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Counterpoint: Trading DeMarcus Cousins to the Wizards may not be as hard as it seems

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Cleveland Cavaliers v Sacramento Kings Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

[Editor’s note: The following is an e-mail Ben sent in response to my post on Tuesday morning that a DeMarcus Cousins trade is pretty much impossible this summer and hard to envision down the road without Beal taking a major leap next season. To understand Ben’s points you have to read through the original argument first.

While I don’t quite agree with Ben’s overall assessment, he certainly brings up some great points that add to the discussion.

Also, for the sake of adhering to our community guidelines, I took out the first line of his e-mail. If you remember some of the old SNL sketches with Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin you can probably figure out what he said. -Jake]

A couple of key premises here I need to quibble with before disagreeing with everything else you said:

  1. Dollinger wasn't suggesting this trade would happen this summer. By suggesting a trade built around Beal for Cousins, he was implying that nothing could happen until December 15.
  2. While Cousins is talented as all get-out, whether or not he would "address the team’s need for an efficient scorer" is a huge question mark. DMC has never been an efficient player. He uses tons of possessions. Since he came into the league he has the second highest turnover rate in the NBA among high-usage players -- second only to John Wall. His true shooting percentage has never been especially high either. The combo of his high usage, his shooting and his turnovers have had yielded below average offensive efficiency for his career. We can discuss mitigating factors all we want, but from a pure production standpoint, Cousins hasn't been a great player -- yet.
  3. It's super easy to say why any trade won't happen because the overwhelming majority of potential trades don't.

Here's why a trade built around Cousins and Beal after December 15 is at least conceivable.

The Kings front office can sell Beal to their fan base

Perception is reality in the NBA. The same people that think Cousins is the best center in the NBA are apt to buy into narrative that Beal is a budding all-star shooting guard. They are apt to overlook Beal's relatively flat growth curve since he's been in the league and focus on his playoff heroics. "He performs best when the lights are brightest and he's only 23!"

Beal being three years younger than Cousins syncs up better with Sacramento's most important players -- Willie Cauley-Stein, their recent draft picks, and their 2017 lottery pick. Beal's five year contract -- when Sacramento is always fighting for scraps in free agency -- is a plus as well. While a Beal-Cousins swap won't work straight up, there many versions of a deal that can work with some tweaks.

Cousins can strongly influence -- if not control -- his destination

While other teams have better asset bases than the Wizards (and many do), no one is trading for Cousins if he doesn't want to go there. Cousins' reputation -- ranging from malcontent to locker room cancer -- make him a huge risk. The whole reason the Kings may consider trading him is that his production doesn't justify the significant headaches when Cousins is less than perfectly happy. Is Cousins decides he wants to go to a specific place, he and his reps are going to try their damnedest, and probably succeed, at scaring other suitors off. See: Melodrama, 2011.

The Cousins - Wall Connection

They go way back. They achieved a lot together in their year at Kentucky. They're friends. They're same age, signed to the same contract. On the surface it makes sense.

Peel the onion back a little bit and it's more complicated. Firstly, they have the same weaknesses -- shooting and turnovers. Then there's also the matter of likely having to move Marcin Gortat and replace Beal in the backcourt. Certainly not impossible, but not the type of roster machinations that are Ernie Grunfeld's strong suit. Ernie however chews gum more powerfully than any GM in the NBA. Take that, RC Buford.


While a Cousins - Beal swap is unlikely -- because ANY big NBA trade is unlikely, it's ultimately one the Wizards should explore. Even with all his pronounced imperfections, Cousins' year-old max contract makes him a bargain in today's NBA. Beal's deal certainly does not. The dominoes from a deal would likely make the Wizards younger and give them more flexibility heading into another big offseason. Whether it would translate in the short term in to more wins is questionable, but in the long term the Wizards would be better positioned.

Long story short: Cousins isn't actually that good, but neither is Beal and DMC makes a lot less money. Peace.