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Pouring More Cold Water on Cousins

In the past twelve hours, the Celtics-centric Twitter-verse has exploded.  What started out as the Celtics dumping little used players Jarvis Varnado and Kris Joseph quickly turned into the Celtics making a blockbuster deal most-likely involving Kings’ center DeMarcus CousinsAs BRobb pointed out earlier, Sam Amick drowned this rumor in cold water and we should take him at his word lest we also drown.  We, however, don’t even need to believe Amick. The difficulty level that the prospect of pulling off this trade presents is enough to confidently conclude that this ain’t happening.

Given what we know about the salary cap and the way NBA trades go down, any scenario that nets Cousins for the Celtics would be immensely complicated.  Let’s explore the reasons why:

Money and Value

In order to make any trade work in the NBA, the players’ salaries have to roughly match.  There are certain exceptions to this rule along with other methods of acquiring players where this is not the case but in order for a straight Celtics-Kings player swap, it has to work this way.  This season, Cousins is being underpaid to the tune of $3,880,800.  The Celtics do not have a single player outside of Avery Bradley that comes close to making that little money for the impact he has while on the court.  Even then, Bradley’s salary is a little less than half of what Cousins is set to make this season, so the Celtics would need to add some filler in any straight up Bradley for Cousins swap.  To make matters worse, the Celtics have very little filler.  They could offer Bradley, Jared Sullinger, and roster scrap for Cousins and it could work, theoretically.  This now brings us to the value side of the proposition.  The Celtics would be trading two key rotation players for one assumed starter.  Again, this works from a theoretical standpoint, but that is before you factor in the players’ potential.  Both Bradley and Sullinger have steadily increased the value of their perceived potential by they way they’ve played this season.  If the Celtics trade away both players and only get Cousins, they’re getting a raw deal.

Win Now

I don’t believe the Celtics would mortgage their future just on the off chance that Cousins becomes a superstar down the road and big time contributor in the present.  For better or worse, the C’s are firmly entrenched in win-now mode which makes trading two rotation players for one a non-starter (I hope).  When this situation presents itself, usually the opposite team has a high paid veteran(s) that will likely still be on the books for big money when their usefulness has run out.  Absorbing a player like this would help the Celtics maintain their win-now approach without sacrificing a rotation player for this season.  For example, the Kings could also add in John Salmons in any trade centered around a swap of Cousins and Bradley.  Including Salmons would rid the Kings of their highest paid player and the Celtics would have another player to replace Bradley.  This would work if Salmons actually had a bad contract. The Kings swingman takes home $8,083,000 this season, $7,583,000 next season, and is non-guaranteed in 2013-2014.  So, while he’s the highest paid player on the Kings’ roster this season and his contract will likely outlast his usefulness, his contract is far from bad.  If the Kings keep him on the roster for one more year and cut him, they’re only overpaying a guy for one year and  that is hardly incentive to get him off the books.  To, again, make matters worse in the effort to acquire Cousins, any player the Celtics offer in return has a worse contract. I doubt the Kings are overly high on Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, or Brandon Bass, which would have to be the reality if the C’s were to get Salmons or any other King for that matter.

The only way I could see Cousins coming to Boston this season is by involving a third team which almost always complicates things.  Adding a third team also only serves to increase a team’s options which means the Celtics would still have to satisfy the aforementioned criteria (money and value, win now) in order for it to be a good trade.

If I were running the Celtics, I would keep several players locked behind a “break in case of netting a young superstar” glass barrier.  These include Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Avery Bradley, and Jared Sullinger.  DeMarcus Cousins just isn’t a young superstar.  He’s a young, talented kid oozing with potential.  Unfortunately, he’s also a malcontent, pouter, and, by all reports, a complete headcase.  Mortgaging your future to bank on this kid is a scary proposition that I just don’t see happening.

Could the Celtics work some sort of cap magic to acquire Cousins?  Probably, but I just can’t figure out how and why they would.

Note: All salary numbers are courtesy of Shamsports.com

  • No Danny No

    Have to say when it comes to trades, I cringe at the thought. IMO Ainge is terrible at gauging talent and I honestly feel the team would have been better standing pat, then with the deals Ainge made the past two years.

    I'll take Perkins, Big Baby and Nate the Great over Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Nenad Krstic (who is not even in the NBA anymore).

    I'd love to see a roster change, but nobody will take what we need to cut loose (Green, Bass, Collins and Barbosa)…and it makes no sense to let Bradley or Sullinger go in hopes of a final shot, that really is unrealistic at this point, even with a young superstar. Teams take time to gel and players take time to adjust. Sad to say it but the focus should shift to a longer term rebuild with Pierce and KG mentoring the future of the team.

    I really like Cousins. I think he's one of the most talented bigs in the game. And he's not going to win anybody a title anytime soon…if ever.

    • Phil

      Um, why would trading for a top five center who's 22 years old count as a final shot? Part of the appeal of the trade is that it gives you a Rondo/Cousins core after KG and Pierce retire. Cousins upside is as a 20/10 guy for the next 10+ years. He's not gonna win a title on Sacramento, but to write him off everywhere else seems shortsighted. I'd rather have Cousins than Bynum for sure, and Bynum won a title.

      The trade seems more dangerous to the short term than anything else. Giving up Bradley and Sullinger could very well derail this team; we've seen how much they refer to Bradley as the heart of the team, and we've seen them pack it in after trading a major piece before.

  • donnieJ

    So difficult to think of who we would give up.

    I think it focuses on Lee and Green.

    I don't think any team would think that either of these two players is horrible. Both have reasonable deals. Both took deals with Boston (in good faith) but really, both should be thankful for their deals, and would continue to thank Boston if traded elsewhere.

    Lee was aquired on a sign and trade. He got close to the midlevel exception, which he was going to get somewhere else. He is close with Doc, but with Bradley back, may be resigned to think that his playing time might now be what he wants.

    Same with Green. It has been said for some time that Ray Allen was his best friend. Now Ray is gone, and it still seems as though it's not a good fit. He needs tons more playing time to get comfortable, something he is just not going to get with Paul Pierce on the team. He may think that his opportunity to play himself back to the level he was a few years ago will be with a new team. I know he thanks Boston for the support during his heart surgery, but thanking them may come in accepting a trade to a team that is growing towards contenting, not in the throws of its final chance.

    Also I think they did him a huge favor with the contract, and he should respect that.

  • CelticsBIG3

    Did anyone read the article? A trade is not happening.

    • 2p2d

      If Ainge wants Cousins bad enough Bradley + Sullinger + crap will go out in exchange for Cousins + crap.
      All GM s lie to the media, because it is pointless for them to tell the truth. The deal may or may not make sense – however if the Perkins trade was floated as a rumor the "experts" would have shot it down as being ridiculous.
      This team is likely going nowhere without a big gamble that pays out. I just hope that if Danny does gamble, he gambles for a big. (unlike his previous love affairs with Jeff Green and Mayo and the like)

  • Phil

    The beginning and ending of this article seem mismatched. A trade isn't really that complicated to work out at all. The Celtics will offer Sullinger/Lee/some combination of 1st round picks and Fab for Cousins and a bad contract (probably Garcia.) The Kings will want Bradley (as they should,) and counter with something like Bradley/Sullinger/Bass for Cousins/Hayes. I don't expect a trade to happen because I don't think the Kings would take the offer sans Bradley, and I don't think the Celtics will trade Bradley, but that's hardly complicated.

    Whether or not they should trade for Cousins given his off court stuff versus on court production (which seemed a little overlooked by the piece IMO,) is a completely different topic. Not only is Cousins the youngest available* big man, he's also the best. A lineup of Rondo/Bradley/Pierce/KG/Cousins would be every bit the contender as the Heat. A lineup of Rondo/Lee/Pierce/KG/Cousins would be very good for the next few years 'and' after KG retires. There are tons of arguments for making the deal, even if it includes Bradley.

  • Phil

    Just to summarize my thoughts on the matter; if you can get Cousins into Boston without giving up Bradley, you do it in a heartbeat, period. I don't care if it takes Sullinger, Fab, three first round picks and whatever bad contract the Kings want to get out of. A team with Rondo/Bradley/Cousins contends for the next eight years. -I don't know if people are looking at this right now, but this team in 2015 looks scary bad.

    If the Kings insist on Bradley, you hold out until the trade deadline and see how the team plays and make a decision then.

    For the record, I anticipate the Kings insisting on Bradley, Ainge holding out until the trade deadline, then not trading Bradley/making a deal. As has been noted by several smart people, there's no real reason for the Kings to make a deal right now. They're not gonna take a package centered around Sullinger and Lee. And I don't think Ainge will be able to trade Bradley.

    • Josh_5

      This hypothetical trade is not about on court production. Cousins is a young phenom with great potential, but I do not believe he is worth the risk of giving up Sully AND Fab AND multiple picks. His statistical production is great, but I am putting my chips on the fact that he will always be a head case and never realize his true potential. He reminds me too much of Rasheed Wallace.

      • hydrofluoric


        1. Rasheed Wallace won a ring in his prime as a starter. And at age 36, he was almost enough to hold the fort in Game 7 of the 2010 finals.

        2. Are the Kings high on Avery Bradley? Sacramento doesn't exactly crave defense and Bradley is a real character guy. Their ownership doesn't seem to value Bradley as highly as we do.

        3. Danny's great with drafting but we don't need draft picks at the moment, and we draft low due to performing well. Let's not overrate our players just because they're ours.

        • Bill

          3. Danny's great with drafting – eg. Sullinger who was a steal.

      • Phil

        The thing with Cousins is that he's already at or near his highest potential level of head-caseness in Sacramento, and he's still almost averaging a 20-10. He could never reach his full potential and still be a top 5 center.

        As I've mentioned a few times, defense is the biggest concern with him, but you have to assume that playing alongside KG would improve a lot of his problems there.

        There's a difference between not reaching full potential and teams getting along well enough and being talented enough to win (I keep going back to Bynum, but just think Bynum and Kobe.)

        • Josh_5

          The problem I have with that is Bynum was the 3rd best player on his team. Your not bringing cousins in as the 3rd best player. I do get your point though.

          • Phil

            Cousins would be the third best player on a team with KG and Rondo too. Well, at least unofficially; you could easily argue Cousins being better, especially if he played well. Given the clout that Rondo/KG/Pierce carry as perennial all stars and champions though, I don't see that as an issue. He wouldn't be 'the man' for a couple of years, and he'll be who he'll be the time KG retires. If he's still a problem after multiple playoff runs and playing along KG and Doc, then his issues really are serious.

  • CelticsBIG3

    Well here's some exciting news. NBA has suspended Rondo for tonight's game against the Knicks for making contact with an official during the Atlanta game. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Vq_aEh5kT3c/UOs_I21z6eI… There is the image of the "contact"

  • Bill

    Informative reading. "I just can’t figure out how and why they would." leaves a key question to be answered. If Danny Ainge figures out how, and he did with the KG deal, then the why would be therefore moot. Would you agree? My personal take is not to go after a work in progress type player such as Cousins but rather go if you need to get a center for someone such as Anderson Varejeo. Danny wants to win now which is another reason why a trade would happen. Fab Melo can help later but if he plays now it would be only off the bench. He needs fully minutes if he is to become the center for the Celtics. So, anyone for a trade?