As is so often the case, DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento’s mercurial, 6-foot-11 star center, has been linked to rumors beyond his control.
The Alabama native is arguably one of the 10 best players in the league, capable of dictating the game on the glass and in the scoring column. He’s also capable of filling nearly 10 minutes of a YouTube video with fights and technical fouls; his downright manhandling the box score of a game and being ejected from it for elbowing a player in the head are not mutually exclusive.
This week’s installments of rumors, reported by SheridanHoops.com, indicated that the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat have an interest in acquiring him — after all, who doesn’t? And while a Google search of “DeMarcus Cousins” and “rumor” yields thousands of unfounded results, let’s instead consider what ecosystem Cousins would thrive in rather than the merit of the rumor, which very well could be baseless.
Cousins is producing a career-high 25.2 points per contest this season, but is shooting a career-low 42 percent from the floor. He has generated the eighth most double-doubles of any player in the league, but the lowly Kings are still 10-15, holding down the No. 12 spot in the Western Conference, despite the resurgent play of Rajon Rondo.
Sacramento hasn’t crashed the playoff party since the 2005-06 season, and Cousins has a better shot of playing in May on any of the aforementioned teams involved in the trade rumor than he does with the Kings.
Let’s consider if the rumored franchises would allow him to thrive.
Brad Stevens’s Celtics are one of the six best offensive rebounding teams in the league, pulling down 11.2 offensive boards per 100 possessions. Conversely, they’re one of the worst defensive rebounding teams, grabbing just 31.6.
Cousins is an above-average rebounder, and ranks seventh among all players in defensive rebound percentage, which is an estimate of the percentage of available defensive rebounds a player grabbed while on the floor.
In total, the Celtics are a middle-of-the-road rebounding team, but one that would allow him to test his new proficiency: the three-point shot. Boston ranks fourth in the league in three-point field-goal attempts per contest, chucking more than 28 per game.
After averaging less than one three-point field-goal attempt per contest over his first five seasons, Cousins is hoisting more than four this year, connecting on better than 31 percent of them, a higher percentage than LeBron James, Danny Green and Russell Westbrook. He made a combined 11 over his first four seasons in the league, and has already netted 22 three-pointers in 17 games this season.
With a career-high 21 percent of his field-goal attempts coming from beyond the arc, Boston would allow him to remain a high-usage player and test his newfound weapon night in and night out.
The Bulls historically rarely make big mid-season splashes, and seem the least likely trade destination of the three. Also, they appear to be the least likely to gel with the volatile center.
Cousins leads the entire league in usage rate, sopping up nearly 35 percent of possessions while on the floor. Pau Gasol, Chicago’s current starting center, is used on nearly 10 percent fewer possessions, with the back-court tandem of Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose running the show. Even when Joakim Noah was a first-team all-NBA player during the 2013-14 season, he was used on less than 20 percent of Chicago’s possessions.
It’s uncertain whether Cousins would be willing or able to survive on a diet of setting back-screens and crashing the glass when he isn’t being fed the ball nearly as often.
Chicago is already one of the top rebounding teams in the league, pulling down 48.3 rebounds per 100 possessions, which is tied with the Spurs for the highest mark of any team.
Cousins’s paint touches are down from a season ago, and Chicago would likely want him to move closer to the basket rather than test the waters from beyond the arc, even with how much the Bulls shoot from three-point territory under new Coach Fred Hoiberg.
While Gasol stretches the floor with his mid-range game, Cousins is shooting a career-low from 10 to 16 feet away, which is a less-than-ideal trend for Hoiberg’s system.
A deal with Miami is rumored to center around Hassan Whiteside, a shot-blocking 26-year-old (Cousins is 25) on an expiring contract. The ultimate irony is that Sacramento selected both players in the 2010 NBA Draft. The impending unrestricted free agent would likely be paired with rookie Justise Winslow and some other pieces.
Miami is a top-10 rebounding outfit, and Cousins would only bolster that squad on the glass, even with the loss of Whiteside.
Removed of Whiteside, Cousins would still be an above-average defensive presence for Miami — agile enough to defend stretch centers and strong enough to make low-post bruisers earn their points in the paint.
In many ways, the same hesitation regarding the Chicago deal holds true in Miami: Can Cousins be enough of a focal point in the scheme?
With all-star power forward Chris Bosh camped out at the elbows and Dwyane Wade slashing to the rim, Cousins wouldn’t be the clearest go-to option, but would certainly be embedded in one of the most talented offensive units in the league.
Erik Spoelstra’s unit ranks outside of the top 15 in the league in offensive efficiency, and adding Cousins to the fold would ostensibly allow the team to supplant others ahead in the rankings.
Adding Cousins to a Goran Dragic-Wade-Luol Deng-Bosh quartet seems borderline unfair for the rest of the league, and would certainly be a tantalizing unit to watch mesh.