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Are the Wizards ready for DeMarcus Cousins?

The DMC rumors are flying fast and thick. With former fellow Kentucky star John Wall making his home in D.C., Washington fans can't help but resurrect a draft day fantasy. Could the Wizards handle Boogie?


One theme of the Wizards rebuild hammers itself into my brain: volume over precision. That's the tack Ted Leonsis, and thus Ernie Grunfeld, took when planning the post-Gilbert Arenas-era roster. It acknowledges the difficulty of capturing draft lightning in a bottle, even in the lottery, by acquiring as many first round draft picks as possible.

A natural consequence of drafting so many young players (7 in the past three off-seasons, 10 considering second-rounders) is a high probability of overlapping skillsets. This is counterbalanced by the notion that one player or the other can be traded, addressing other needs. Trade value is contingent upon value demonstrated on the court and Grunfeld has failed catastrophically at establishing an environment in which the complementary players he has both drafted and acquired can excel.

Now an unbalanced roster makes the necessary trade to acquire DeMarcus Cousins that much more difficult, but an unbalanced roster is also a disaster when it comes to effectively planning the path of the rebuild because there are few, if any, clear choices to build the team around. Which is exactly what has happened in D.C.

What does this mean considering the context of a possible DMC trade? Namely, bringing Boogie in to a (let's be kind) highly fluid situation where there is no clear path forward into playoff contention (much less a focused and committed locker room) would not be under ideal circumstances. Apparently, the stress of losing sets off this young man, as well. So I can't help but think McKayla would not be impressed by rumors of the Wiz being 'ideal' for DMC considering that a.) the Wiz are hovering dangerously near 'aimless' and b.) losing stresses him out to the point where he's screaming at the coach who was essentially hired to handle him.

At the same time, this team definitely needs a shot in the arm, a John Wall-Bradley Beal-DeMarcus Cousins core sounds tantalizing on paper and it's no stretch of the imagination to suggest Ernie Grunfeld might be looking to save his job with a franchise-altering trade. There is both cause and purpose to pursue a move like this, but fans have to question the mover.

Ernie Grunfeld has proven adept at acquiring assets in a deft manner. His execution of the Ten Point Plan has resulted in a talented yet incoherent roster which has directly contributed to the (seemingly) perpetually rotten locker room. So when I ask if the Wizards are ready for DeMarcus Cousins, I'm really asking if Ted Leonsis and upper management have the understanding and institutional will to both cut bait (despite financial considerations) and make the investments that can give that core its best chance of success.

A trade with the Kings would likely result in some poor contracts coming back to D.C. and would establish a more traditional balance of veterans and youth (and possibly skill sets!) with obvious emphasis on the new Big 3. I would be interested to see what head coach Randy Wittman would be able to do with that core, especially since it would provide a reasonable basis for his end-of-year evaluation. For instance, if the Wizards saw fit to let him go and signed Dave Joerger away from Memphis with a new GM on board (say, Troy Weaver?), I could call that a plan. That wouldn't be cause for a spark of optimism, it would be a conflagaration.

Are the Wizards ready for DeMarcus Cousins? No, but most great oppportunities require both vision and adaptation. I believe the Wizards missed a trick in not acquiring James Harden and that while DMC comes with greater risk, it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. That said, taking this path requires a sober assessment of the current state of the rebuild and taking corrective action alongside a serious gamble. This isn't an opportunity the Wizards can afford to ignore and yet it isn't one I trust them to act on. Not an unknown state of affairs for fans of habitual losing squads.

The fatalistic response to the DMC rumors is 'sure, why not another troubled yet talented player', but once we move past the glib rapid reaction and the obvious pitfalls there is still that inescapable and pithy truism ruling the NBA, 'talent wins'. Yes, it would require bold, franchise-defining action from an owner whose personnel decision-making is synonymous with 'conservative'. Do I expect that action from the brass? Not really. This is just one more major opportunity the Wizards have the luxury of passing on.