Why The Celtics Should (And Might) Gamble On DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins has lasted more than two seasons with the Sacramento Kings, but his time with the organization appears to be over for all intents and purposes. He was suspended indefinitely by the team last week -- the ban lasted two games -- and trade rumors that were already present intensified in the wake of the latest falling out between the tantalizingly-talented center and the Kings.
While the end of his time with the Kings may be inevitable, there is always another chance and more patience for a player with the gifts Cousins possesses. He is one of the best rebounders in the game, finishing last season with more offensive boards than any other player in the NBA.
His numbers are down this season, but he still grabs 24.6% of all defensive rebounds (14th) and has a total rebound percentage (.178) that places him sixteenth in the league.
Offensive efficiency has been Cousins’ biggest on-court problem.
Cousins has the sixth-highest usage rate in the NBA (.294), below only Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. He’s shooting a career-low 41.2% from the field and has TS% of just .481 despite his position.
The Celtics are one of the many teams that have been linked to Cousins. You might wonder why a veteran club with two Hall of Famers on the downside of their careers would even entertain trading assets for a question mark like Cousins, but it makes perfect sense.
The Celtics are the worst offensive rebounding team in the league, one of the few reasons why they have hovered around .500 without signs of much more.
Cousins would help in that department, presenting a huge upgrade over Jason Collins, who has been starting at center for Doc Rivers recently. The Darko Milicic experiment ended quickly with his return to Europe and Danny Ainge is being patient with Fab Melo as he develops in the D-League.
Right Time For A Big Move?
There are eternal optimists in Boston, believe it or not, who have faith that this Celtics team can become something more than mediocre. They point to last season, when they went 39-27 thanks to a late surge and won a weak Atlantic Division. Less than two months later, they were just a win away from eliminating the Heat and reaching the NBA Finals.
Rolling the dice on a player like Cousins is risky, but might be just the gamble the Celtics need to reenter the realm of contenders. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett continue to show signs of irreversible age.
Rajon Rondo is the clear centerpiece -- now and once 34 and 5 are done -- but the parts around him aren’t good or complementary enough to maintain the level of success that the Celtics have enjoyed since Ainge formed the original Big Three.
Ainge needs to attempt what would be an aggressive move, especially with a potential transitional stage on the horizon. In order to acquire Cousins, the Celtics would have to part with young pieces like Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and/or Fab Melo. If Sacramento wants more immediate help, pieces like Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee fit the bill.
Trading Jeff Green and his newly-minted contract, which at this point seems a hard sell in any deal, would be a very smart move.
Cousins is owed $4.9 million next season and his rookie scale contract carries a very affordable $6.5 million qualifying offer for 14-15.
Can Cousins Change?
With the Celtics, Cousins becomes a third or fourth option offensively. That alleviates a ton of pressure from him and affords a solid environment in which to grow. He was supposed to be play in concert with Tyreke Evans, but that tandem hasn’t delivered for a variety of reasons. With the Celtics, Cousins can slide into the woodwork a bit and win with greater regularity.
The chance for failure is very real, but under the tutelage of Hall of Famers like Pierce and Garnett, a coach like Rivers and an organization like the Celtics, there’s always a chance for success. With the qualifying offer, the risk would be for less than two seasons.