At the start of the month, I surmised the Mavericks were well positioned to sign DeMarcus Cousins in free agency, and this belief grew stronger moments after Dallas passed on the selection of any high lottery center in the 2018 NBA Draft.
In hindsight that might have been the wrong take.
With the Mavericks trading away their fifth pick to Atlanta for the Hawks’ third selection — and correspondingly the rights to Luka Doncic, Dallas signaled much more than just the obvious priority of needing to sign a big name free agent center next month; they also detailed the type of big man that could sit atop their wish list.
One of the most integral parts of this equation is the fact that Dirk Nowitzki is likely entering the last season of his career and Dallas desperately needs to find that next face of the franchise. Prior to the draft, DeMarcus Cousins seemed to make for an acceptable answer. Yes, the Kings underhandedly dismissed the multiple All-Star, but Boogie proved his on-the-court character issues were overblown once removed from a chaotic environment. As for his on-going comeback from an Achilles rupture, the 27-year-old is among the younger tier of players to suffer the injury, and Mark Cuban has followed Cousins’ career with great interest. There’s good reason for the affection.
Care to venture the number of players who have averaged 25+ points, 12+ rebounds and 5+ assists in a season like Cousins did in the 2017-18 campaign?
DeMarcus Cousins sits among Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabber, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor and Charles Barkley. For a team in search of a star and willing to take a chance on the rehabilitation of a potentially career-altering injury, Boogie fits the bill...until, of course, you trade away a future first round pick and draft a 19-year-old Euroleague MVP, who is expected to take the torch from an all-time Maverick great.
Rick Carlisle: “We’re very fortunate. Luka Doncic is the guy we targeted in this draft if there was any way possible to do it. ... We get a guy that we think is a franchise foundation piece.”— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) June 22, 2018
In recent days, the Dallas media has written about how the Mavericks are more than comfortable in moving forward with a core of Dennis Smith Jr., Harrison Barnes and Doncic. Some have taken the next logical step and expressly stated that the team doesn’t need to be interested in adding someone to lead this trio but rather complement it.
The list of “Who Could That Center Be?’’ is a long one. On some of the names, we’ve already given you specifics: The Mavs interest in DeMarcus Cousins is not what outsiders think it is. The last time I asked the Mavs about Dwight Howard, the actual response was, “Not with a 10-foot pole,’’ so I’m not going to ask again.
Rather, DeAndre Jordan — yep, the player who embarrassed the Mavericks organization in 2015 — should be back on the radar. Those in the know think Dallas is ready to forgive the Clippers center for yesterday’s sins because he truly makes for the best fit, as Clint Capela is expected to be retained by the Houston Rockets.
I do know that earlier this year, a Mavs source expressed to me the view that Jordan would be best-suited as the “fourth-best player’’ fulfilling a role on a good team. Well, Dallas isn’t there yet. But the youthful foundation suddenly looks more promising now, with Doncic and Junior and Harrison Barnes. Would Jordan “supplement’’ that threesome, offering the added benefit of freeing Dirk Nowitzki from playing center?
Moreover, the Mavs are itching to move past their humiliating workplace issues through becoming a winning organization again. Their immediate needs are to patch up the rebounding and rim defense, so Cousins, who will likely require being treated with kids gloves similar to Rudy Gay on the Spurs last season, cannot yet be counted on anchoring the paint for long minutes. Even if the Mavericks strike out on DeAndre Jordan again, there are other centers available who are ready and able: Hassan Whiteside and Nikola Vucevic to name a few.
DeMarcus Cousins might have been Plan A in Dallas at some point before the 2018 Draft, but with the arrival of Luka Doncic, the signs are there that the Mavericks would prefer to bring in a willing complimentary role player instead of one who loves to grab the bull by the horns. This could be good news for all of those dreaming on seeing Boogie continue his career with the New Orleans Pelicans.