With few teams possessing the requisite cap space, DeMarcus Cousins will not have a lot of suitors during the upcoming free agency period at the start of next month; however, the Dallas Mavericks are expected to be one of the few knocking on his door and that should worry the New Orleans Pelicans.
It’s no secret that Cousins is firmly on Mark Cuban’s radar. The Dallas owner, who has chased numerous elite players during his time at the helm, called Boogie a top 10 talent in the league three years ago, and the Mavericks were reported to “be near the front of the line” about eleven months later, preparing to pounce if the Kings dropped the ball in upcoming contract negotiations. Soon after, Jaleel Cousins, was catered to as he was signed to the 2016 Summer League team and then later given a contract to play for the Mavericks G League team.
The Dallas franchise remained interested the following year, inquiring about Sacramento’s best player during the All-Star weekend in New Orleans, “but were rebuffed when a Kings representative told Dallas the same thing they were telling Cousins himself: He was not going to be traded.” As we all know, Boogie was indeed moved in a shocking turn of events to the Pelicans. The Mavericks were left in limbo, but over this past month, the chatter’s revived tremendously as multiple outlets have reported that Cousins remains firmly in the team’s crosshairs.
Since Tyson Chandler left town, Dallas has been ignored by Dwight Howard, left at the altar by DeAndre Jordan, and the Nerlens Noel experiment proved to be a flaming disaster. Consequently, with a rich center market to shop from in free agency, many foresee the Mavericks finally plugging their hole in the paint.
While some believe Clint Capela is the most viable option, it doesn’t bode as the likeliest scenario around. Simply put, the Houston Rockets dream of acquiring LeBron James but gutting their roster sounds like a far-fetched one through the eyes and ears of noted writer Lee Jenkins.
“I asked a couple people in Houston about it, and there was sort of a look of, ‘Why would we break this up right now?’
“Because they know everything they would have to give up. They know how many moves they would have to make. And would they be able to preserve the same level of shooting, the same level of defense? And this is people inside the organization. How much would they have to sacrifice of what they built as far as the way they play? Would they’d have to play significantly differently?”
Before doubting his informed opinion, there’s also what Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said once Houston was eliminated from the postseason.
Tilman Fertitta says don’t expect to see a lot of change in the next year. “You don’t mess with success” #Rockets— Lainie Fritz (@KPRC2Lainie) May 29, 2018
“Gotta sign Chris, want to keep Clint.”- Tilman Fertitta— Lainie Fritz (@KPRC2Lainie) May 29, 2018
James Harden and company were one victory away from advancing to the NBA Finals. Chris Paul didn’t play in the last two games of the series against the Warriors. As a team, Houston made just 31.4% of their three point attempts against the World Champs — a far cry from their 36.2% regular season percentage; however, it was a historically inept shooting performance that really short-circuited the Rockets previously thought impossible upset bid chances.
Houston broke an NBA playoff record in Game 7, missing 27 consecutive bombs from the outside. After Eric Gordon connected on a three with 6:43 remaining in the second quarter, the Rockets led by 14 points. For the rest of the game, their team knocked down just one of 30 three-point attempts. Literally, everything that could go wrong on offense did, yet the Golden State Warriors didn’t put a bow tie on the victory until late. Houston’s physicality and being able to match up as well as anyone in the league against the vaunted trio of Steph, Klay and Durant kept them within striking distance.
You don’t kick all those relevant players (Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, Capela) who came so close to appearing in a series for all the marbles to the curb. Spitting in the face of a a league-leading 65-win season to add another ball dominant player to an offense that is already full of possession soakers? Yeah, maybe not even for the greatest player in the game today if it means stripping the roster bare of all the maximum effort guys. Hey, if LeBron, CP3 and other key pieces are willing to make serious salary concessions, fine, but if common sense prevails and the list of players above desire to get paid approximately what they’re worth on the open market, I don’t see it. Sorry, Banana Boat Team.
Thus, the only logical free agent choice for the Mavericks is DeMarcus Cousins, a player who is coming off a ruptured Achilles and whose remaining career is accompanied by tons and tons of doubt. After getting burned for the whole world to see, DeAndre isn’t an option for the same reasons you’re not likely to take back that ex-girlfriend who once cheated on you. Enes Kanter, Jusuf Nurkic and Brook Lopez are not going to move the needle the way a team desperately seeks stardom from a single player.
I know what you are thinking: can Boogie return to All-Star form? Achilles ruptures are no joke and a lot of players who sustained the same injuries failed to reach elite levels for the rest of their careers. Spending the max, or close to it, for any significant length of time is a leap of faith that could very easily backfire.
Despite these risks, I think we should expect Cuban to gamble big.
Remember, grave injury concerns do not easily scare away this Dallas franchise. Cuban didn’t blink when tossing a lot of money, which wound up being a max contract offer, at Wesley Matthews, who was coming off a torn Achilles in his age-28 season. In fact, after shredding his tendon in an early March game over three years ago against the Mavericks, Matthews was reportedly pursued by the Suns, Raptors and Kings that following summer.
Then there’s the fact that Cuban has always been more interested in wins.
“Winning is always the foundation to loyalty,” Cuban recently said to the Dallas Morning News. “Every player knows what the goal of our organization is — to win championships.”
In addition to this motto, let us not forget the position Dallas currently finds themselves in: needing to lift the organization up from the most disappointing season in history — the scars from the hostile work environment story that were created last February remain visibly fresh in all memories. Dismiss the potentially odd fit with Head Coach Rick Carlisle because there are bigger fish to fry. One way to put charges of sexual harassment and domestic violence in the rear view mirror faster is to give suffering fans a lot to cheer about again.
Signing Cousins represents a chance to move past the darkest hour in franchise history while addressing the mammoth hole on the basketball court — even if Boogie’s comeback takes as long as Matthews. If things genuinely break right, the Mavericks could boast a starting lineup of Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Jaylen Brown and Harrison Barnes around the four-time All-Star, who is two years away from potentially signing the veteran 10-year super max. Proving the doubters wrong and having another shot at the biggest of pay days should inspire DeMarcus and remove a lot of the sting after losing out on significant lump of salary these last few years.
If doctors once convinced him to take a chance on Matthews, it shouldn’t be all that hard to push Cuban in the direction of longtime favorite DeMarcus Cousins. And if Dallas’ owner decides to play hardball, he could force the Pelicans to contemplate the luxury tax. New Orleans would then either have to watch Cousins leave for nothing in less than a month’s time — with little ability to replace his talent level on the roster — or re-sign Boogie to a considerably richer contract and hamper future salary cap sheets.
Man, this decision is going to be one tough call for General Manager Dell Demps.