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.