The Dallas Mavericks emerged from the 2018 NBA Draft with Luka Doncic, possibly the most precocious European prospect of all time. However, the team still has a glaring need for a starting center — enter DeMarcus Cousins?
Mercurial. Passionate. Attitude problems. Misunderstood talent. Turnover prone. Otherworldly skillset. Injury concerns. Proven résumé.
There are few players in the NBA as talented as they are polarizing. DeMarcus Cousins is one of them.
The seven-year pro affectionately known as Boogie has long been considered one of the league’s best centers. In the 48 games he appeared in last season, Cousins posted absurd averages of 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks per game.
On paper, those numbers should undoubtedly make him the best big man in the league but, sadly, there’s almost always a “but” with Cousins.
Detractors are quick to point to his mediocre efficiency and whopping number of turnovers (league-leading 5.0 per game). Couple that with a season-ending Achilles tear and a history of emotional outbursts, on and off the court, and it’s easy to see why this generational talent might fail to land a long, lucrative max contract.
However, with the Mavericks’ obvious need at center, below are five reasons why DeMarcus Cousins should be the first person Donnie Nelson calls when free agency begins on July 1st.
1. Sheer talent and proven résumé
Numbers don’t lie. And the numbers say that Cousins has become one of the most skilled centers the game has ever seen.
He outmuscles and outmaneuvers anyone in the paint. He’s able to stretch the floor with an effortless stroke. He has exceptional passing ability and handles as a big. He regularly dominates foes on the boards. He’ll swipe your pockets or swat your shot.
In terms of talent, Boogie is as close to a complete skillset as anybody. Don’t believe me? Just watch the highlight reel below that puts his versatility on jaw-dropping display.
2. Undeniable (and misinterpreted) passion
Boogie’s passion is undeniable. He’s wired the same way most competitors are — temperamental and prone to emotional outbursts. Unfortunately, these tendencies have earned him a bad rap that is sometimes unjustified.
On the court, DeMarcus’ demeanor is comparable to Russell Westbrook and Draymond Green, two players who are often lauded instead of crucified for their intensity.
Off the court, DeMarcus gets into trouble because of his unapologetic loyalty.
The reported spat in Sacramento occurred because Cousins’ did not appreciate his brother being questioned publicly.
Cursing out the entire Bay Area was a show of unfiltered emotion after beating Kevin Durant and the Warriors — the antithesis of loyalty and fairness in the league.
Boogie’s healthy dose of inner fire has also motivated him to rehab vigorously from his injury. His latest tweet? Footage of him resuming work on the court along with a cryptic message Mavs fans can easily (mis)interpret as a good sign.
3. Dearth of quality centers available
Let’s take a look at the Mavericks’ options this summer for a starting-caliber center:
- Clint Capela – A restricted free agent that is unlikely to leave Houston even if the Mavericks forced Daryl Morey’s hand with a max contract offer.
- DeAndre Jordan – Was once the most hated man in Dallas. Has time healed the wound? It also remains to be seen if he opts out of the final year of his current contract.
- Dwight Howard – Drifted from team to team, racking up bad reviews at every stop after backstabbing the only coach that brought him success. The days of hoping for Dwight in Dallas are long gone.
- Brook Lopez – An underrated player throughout his career but not without flaws. Not a long-term solution as his age and skillset, and he doesn’t align with the Mavericks’ goals.
- Julius Randle – Dallas native who found some success playing small-ball 5 with the Lakers. Young and talented, but severely undersized and costly.
There simply aren’t a lot of good options for Dallas to pursue. The availability of the two best fits (Clint Capela and Deandre Jordan) are contingent on factors outside the Mavericks’ control. Furthermore, while both are solid centers that fit the team schematically, neither player is in the same stratosphere as Demarcus Cousins in terms of talent.
4. Past connections and goodwill
The Mavericks and DeMarcus Cousins are familiar with one another. Aside from some competitive tensions on the court, both sides have spoken glowingly of each other. Below are some tidbits of the back and forth praise back in December of 2016, when the Mavericks’ interest in the big man first went public. These comments were also made during a time when Jaleel Cousins, DeMarcus’ brother, occupied a spot on the Dallas D-League team.
Rick Carlisle: “He’s as big of a matchup problem at the center position as I’ve seen in some time. Just because now he effectively shoots threes, he’s a beast on the inside, he can shoot mid-range and he’s a great passer and an unselfish player.”
Dirk Nowitzki: “He’s an unbelievable player. Probably the best center we have in this league, or one of them. He’s a load down there. He added a 3-point shot last year. He’s one of the toughest players to guard and he can pass, too, out of the double teams. He’s a pretty complete player.”
DeMarcus Cousins: “It’s the Mavericks…I respect them. It’s one of the best franchises in the league. [Mark] Cuban’s a great guy. Rick’s a great guy…I’m flattered [by the trade interest].”
For all the free agents that have passed on the Mavericks, (Dwight Howard, Hassan Whiteside, DeAndre Jordan to name a few) it would be refreshing to land a top talent who legitimately looks forward to playing for the franchise.
5. Possible leverage in contract negotiations
Looking around the league, the Mavericks are one of the few teams that have the need for a star center and the cap space to do it. The competition for Boogie is essentially narrowed down to his current team, the New Orleans Pelicans and the Los Angeles Lakers, who are more likely to prioritize LeBron James.
The Pelicans are presumably favored to keep Cousins in town. The duo of Cousins and Anthony Davis were just starting to hit their stride when an Achilles tear ended Boogie’s year. However, the team promptly traded for marksman Nikola Mirotic, moved Davis to center and upset the third-seeded Blazers before succumbing to the Warriors.
If the New Orleans front office have any reservations about committing a long-term deal to Cousins after his injury and experiencing success without him, Dallas will be in position to propose a fair but team-friendly deal in terms of contract length and team options.
In a time where long-max deals are almost necessary to retain/acquire top-30 talent, such an opportunity is rare.
Entering what may be Dirk Nowitzki’s final season, the Mavericks are doing everything they can to take one more swing at playoff glory. Adding Luka Doncic has kicked things off with a bang, but adding another talent such as DeMarcus Cousins would cap off what could well be looked back on as a historic offseason for the franchise.