After an underwhelming offseason, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, could explore a deal that should make his team contenders in the Eastern Conference for the first time since the New Big 3 era. Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins is a player Ainge must keep an eye on. Although he hasn't been able to turn things around for the Kings' franchise out west, a player like Cousins could turn things around in a much weaker Eastern Conference.
Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett tweeted out last week that Ainge is "considering a big and more powerful move," a tweet that brought on speculation that Ainge may be calling Sacramento about their talented center. After rumors about the King shopping Cousins died down, they've recently reemerged. However, a recent charity event said otherwise when coach Karl showed up wearing a Cousins uniform. It may have been Karl's way of saying Boogie is not leaving Sacramento anytime soon or maybe not, who knows? But if the Kings are looking to trade their star center at any point during this upcoming season, the Celtics may be an option.
If Ainge is able to trade for Cousins, he would give Celtics coach Brad Stevens the star talent he has desperately needed throughout his short tenure in Boston. Cousins finished third in rebounding last season and fifth in scoring, making him the only player in the league who averaged at least 24 points and 12 rebounds. Bringing Cousins to Boston alone may not be enough to dethrone the Cleveland Cavaliers but it would bring the Celtics one step closer to becoming an elite team in the east. Also, Ainge will still have cap space to sign a big-name free agent next summer, when he can take a wishful stab at signing a player like Kevin Durant or DeMar DeRozen to play alongside Cousins.
Throughout his NBA career, Cousins, 25, has had some ugly moments. Most recently, Cousins was ejected in a game against the Celtics last winter when he tossed Marcus Smart to the ground after Smart tried to box him out for a rebound. And in 2014, he received a one-game suspension for punching Rockets guard Patrick Beverly in the stomach. DeMarcus' reputation make him a risk, his on-court antics is a cause for concern. It's the reason why the Kings would consider dealing Cousins and the reason why Ainge may want to stay away. However, there isn't a lot of elite players out there that are available now or in the foreseeable future. Could this risk pay off for the Celtics?
Centers like Cousins don't come around often, and in the east, a conference where Cousins wouldn't have to deal with tough defensive centers like he does out west (Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis, DeAndre Jordan), his number could grow.
If or when the Kings decide to trade their best player, the Celtics can put together an attractive offer for Sacramento. The Kings would still be giving up the best player in the deal but there is some upside for the Kings. Sacramento doesn't have a first round pick in next year's draft. The Celtics have plenty. And aside from Darren Collison, Rajon Rondo and Ben McLemore, the King are thin in the guards department. The Celtics roster is stacked with guards. The Kings could pretty much pick any guards they want.
Ainge may not have all-star talent to send over but he does have a handful of cap-friendly contributing pieces. Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, Kelly Olynyk, and Brooklyn's 2016 first round pick could be the best Ainge can do (more or less) right now. Or a deal including Marcus Smart, if the Kings like him as their starting point guard. Such a deal would definitely include Kings point guard; Darren Collison.
Bradley, one of the best on-ball defenders in the league, is on a team-friendly three-year deal. Turner, fresh off the best season of his career, is on an expiring contract, and Olynyk's $2 million per year contract expires at the end of the 2016-17 season, leaving the Kings with plenty of cap space.
Realistically, the Kings will probably wait until mid-season to decide if they want to keep DeMarcus in Sacramento. After their busiest summer in recent years, the Kings want to see how well this team can play together. They've added players like Rondo, Marco Belnelli, Caron Butler and Kosta Koufos. Sacramento is desperate; they want to be relevant again. But if things don't work out with Cousins, an offer from Ainge could turn out to be one of the best options for the Kings.