December 28, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) holds onto a rebound against the New York Knicks in the second quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Wizards Shouldn’t Trade for DeMarcus Cousins

If given the choice between having DeMarcus Cousins on the Wizards and not having DeMarcus Cousins on the Wizards, I’d obviously choose the former. For all of Cousins’ maturity and emotional problems, he is still one of the best young center prospects in the league. And in some ways, the Wizards seem like the perfect place for DeMarcus Cousins to refocus his game. We have a pair of very good big men veterans in Emeka Okafor and Nene to help teach him the game, and John Wall was one of Cousins’ best friends out of college. It’s the kind of move that, if it works out, could lead to a new “Big Three” era for the Wizards, with Beal, Wall, and Cousins dominating teams and taking the Wizards deep into the playoffs year after year.

But while in some ways Washington seems like the perfect place for Cousins to focus, there are several things that suggest otherwise. First, the Wizards do not have a good history in getting young, undisciplined players focused. Andray Blatche, Javale McGee, and Nick Young are recent examples of players who were incredibly talented, but were shipped out because the Wizards couldn’t break through to them. Second, the Wizards are not a “good” team. The team with the best track record for straightening out undisciplined players is the Spurs, and I don’t think it’s even close. And that’s because Greg Poppovitch can tell these players a simple message: “Do your job right and you will win games.” That is not something that the Wizards will be able to tell DeMarcus Cousins. And while the John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins were great friends in college, they were also on one of the most successful college teams in the country. We honestly can’t know how the relationship between Cousins and Wall will be once frustrations start to boil over at the constant losing they are going through.

And even that might be fine. Even though there are very significant risks Cousins would act out just as much here as he is in Sacramento, he still is a very good young prospect that anyone would want to have on their team. But the choice is not between having DeMarcus Cousins and not having DeMarcus Cousins. The choice is between giving up assets to get DeMarcus Cousins and not having DeMarcus Cousins. And the distinction is meaningful, because The Wizards would have to give up quite a lot of their young assets to get Cousins. Like most hypothetical trades, it really does depend on how much the Wizards would really need to give up. At most I would be willing to give up this year’s draft pick and another minor prospect, like Singleton, Vesely, or MAYBE even Seraphin. But I think even that would probably be giving up too much, given the potential combustibility of Cousins in D.C. And I’m relatively certain that Sacramento would reject even that deal.

In retrospect, the worst moves Ernie Grunfeld has made were shortcuts to the “develop through the draft” strategy. The Mike Miller and Randy Foye trade and the Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza trade both attempted to make the Wizards competitive without letting the team organically develop. The DeMarcus Cousins trade faces the same pitfalls.

So I beg of you, Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld, don’t try and trade for DeMarcus Cousins. It’s just not worth it.

  • nich obert

    Nick Young shouldn’t be lumped in with Blatche and McGee. Young’s basically Cartier Martin with a bigger personality. Blatche was a hideously inefficient player who made our team worse, and Javale was a show boater who made our team worse, but they’re legitimate rotation players.

  • nich obert

    Cousins is 22. I can’t compare that to giving up a top 5 pick for two marginal players.
    I dunno, I think Sac would LOVE a package based around a top 3 pick to have two top 5 picks, T-Rob, Isaiah, Thornton and Jimmer (shooting great this year)
    We only have 2 guys whose value is in ascension- Crawford, who Sacramento doesn’t need at all, and Nene, who is proving he can still contribute at an All Star level (check the win shares per 48, guy is damned valuable)- if they don’t mind taking on Nene, this trade gets super complicated. I don’t know if I WANT Cousins without Nene here. Okafor and Ariza are guys we rented for a year so that we could put off long term decisions on youngsters here. Their veteran leadership role was flimsy from the start, that trade was much more cynical, and I like it more because I view it as “let’s wait another year and see who is desperate to shed longterm salary and see what we can get”
    Seraphin is currently the least efficient big in the league. Vesely isn’t much better. But teams can easily look at the last 25 games from last year and see their potential. Beal is tricky. Plenty of good shooters have started ice cold, but not THIS cold. It’s worrying, but not yet terrifying.

    You need stars in this league. Cousins is one of only 4 guys on rookie deals with a claim to possibly being the best big man in 2016. That’s nothing to sneeze at. He never wanted to be in Sacramento.. If he WANTS to be here? Man that’s tempting.

    I wish we had a better GM to judge Cousins vs this draft class. That’s all.

  • nich obert

    Sac wants a vet.. As much as I adore Nene, I’d be delighted if we essentially flip McGee for Cousins AND keep our lottery pick and Beal. I can dream

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