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 Cousins. As 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.
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