the single best player to come from that draft, but some would argue for Paul George and John Wall. Regardless, Boogie has been a monster since he came in to the league six years ago. His worst statistical season was his rookie season, where he averaged 14 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in just 28.5 minutes per game.

His numbers have done nothing but improve since then. He has nearly doubled his points per game last season. Additionally, he averaged 11.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 1.4 blocks. His usage was a career-high and league-leading 35.4, yet his offensive and defensive rating marks were among the best of his career. His win shares did decline in each of his last two seasons, but that is largely a function of the team around him.

You don’t need me to regurgitate stats to tell you what a dominant player Cousins is. Just watch him play for a couple minutes and you will get it. In that couple minutes, you may also see either of the two most common knocks against Cousins: injury problems (career-high 81 games in his rookie season) and a seriously bad attitude. Despite these issues, suitors will be lining up to trade for Boogie or sign him in 2018 when (barring a contract extension) he will become a free agent.

Possible Destinations

Los Angeles Lakers: I thought the reason the Lakers gave Mozgov a $64 million contract was to make salaries match when they trade for Boogie. No? In terms of legitimate assets, Julius Randle projects to be, at worst, a serviceable NBA starter, and has two seasons left on his rookie deal. D’Angelo Russell, who may be a knucklehead, has shown all-star potential on multiple occasions. This years draft pick, Brandon Ingram, is a work in progress but was the #2 overall pick for a reason.

It would likely cost the Lakers at least two of these players to get the Kings to even nibble–especially considering LA is looking light on first round draft picks over the next few years.

Washington Wizards: It has long been speculated that Boogie could choose to rejoin his old Kentucky teammate John Wall. Presently, the Wizards may not have enough assets to pull off a trade for Boogie and still remain relevant enough to make it worth having him. They have some decent pieces in a trade, but the only centerpieces they have are Wall and Beal, whom they shouldn’t be looking to trade if they are getting Cousins. They do have their own draft picks to bargain with, but these would lose value if they acquired Cousins.

Look for Washington to be a free agent contender for Boogie, particularly if Beal can play a full season or two and prove that he is not made of glass. Boogie would get a change of scenery, an easier path to the conference finals, and a reunion with his college teammate. A team with Wall, Cousins, and Beal would also be very enticing to other big fish free agents.

Toronto Raptors: A big three of DeRozan, Lowry, and Cousins sounds like a lock to make the finals, especially in 2018 when LeBron will be that much deeper in to his 30’s. The catch here is that it would require the Raps to sign Lowry and Cousins in the same free agency window, provided that they don’t work out an extension with Lowry before then. The Raps have about $42.5 million tied up in Carroll, Valanciunas, and Ross for the 2018-19 NBA season, but they would likely have no trouble trading the latter two. The contracts are reasonably friendly, but again, they would be restricting if the Raptors wanted to give out two max contracts in 2018.

Boston Celtics: The Celtics are one of the few teams with the assets to trade for Cousins and the readily-available cap space to sign him. Boston holds the Brooklyn Nets 2018 first round pick, and the rights to swap picks in the 2017 draft. With both draft classes being speculated as some of the best in years, the Kings should be very interested in acquiring both of these picks. Coach Brad Stevens also has the ability to rehabilitate Boogie and get some of that anger out…although he would be Stevens toughest challenge yet (Rondo only kind of counts).

The obvious argument against this is that the Kings already FOUND a foundational player through the draft–why would they want to trade him to start the process over again? It’s a legitimate question, although the Kings as-currently-constituted are clearly not working out.

San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs are in need of their front court of the future after Old Man Riverwalk retired this offseason. The Spurs will have a ton of cap space in 2018, but some of this will start to disappear as they fill holes in their roster. If they are able to sign Cousins in 2018, the duo of Leonard and Cousins would make them a legitimate threat almost immediately. The Spurs would have another year of Aldridge and Danny Green in 2018 as well.

If they could get a solid point guard to accompany Leonard, Cousins and Co., they would be taken seriously in the Western Conference. They say whoever has the best player in a playoff series will win the series–and the Spurs would likely have the TWO best players (excluding Golden State, blah blah).

Memphis Grizzlies: Wild card! The Grizzlies are pretty strapped for trade assets, but they could be a dark horse contender to sign Boogie in free agency. Hear me out– The Grizzlies obviously seem dedicated to this odd, rebuild on the fly mentality (that rarely seems to work out in professional sports). As their core basically aged-out last season, they decided to run it back a few more times when they gave injury-prone, should-be All-Star Mike Conley a 5-year max deal during the offseason.

You have to admit that a lineup of Conley-SG-Parsons-Cousins-Gasol actually sounds pretty formidable. At the same time, it’s more of a pipe-dream considering Gasol and Conley will both be on the wrong side of 30 and Parsons may be out of the league with the way his injuries are trending.

 

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