Another NBA blockbuster trade has come and gone without the involvement of the Boston Celtics.
The New Orleans Pelicans reportedly acquired DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings late Sunday night in a trade that sent shock waves through the NBA as the league wrapped up All-Star weekend festivities.
Meanwhile, the Celtics’ ongoing rebuild continues, with obvious success. After two first-round playoff exits, the Celtics are positioned to make a run for the Eastern Conference’s top seed this season.
But the Celtics aren’t title contenders yet. It’s a superstar-driven league, and the Celtics still don’t have that one big star to tie it all together. Cousins could have been that star while filling some glaring holes. The Celtics lack some size up front, as evidenced by their rebounding woes (28th in the NBA). Adding the 6-foot-11 Cousins (10.7 rebounds per game) would address both issues, not to mention he’s averaging north of 27 points per game.
Cousins has the talent to put the Celtics over the top. It’s important, however, to note the distinction between “has the talent to put them over the top” and “puts them over the top.”
For all the talent Cousins brings to the table, he brings just as much baggage. He’s moody, mercurial and unpredictable, making the price to acquire him shockingly low. New Orleans parted with Buddy Hield (a 2016 first-round pick) and a 2017 first-round pick among a few other pieces. Certainly nothing huge, given the talent coming back.
“The Kings didn’t get equal value for Cousins, but they never expected to either,” The Vertical’s Chris Mannix wrote. “Several teams, including Orlando and Boston, expressed nominal interest, while Sacramento’s efforts to extract Brandon Ingram from the Lakers were rejected. Cousins, rival executives say, is a bad investment, appealing only if the asking price was minimal.”
An exec from one NBA team that inquired about Cousins told Mannix, “We would have taken him, but only if they were basically giving him away.”
The Kings didn’t “give away” Cousins — although you could argue that point — but the price was low, especially for a team like the Celtics. Boston has two of the most valuable trade chips on the market with the ability to swap picks with Brooklyn (who has the NBA’s worst record) at this year’s draft and Brooklyn’s 2018 pick. Both are almost guaranteed lottery selections, and at least one — if not both — should be no worse than top-four picks.
It’s fairly obvious the Celtics never really got in the Boogie sweepstakes, in large part for one simple reason: They never really wanted in, because they never really wanted the player.
“I don’t think Brad Stevens wants to touch DeMarcus Cousins with a 10-foot pole,” ESPN’s Zach Lowe said in November on his podcast. “And that carries a lot of weight (in Boston).”
And as Cousins reports started trickling in Sunday afternoon and into the evening, the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett reported the Celtics weren’t even in the mix. And again, if the Celtics wanted in on the action, they had the pieces to do so. Tony Massarotti of 98.5 The Sports Hub tweeted Monday morning that his understanding is Boston never really had any interest in Cousins.
It appears Boston has its sights set on Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler, another player who certainly would go a long way in helping Boston reach the next level.
New Orleans is floundering and doesn’t have a whole lot to lose by acquiring Cousins and taking on the accompanying risks. The Celtics, meanwhile, had to weigh the pros and cons of making a move for Cousins. Their rebuilding process is progressing at a slow but steady pace. Cousins could have accelerated the process, but he also could have derailed the whole thing.
Apparently, that wasn’t a risk Boston was willing to take.
Thumbnail photo via Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports Images