The Bulls are not trading for DeMarcus Cousins. And no one likely is Thursday before the NBA draft.
But not many NBA executives expect Cousins to be with the Sacramento Kings very long, and probably not to begin next season.
Rumors of Cousins being traded - or not, in stern denials by the Kings — has become the big story of draft week, though it’s been around the NBA for much of the last season and active at the past trade deadline with numerous reports of a possible deal with the Boston Celtics.
That was squelched as George Karl replaced interim Tyrone Corbin. But it quickly began to get around that Karl wanted no part of Cousins, less for any personal dislike than for the uptempo, switching defensive sort of game Karl wanted to implement with the woebegone Kings. And not that Karl was wrong. After all, the Kings haven’t made the playoffs in nine years, five with Cousins. Karl is one of the game’s best turnaround coaches, though like many of those guys he gets you much better quickly sometimes amidst long term turmoil.
Though rumors with Boston were prevalent, likely because of general manager Danny Ainge’s eagerness to make another big splash in the personnel pool, Karl was quietly--or as quiet as he can be—urging the Kings to put together a package with his old Denver guys for Kenneth Faried, Ty Lawson and others. It never went anywhere given the Nuggets’ similar dysfunction. And now the thinking is the Kings will just make a deal for Lawson to assuage Karl.
But Cousins doesn’t forget. His “snake in the grass” emoji (bet you didn’t think I knew what it was. Actually didn’t. Had to look it up) was a big time warning sign that this isn’t going to end well. Plus, Karl has a history of wearing down his general managers until they get rid of guys they love and Karl doesn’t, like Kendall Gill in Seattle and Ray Allen in Milwaukee. Undisciplined and a poor practice player, Cousins isn’t likely to respond to the guy trying to run him out despite Karl’s denials after the stories were published. Cousins now also has told the Kings he doesn’t want to play center, which is where he’s best. The Kings will figure this out before too long, though probably after the draft.
But things do change quickly under that ownership. After all, who had Vlade Divac the next general manager? Especially when they asked him about the cap and he put on a San Francisco Giants hat.
As for Cousins—who actually does like to be called Boogie--Boston’s 16 and 28 and a bunch of guys they don’t much want likely won’t do it; nor will the Lakers’ No. 2 pick, which the Lakers are flummoxed about. The consensus around the NBA is Karl-Anthony Towns will go No. 1 to Minnesota and the Lakers will select Duke center Jahlil Okafor. But the Lakers still believe they are—or can be—Showtime. And Okafor is not, a 6-9 or 6-10 low post scorer without great athletic ability, putting them in a slowdown mode with 2014 No. 1 pick Julius Randle, a low post scorer without great athletic ability. Slowtime?
It’s why the Lakers are said still to be looking at the point guards, D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay. Is one the next Kobe? they keep asking themselves. Jerry West apparently is not telling them.
The Timberwolves, Lakers and 76ers are expected to use their picks. But then the Knicks at No. 4 have been much rumored to possibly trade down. One move making the rounds lately has them going to Denver and No. 7 for No. 4 and getting Jusuf Nurkic, the rugged big man the Nuggets got from the Bulls in the two-for-one swap for the rights to Doug McDermott.
Denver then would take one of the point guards, probably Mudiay, enabling them to move Lawson. The Knicks are said to like Kentucky’s Trey Lyles. They also could be interested in shooting big man Frank Kaminsky as Phil Jackson believes in having size with skill.
Boston with those two firsts is anxious to make a move or move up and you don’t hear of any untouchables. Head to the trade machine with them.
Watch Utah and Trey Burke. They’re still looking for a distributing point guard. There should be someone there at No. 12, like Cameron Payne. But they could make a move if there isn’t. They believe they are just that position away from making a big move into the playoffs.
If the Thunder at No. 14 cannot grab a point guard they like they’ve got some big guys they might consider moving even though the rumors have been primarily about reserve guards and swingmen they don’t much use.
The Mavericks at No. 21 are desperate to do something after basically releasing Rajon Rondo, who is essentially seeing his market disappearing. Rondo is said ready to take a one-year deal somewhere to try to reestablish his value.
Clearing space for a free agent like LaMarcus Aldridge or DeAndre Jordan? Kevin Love?
Though the Suns denied rumored interest in moving Eric Bledsoe, they have had a management shakeup and seem to be losing ground in the West. Similarly, for the Nets in the Eastern Conference who have the 29th pick thanks to what seemed like an unnecessary throw-in on the Joe Johnson deal, the swap of picks with Atlanta. You mean they take that salary and they have to give up something? Danny Ferry’s vindication continues.
Golden State wants to unload David Lee’s $15.5 million salary for next season and likely would throw in their No. 30 pick. Good luck with that. No. 30 is often considered the worst pick in the draft since it requires a guaranteed deal while there is no guarantee at No. 31, the first pick in the second round. So it’s not much of a sweetener. Though the Bulls did well with it. See: Jimmy Butler.
The 76ers with five second rounders obviously will try to move several. The Bulls infamously used six draft picks in the 2000 draft, which began their decent into the bottom of the NBA. So the 76ers also could end up with a late first as Nos. 35 and 37, two of their five, could be of interest. Boston has No. 33 as well and is trying to turn all three picks into a player or higher draft pick. The Bucks with No. 17 are said to be interested in making a move for shooting. And there’s Sacramento’s backup of shooting guards with Nik Stauskas behind Ben McLemore.
It’s tough, sometimes, to figure out just what is going on with the Kings amidst reports now of interest in trading Rudy Gay. Again, good luck, with him owed $40 million and grading out poorly in analytics (mid range shooter). Which doesn’t bode well for the Bulls, who need the Kings to get out of the bottom 10 in the lottery the next two seasons to get their draft pick. After that it becomes a second rounder.
Though Orlando has been linked to Croatia’s Mario Hezonja at No. 5 and he is considered a good prospect with toughness and shooting range, the Magic in hiring Scott Skiles have signaled a readiness to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them like Denver package their pick and a player, though for veteran talent given their surfeit of young players and lack of leadership.
Given Taj Gibson’s ankle surgery, previous knee surgeries for Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler’s restricted free agency, the Bulls are essentially out of any serious trade discussions, league sources say. Rival general managers say they have not heard the Bulls involved in any serious scenarios other than using their No. 22 pick.
And what the heck is Miami doing with Dwyane Wade, by the way?
Here’s a guy who sacrificed money twice so the team could improve, first by signing LeBron James and then big money to enable the Heat to make deals for Luol Deng and to retain Chris Bosh. Now they don’t want to pay him, the guy more the face of the franchise than anyone in their history? It’s amazing how little reaction there has been. Imagine the Bulls doing that to Jordan? The Lakers to Magic? The Celtics to Bird? Maybe Miami at No. 10 is planning something big and it’s all a ruse.
It could be one of the more intriguing draft days in recent years.