July 25, 2014

DeMarcus Cousins rumors fading, so what’s next for Cavs?

cousins kingsAlthough absolutely nothing has happened for the Cavaliers in the 12 days since winning the NBA Draft Lottery, it has seemed like an eternity to fans. There’s still another 26 days remaining until the actual draft — showing how all of the team’s options can start to wear on an exhausted Twitter base.

But most notably in the past week, Cleveland Twitter has been electric with the allure and mystique of 22-year-old Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. One of the most polarizing players in the NBA, Cousins was “potentially” on the block with the Kings being sold and changing their leadership structure.

Alas, as of last night, it now appears that Cousins will not be anywhere close to the trade block. Would this have been a fruitful exploration? Moving forward after that fantasy, what can Cavaliers fans do now? What’s next on the horizon? Let’s take a look through the stats and the narratives.

—–

What could have been with Cousins

As always, the WFNY email thread was lighting up all week with the prospect of a Cousins trade. These three snippets below illustrate some of the divided interpretations even among the staff:

Andrew: “I’ll deal with his anger problems in exchange for a 17/10 frontcourt player. The Cavs have to get better, and I don’t see any scenario in which Cousins doesn’t make the Cavaliers immeasurably better immediately. Sure, he’ll cost the team the occasional technical and ejection, but IMO he can only improve his anger. Dennis Rodman was every bit as volatile, unpredictable, and distracting as Cousins has been, and a lot of teams won Championships and playoff series with Rodman playing a vital role. With the Kings, Cousins is a problem because they’re not winning.”

Scott: “Kid could be the best center in the league this season — I think you have to do it as well. I do worry in the regard that CLE doesn’t have the veterans (akin to those who surrounded Rodman), but it’s tough to turn down high-end potential. Don’t forget that Brown coached Delonte West. If Delonte would have been a 20/10/2 guy, he’d still be here.”

Kirk: “I fully understand taking the risk. Given this draft’s uncertainty and lack of star power, I can understand pulling the trigger in exchange for the top pick. Still, he had issues at Kentucky as well and they weren’t exactly losing many games. Big egos and disruptive to team chemistry are two different things in my book. My fear is he’s the latter. Will Mike Brown or some vet they bring in be able to stand up to him? You need someone with a strong, positive personality, and I don’t know if Kyrie’s that guy. Maybe Tristan is the closest.”

From my perspective, and as I’ve emailed to the staff, Cousins is absolutely a star in the making. Consider all of the production that he has had on the court before even turning 23 years old1. In fact, there have only ever been 30 player-seasons under the age of 23 with 1,800 minutes played, 20+ points per 36 minutes, 11+ rebounds per 36 minutes and 20+ PER.

Cousins accomplished that feat in each of the last two seasons. The only other players to do that multiple times before turning 23: Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Walt Bellamy, Bob Lanier, Kevin Love, Bob McAdoo, Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwan. That’s a pretty elite list of some of the best big men in NBA history. While Cousins has his faults on the court2 and certainly off the court (as we all know), but in knowing everything he know now, he probably would be worthy of the No. 1 pick in this draft.

The fact that Chad Ford said he wouldn’t even be a top-5 pick (he was No. 5 initially) in a 2010 re-draft is absolutely bonkers and preposterous. Cousins is one of the elite young players in the game, even if he is a unknown in several areas. Now that the Kings appear to be sticking with Cousins– and reportedly, per FSO’s Sam Amico, the Cavs never had any interest in him — the dreaming of pairing him with Kyrie Irving likely can end, but it was nice to finally provide the closure on the potential for what could have been.

—-

The odds of a major trade and aiming for the playoffs in ’13-’14

Now that the Cousins rumors can end, it’s necessary to look back at Kirk’s fantastic NBA trade options article from last week. In that piece, he broke down the potential players available that fit the Cavaliers’ desire for a “young All-Star-caliber player.”

In the end, he ignored the Kevin Love speculation and passed on DeMarcus Cousins, then resorted to these three potential options: 1) Brook Lopez, 2) Ersan Ilyasova, 3) LaMarcus Aldridge/Nicolas Batum. The point being of reviewing Kirk’s article: It seems now that the prospect of making a mega deal for a superstar is fading fast. Lopez or Aldridge might barely fit under such a criteria, but likely don’t have the name recognition or star power as Love, Cousins or a player like Andrew Bynum.

With all the fantastic assets the Cavaliers have at their disposal, the odds are that this summer, they won’t be making a James Harden-esque trade to add a major indispensable player alongside Kyrie Irving. Anything could still happen. Rumors circulate quickly and as the draft approaches, anything could be back on the table. Heck, GM Chris Grant should be making phone calls every day all summer in case a Harden talent becomes available at all.

So I’d peg the odds of a “major” trade at probably 15-20%, just spit-balling. Some sort of mid-major move, a la Ilyasova, Batum or another at-best 3rd-player: Maybe 50-60%. As of now, that obviously seems much more likely because of the fewer higher-end pieces that would have to change hands. There’s just so much at risk and up in the air when projecting superstar trade negotiations; on a smaller scale, the odds just seem greater because there’s less at play.

More likely than not, I think the Cavs are going to end up drafting Nerlens Noel at No. 1 and keeping him for the long-term. The value of the No. 1 pick is unfortunately low for the team this season and with the odds of a major trade not that high, the probability of the team just keeping Noel seems to be growing. He’ll hopefully be another cornerstone piece of the franchise, but there will be several other moves still to come.

What can’t happen: Sacrificing the long-term for the short-term. That’s why I don’t think the Cavs will draft a high-floor, low-potential, not-really-a-No. 1 prospect like Otto Porter with the top pick. Although it might be helpful in November and December when he’s healthier than Noel, and possibly even for the first 1-2 seasons overall with his more complementary skill set, Noel is the better prospect for any team’s future.

Dan and Nick Gilbert provided hopes at the draft lottery that the Cavaliers wouldn’t be there again in the summer of 2014. Based on what usual teams do in their rebuilding efforts following a 24-win season, however, a jump of about 8-12 wins is more in line with reality. That wouldn’t necessarily mean the playoffs, even in the Eastern Conference. And in the grand scheme of things, that’s not so bad. This team still needs lots and lots of warm bodies to fill in the rotation, the young players like Irving, Waiters and Thompson will keep improving, but it’s OK to miss the playoffs for one more year.

And as every day passes by with no increased probability of a major deal, it seems like the Cavaliers might be warming up to that idea. An Ilyasova or Batum would certainly help and both are young enough to be a part of the long-term picture, but neither might be enough for the oddly-coveted No. 8 spot in the playoffs. For now, it’s more important to keep the right players and keep improving each season.

—-

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

___________________________________________________

Footnotes:

  1. To be honest, Cousins is just 22 days older than me. Which is nuts. []
  2. He’s not yet an efficient scorer — looking at his Basketball-Reference shot chart and comparing it to other elite PF/C types will show you how he’s down across the board. Also, he’s had some issues with turnovers and foul trouble, averaging 3.4 and 4.5, respectively, over the last two seasons per 36 minutes, both of which aren’t very helpful as a star player. []
  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Cousins really hurt himself this past season between all of the issues with not only his coach but referees and just people in general. For really the first time his antics effected his game which until now had not been effected. He’s still a beast but has entirely to many mental issues for my liking.

    As far as trading the #1 overall selection I’m with Jake I see it happening less and less despite being a huge proponent of moving it. That being said Ersan Ilyasova doesn’t exactly tempt me and while I really like LeMarcus Aldridge and slightly less on Nicolas Batum perhaps the best move is to keep the selection. As I said yesterday I’m starting to get on the “draft McLemore” wagon. The idea of pairing him with Irving and having Waiters available as a sixth man seems exciting. Not only would you have another ball handler should/when Irving gets injured but you could also run some three guard sets. Not only this but it would almost assuredly mean the end of Daniel Gibson in Cleveland.

  • david

    I think Noel is the clear choice at number one. I hope they do it. Can still make “win now” moves such as bringing in Carl Landry or Dorell Wright or trading for Danny Granger. The team will make massive improvement from playing league average players in place of guys like Walton etc. who were really, really bad. Cutting Gee’s minutes in half, for instance, and replacing them with someone like Wright would be a tremendous help.

    In the meantime, you build long-term around Noel, Tristan, Dion, and Kyrie. First time commenting on here in years, btw.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    I’m with you David. Keep Noel. He is the best player available and fits a need.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    McLemore grades out as an athletic Wayne Ellington. Not a guy that I’d really want to draft with the #1. Especially when guys like Otto Porter and Nerlens Noel both fit needs. I’d be OK with Porter. Ecstatic with Noel. Pi$$ed with McLemore.

  • FearTheRoo

    Agreed. He has more potential going forward than anyone we’d realistically be able to acquire in a a trade.

  • Surlysci

    As a Cleveland fan living in Sac, I was getting very nervous about those trade rumors being real, and am relieved to see that the Kings are going to stick it out with him. The way he acts both on the court and off (I have friends who have had to deal with him out in the community) shows me his attitude is rotten to the core and I don’t think any amount of help from guys like TT or Kyrie would get him on the right path because he doesn’t WANT to be better. I’d take a guy like Noel with his great team first mentality over Cousins 100 times out of 100 and never look back. Boogie is bad news, and, sadly, it’s not going to change.

  • D2012

    Losers mentality creeps up again. It’s not ok for the Cavs to miss the playoffs again this year. The Cavs MUST make the playoffs this upcoming season. Period. No exceptions. Forget Lebron, if the Cavs want to be a meaningful player in a loaded free agent class next year period, they MUST make the playoffs. And I’m so sick of that stupid argument of “we don’t want to be the 8th seed.” Well you’re an idiot the . OKC first entered the playoffs as the 8th seed and eventually went to the finals. The Indiana Pacers lost 50 freakin games the YEAR BEFORE they went to the playoffs for the first time in this era and are now on the verge of going to the NBA finals. The fact is that many teams enter as the 8th seed but don’t stay there. So that is a complete strawman argument. Anyone who says the Cavs will be ok missing the playoffs again this year is LYING to you. For the future of this team, which appears to have free agency as a significant part of it at some point (likely the summer of 2014), the Cavs must make the playoffs this season. It’s not even about trying to get Lebron back. If the Cavs lay another egg next year, you’re not getting anyone here. And even WITH Norl (who I’m still not sold on) you’d still need one more piece to compete for a championship any time in the future before Kyrie has to make his “decision”. The true purgatory isn’t the 8th seed. The true purgatory is when you are too good for the lottery but not good enough for the playoffs. If that’s what you want then speak that. But don’t act as if the 8th seed is the devil and that after 3 consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs (if we miss in 13-14, not counting the “Decision” year) then we’ll magically enter the playoffs for the first time as the 6th or 5th seed. Unless you get a big time free agent, you’re gonna have to enter as the 8th seed at SOME point. (And you can’t GET a big time free agent if you’re not, at the very least, a playoff contending team. See the pattern here?) if you want to be the Sacramento Kings (loaded with talent, can’t put it together) be my guest. But I still say, like most who understand the way the NBA works, in order for this team to be relevant in the future in this star driven league, the Cavs MUST make the playoffs this year. Period. No exceptions. No excuses.

  • D2012

    Noel*

  • D2012

    As far as the draft is concerned, if we keep the pick, give me Otto Porter. Noel is a boom or bust pick. If he works, you’re a genius. If he doesn’t, you’re an idiot. I don’t think there will be any middle ground with Noel. Either he will be an All-Star or a complete flop. I don’t believe the Cavs HAVE to take that risk (especially when he’s hurt and may not be able to help you THIS year, which is important. If he was healthy this wouldn’t be a debate), so I’ll pass.

  • saggy

    great point. I don’t really think Cousins is my type of guy. And you watch him a lot, so i take your opinion to heart.

    Also Andrew’s comparison to Rodman lacks a lot of substance. As bad an apple as Rodman seemed to be he was the complete Anti-Cousins on the court because he gave 100% every time he played, and he was a winner. Teammates loved playing with him, too. Also, Rodman is the best rebounder the NBA has ever seen.

    Anyways, I would be completely fine with keeping the #1 pick. Silly that we are exasperated about that scenario. But i totally expect a deal. Teams are just letting all the rumors settle before engaging.

  • saggy

    for me, forget everything else except the last thing you said: he fits a need. he fits a need and he isn’t the 9th best option. If i told you we could draft a player – AT NUMBER 1 – who fits a need, you’d be ecstatic.

  • Alan

    Without an All-Star caliber trade, take Noel number 1. But the other 3 draft picks kinda need to be leveraged into some other kind of trade. Either move up in the draft or snatch a mid-level type player. For the Cavs, I think the picks have more value via trade than actually using them.

  • JacobWFNY

    Quick agreement in the WFNY comments section? This is wonderful.

  • JacobWFNY

    I really do think Cousins is an elite talent. The numbers show that. If he can get his act together into a team-first mentality — since he’s only 22 — he’ll be an All-Star easily.

    The Rodman comparison lacked some context for that quote. But it still works in terms of just two overwhelming big men characters that seemed to be unruly and uncontrollable.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I disagree I believe McLemore is far more athletic and dynamic then Ellington ever was and still has room to improve. If people were/are happy with what Waiters did in a year then they’d love McLemore. But each player is not only unique but so is the situation in where he is drafted. Perfect example is Harrison Barnes last year. You can’t tell me he’d have done as well in Cleveland as he did in Golden State because there was no way he would have been used the same way.

  • Jaker

    If BMc is gunna be a SuperStar, a guy we can build a title around, you take him. Waiters would make a great 6th man on this team, especially considering the fact that 3 guard sets are becoming extremely popular in the NBA. Just look at GS, Miami, Knicks, Indy(Paul George is a freakish 2guard) and practically every playoff team. Late in games, the Small Forward is the second biggest guy on the floor. Now, this does look like a good argument for Otto Porter, but if they feel that Mclemore is a SuperStar, this becomes a no brainer.

    This also opens up the door for a Waiters trade, if they decide that getting a “Big 3″ is more important than a 3guard set.

  • Surlysci

    That’s the thing though, everyone out here in sac, even the play by play guys, have grown sick of hearing the idea that he’s an all star talent “if only he can get his act together”. Not because it’s not true, but because no one who has met this guy or had to deal with him in any way could come away with the impression that he’ll every get his stuff together. He’s just so full of himself and has such an inflated ego I don’t think he can even recognize he needs to get it together. It’s sad because he could be such a beast if he actually cared, but it’s just never going to happen.

  • Surlysci

    It is funny that 2 months ago I was salivating over the idea that maybe Noel would fall to 3 and we could get him because he matched up to our needs so well, and now that it’s a possibility it’s like I’ve got buyers remorse before we’ve even made a purchase, haha. As for trading/taking Noel/Porter/whoever, I think I’m just going to try and strap myself in for the ride that Chris Grant is about to take us on over the next month and trust the dude is going to do what’s best.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    You do have to draft for more than just “need” though. If you have two players who are rated the same and one fits need, you go with that. But if you had one guy who was clearly better than the rest…you take him and try to work things out.

    Of course, this works much better in Football (where you have 22 different guys playing either offense or defense plus the depth behind them.)

  • Ben Frambaugh

    McLemore’s combine numbers were actually very similar to Ellington’s…he had a higher max vertical… He’s not a guy who can create his own shot and he certainly doesn’t create for others. Waiters, IMO, has way more upside just because he’s more versatile.
    Harrison Barnes had an 11 PER. That was playing alongside excellent shooters in Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. He wasn’t the 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th option on offense. He had the 6th highest useage rate. The numbers don’t show success to me. In fact, McLemore just looks like a SG version of Harrison Barnes. (Obviously I’m not a big fan of Barnes at all…and was more than happy that the Cavs passed on him. Even if I knew nothing about Waiters at the time of the draft.)

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Wow…so a couple of cowards are going to “down tic” me but not post an opposing view? LOL It’s the internet folks, you can have a differing opinion.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Except that McLemore rates as a slightly more athletic Wayne Ellington. But let’s look at Golden State (out of the playoffs, not a serious contender), Knicks (out of the playoffs, not a serious contender), Miami (who has the best player on the planet and is so freakishly athletic that he is bigger than many of the PF he goes against) and Indy (have one of the best rim protectors in the game).

  • Ben Frambaugh

    For the most part I agree with you (though your tone seems over the top.) There are legit reasons for not making the playoffs (injuries being the big one.) Other than that, I agree. They should go this year.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Thought I saw a #19, #31, #33 for #13 and Shawn Marion. I’d do that in a heart beat.

  • mikem12

    If the front office is legitimately concerned about Noel’s knee, then why not draft Porter #1 and sign Greg Oden (like they’ve been long rumored to)? Who knows what Oden’s going to be capable of when he comes back, and if they’re concerned they don’t know what Noel’s going to be capable of when HE comes back.

    If there’s no concern about the knee then you take Noel and trade/sign the best SF you can get your hands on (Josh Smith?).

    The bigger question should be what to do with Andy.

  • mgbode

    oden cannot be anything but a backup option at this point until proven otherwise.