BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento is a wildcard for a fringe playoff team, but in Cleveland the center could be the trump card to another championship run. As the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to have front row seats in watching their championship dreams disappear, adding a numbers harlot such as Cousins could be a necessary jolt to the stagnate squad.
Or it could be death to the close knit group. Regardless, the reward far outweighs the risk. The Cavaliers are in a problematic position, but tremendous aspiration always comes with tremendous strife. In this regard, aspirations for a second straight NBA title and third straight NBA Finals appearance have brought about the need for change. Cavs forward LeBron James has gone on record demanding Cleveland add depth to what he termed as a “top heavy” roster. As pundits debate how the King made his request, it does not eliminate or address the merits of the request.
Only social icon and NBA legend Bill Russell can speak to the obstacles of going to six straight NBA Finals and what is required to reach seven. Even the media anointed pillar of mental toughness Michael Jordan retired twice after three straight trips. Such company should award the man some clemency from the novices who have criticized him.
James has never shied away from making the unpopular move (see South Beach) or the audacious move (see exit from South Beach) in pursuit of a title. The forward’s recent cry for more weaponry, quite frankly, is par for the course for a player hell bent on winning.
Above all else, when has Lebron been wrong? If his-story is correct Cavs ownership should be responding to James’ request with “how high”. Management’s response may be more rooted in the frustration of having little to offer, outside of Kevin Love and perhaps an Iman Shupert. Which has solicited the “pardon my back” response from some teams. But the Cavs need to set their sights to the “Land of Kings”, to appease their King.
In six seasons Kings center DeMarcus Cousins has resembled the Minnesota Timberwolves version of Kevin Love. Meaning the center has put up eye-opening numbers too little or no team success, the difference being Cousins has been a lightning rod for attention.
Before Sac-town invests another five years and upwards of $207 million into the center, Cleveland needs to bring to the organization’s attention a few glaring things. Beginning with their record with the mercurial big man (147 – 293), mixing in the teams abysmal attendance (finished 19th or worse every season since “Boogies” arrival) and culminating with the advantage of stability in Love and Shumpert’s contract (both players are signed through the 2018 – 19 season).
Lastly, the addition of Love allows Kings’ management to not just save money, but it will also put an abrupt end to one of the more tumultuous media player relationships in league history. A chance to rid themselves of a player who has irritated, if not alienated, the local media.
In Love Sacramento would receive an All-Star who requires little maintenance and rarely makes waves. Shumpert, recent drug arrest aside, brings defense and toughness without requiring/demanding shots on offense.
A Kings’ roster featuring veterans such as Love, Shumpert and guard Darren Collison would allow first round picks Malachi Richardson and Willie Cauley-Stein more time and opportunities to develop. As much as ownership loves Cousins, a chance at team success along with a community presence should be enticing.
The risk is much greater on Cleveland’s side. In Cousins the Cavs are acquiring one of the game’s biggest talents and one of the game’s biggest enigmas. On the court the center is a beast in isolation plays and is capable of offensive explosions as he currently has 18 games of 30 or more points.
The King would add a different dimension to an already potent Cavaliers club. Cousins’ ability to put the ball on the floor, as well as, score through the flow of an offense would be a match-up nightmare for opposing teams. The big man, unlike Love, can finish over and through the competition. The mercurial center is the current league leader in “and-ones” (48) and three point plays (37). The former Kentucky Wildcat would thrive in the space created by a penetrating Kyrie Irving or a tilted defense preoccupied with James.
Off the court is where the issues begin. However, it is plausible to think the attention of playing with James and consistently having the national spotlight could change the tiger’s stripes.
Lawson would remove those second tier point guard and play-making issues. The guard has been bounced around recently, but was once an established scorer in the NBA (14.2 points per during his team with the Denver Nuggets). Nevertheless, a deal centered on Cousins and the addition of guard Ty Lawson would eliminate most, if not all, of Cleveland’s issues. While possibly creating new ones. Only time and results will tell.
There is a benefit of staying the course and truly getting a gauge of if this team can win a second title as constructed. After all the Cavs have made back-to-back NBA Finals. However, there must be credence placed on James’ demands of adding a play-maker on offense. Previous champions have made drastic roster changes, albeit in the offseason, but none have ventured into the waters the King is currently swimming in.
A deal for Cousins would be difficult to complete, due largely in part to the owner’s infatuation with keeping the player. Then there is the possible chance a move of this magnitude could be catastrophic. Or a move could provide the back-to-back title the King is envisioning and quite possibly allow Cleveland to widen their championship window.
The NBA is ripe with teams who have made disastrous moves to acquire cantankerous players. The Cavs were once one of those teams, filled with those players (Ricky Davis, Delonte West and Darius Miles should come to mind). Now Cleveland is a perennial championship contender in the mist of defending their title.
Management, the fans and the media can debate and analyze the methods James has used to bring about that championship madness. What they cannot and should not debate is its effectiveness. Cleveland’s King has requested more knights there should be no question as to why.