The NBA has been buzzing since DeMarcus Cousins unleashed a “profanity-laced tirade” at Kings’ coach George Karl in the Kings’ post-game locker room earlier this week. Adding fuel to the volatile situation was the ensuing story that Karl – who made waves in the summer by exploring ways to trade Cousins and losing the big man’s trust as a result – wanted to suspend Cousins for two games in response, and was met with a flat refusal by Kings’ GM Vlade Divac.
Other NBA teams would be highly interested (shall we say they probably salivate at the idea?), if Cousins is put on the trade block. And the Mavs are certainly no exception.
WHAT WOULD A MAVS TRADE OFFER FOR COUSINS LOOK LIKE?
The building blocks for a potential Mavs’ trade offer would be fairly obvious. The Mavs would start with the tandem of Zaza Pachulia and Dwight Powell, two big men to help fill the hole left by Cousins, and then add a couple more players to satisfy the league’s trade rules, filler that would probably consist of Ray Felton (playing well, but with an expiring contract) and one small-dollar player. In return, the Kings would want Dallas to also take two or three minimum-salary players back in return, the ones they would otherwise have to waive in order to accept the four-player package for Cousins.
The Mavs’ initial offer might look something like this:
Would the Mavs be willing to offer that much? No doubt about it. As much as they like what Pachulia has given, and as excited as they are about the promising development of Powell, a future core built around Cousins (25), Parsons (27), and Matthews (29), with Dirk for the rest of his career and perhaps Deron Williams (presently on his one-year deal) also staying for years as the point guard, is exactly the sort of foundation the Mavs have been working to assemble.
Would that be enough to satisfy the Kings? Pachulia and Powell, two big men who have played quite well this season for a 6-4 Mavs team that plays at Philly tonight, would be attractive centerpieces for an offer. But truth be told, the Kings would have plenty of suitors, so the price could get much steeper. And we think Cousins is the type of target the Mavs would go “all-in” for, if given the chance.
So if successful, the Mavs cost – one that we think they’d likely agree to pay - might end up looking more like this: Pachulia, Powell, Anderson, Felton, and a No. 1 pick. (Yes, to clarify a lot of misinformation here: a first-round pick could be included, provided the deal included contingencies that ensure a prior pick going to Boston.) That’s actually the sort of deal the Kings would want, with two young promising players under team control for years ahead, plus a pick, and some solid veteran assets, too, with no bad contracts and no problem players.
The only question would be whether they would get better offers elsewhere. (Our working assumption would be the answer to that question, unfortunately for Dallas, is "yes.'')
SO IS COUSINS ABOUT TO BE TRADED?
Unfortunately -- there's that word again -- we don’t think so.
For starters, trades rarely happen this time of year, because every player who changed teams in the summer can’t be traded until Dec 15. That takes so many pieces out of the equation that teams simply prefer to wait. For example, for the Mavs, all the following players could not be included as part of a trade until that date: Matthews, Williams, Barea, McGee, Evans, Jenkins, Villanueva, and Mejri.
But even if we ignore that obstacle, we still believe Cousins is going nowhere soon, for 3 major reasons:
1 The owner, Ranadive, absolutely sees Cousins as his franchise player. Period.
For all the things that Ranadive has done wrong, he has figured out one thing that those around him fail to grasp: you have to have the star player to build around, and once you have him, he becomes the top priority for your franchise. Despite the lack of success to date, Cousins is Ranadive’s guy.
At this point, the task is for the GM to get the right pieces around him, and to hire a coach who can make it work.
2 Although Cousins went over the line here, if someone gets the ax for what happened, it won’t be him. No one will ask to trade him.
This flows from point No. 1. Karl – although technically in the right here – risked his job by trying to get Cousins suspended. And he got a flat "no'' to that request (from his GM who obviously didn’t want to risk losing his own job), followed by questions about Karl’s job security now, in the wake of this dust-up.
Make no mistake about it. Karl was brought to town to coach a Cousins-led team to the playoffs, and if he can’t find the right way to work with his franchise player and make such a team successful, that failure isn’t going to land on Cousins.
3 Cousins doesn’t want to go anywhere, and doesn’t want to see big changes. (At least, not yet.)
In the aftermath of this, Cousins has demonstrated a willingness and desire to still make things work with the Kings.
He certainly has the power to push the “Fire The Coach” button, if he wants to. But despite his outburst at Karl (and a serious of similarly knuckleheaded headline-grabbers during his Kings tenure) he doesn’t want to do that, according to reports, after living through repeated organizational turmoil and going through multiple coaching changes in his previous years there. And to his credit, we believe he has walked back his petulance after having gone over the line here, and coach and player are on the same page working at trying to win games, at least for now.
In addition, this week the Kings began to win some games, and the frustration of mounting losses has been lessened. That, all by itself, cured much of the unrest. Cousins is notoriously bad at handling losses, he’s tired of sitting at home when the playoffs occur, and the Kings were 1-7 when he erupted.
WHAT IF …?
But what if things eventually sour so badly between Cousins and Karl that someone has to go? (And just Friday night, Boogie had a terrific game but another go-'round with his coach ...)
Even then, we say it won’t be Cousins on the move.
The bottom line seems clear. Given the way the Kings have handled this situation and their owner’s clear mandates in the past, if things eventually become unworkable between the two, Cousins would stay and Karl would be axed. And there have been whispers – who knows if there’s any truth to them – that Ranadive is already planning to hire coach John Calipari away from Kentucky next summer, to be the boss of a Kings team featuring Cousins, Rondo, and Cauley-Stein, who all played at Kentucky.
So that’s how we see it unfolding with Cousins: that he’s going nowhere, and is a solid fixture with the Kings.
But if somehow we’re wrong, and DeMarcus Cousins made available, rest assured that the Mavs -- with a go-for-it management team and a coach who, like most of them, sees himself as a fix-it teacher -- will do all they can to be in the mix and land him.