One of the best centers in the NBA could be available in trade in the hours leading up to Thursday night’s NBA Draft. Sacramento’s 24-year-old DeMarcus Cousins has been linked to trade rumors involving several teams around the league, and even though Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadive and head of basketball operations Vlade Divac insist Cousins is not available, a chain of events has already begun that might force the organization’s hands.
First, a little history. Cousins was a big fan of former Kings’ coach Mike Malone, who was fired unceremoniously early last season when injuries sent the team into a tailspin after an impressive early start. Former DePaul star Tyrone Corbin was inserted as interim coach, and left to twist in the wind while Ranadive continued to search for big-name options. Ranadive eventually settled on NBA lifer George Karl, who’s been known to feud with his star players in previous stops, and that move immediately drew less than favorable reviews from the Cousins camp.
Karl and "Boogie" were able to co-exist over the final half of last season, but when Karl told reporters in his end of the year review that he didn’t have an untradeable player on the roster, the uneasy alliance already was starting to crumble. Now, after seeing his name bandied about in numerous trade scenarios over the last several weeks, Cousins is ready to bolt Sacramento and would welcome a trade to the division rival Lakers. Y! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski detailed how difficult it would be to bring Cousins back to Sacramento next season, given his relationship with Karl is now beyond repair.
[BULLS: Mark Schanowski's NBA mock draft]
If a trade of Cousins is seen as almost inevitable, is there any chance the Bulls could make a serious bid for a player who made his first All-Star team last season, averaging 24 points and almost 13 rebounds per game? Cousins also was part of the U.S. gold medal winning team at the World Cup, and has had some big games against the Bulls in the past.
The Lakers have reportedly offered the No. 2 pick in Thursday’s draft, along with last year’s lottery pick, Julius Randle. The Celtics are willing to offer multiple first rounders and players to acquire their top trade target. If Ranadive eventually relents to Karl’s pleas to move Cousins off the roster, you’d have to think just about every NBA team will show interest.
So, what could the Bulls offer in a package for Cousins? Any deal would probably involve Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade move once he’s agreed to his new max contract. Butler’s max deal would start at just under $16 million, almost exactly what Cousins is scheduled to make next season. The Bulls could sweeten the package by returning the Top-10 protected first round pick for 2016 or 2017 owed to them by the Kings in the Luol Deng trade, while also including a future first rounder of their own.
If that’s not enough to interest Sacramento, would the Bulls consider trading Derrick Rose? The former league MVP has two years left and $41.3 million left on his contract. The Kings could match the money with a deal of Cousins and veteran point guard Darren Collison, while also receiving one or two first rounders back from the Bulls.
[NBA DRAFT: Get ready with more than 60 player profiles]
Granted, trading Butler or Rose in a package for Cousins would leave the Bulls extremely heavy in the front court with Cousins, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic. But remember, Noah only has one more year left on his contract, Gasol one year plus a player option, and Gibson has two more years. Gibson could also be traded at some point next season after he’s fully healed from his recent ankle surgery.
The harsh reality for the Bulls is they probably missed out on their best chance to beat LeBron James and the Cavs with their current roster. Big changes are coming in the next couple years with just about all of their key players’ contracts due to expire.
Why not accelerate the changeover by acquiring one of the NBA’s top scoring big men at a time when every other team in the league is fascinated by going small after the Warriors’ championship run? Maybe building a team around Cousins, either Butler or Rose, and young shooters like Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Tony Snell will put them in a better position when LeBron inevitably starts to slow down.
It’s a lot easier to find complementary wing players than All-Star bigs, which means the market for Cousins will be extremely competitive. New coach Fred Hoiberg might be inclined to design an offense around a speedy point guard and a collection of wing shooters, but the opportunity to make a bid for a player as talented as Cousins might be too good to pass up.
Hey, at least it’s worth a phone call.