The Risks Associated with DeMarcus Cousins

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Published: February 21, 2017

Most are saying the New Orleans Pelicans fleeced the Sacramento Kings in the blockbuster trade which brought DeMarcus Cousins to the Crescent City. Some have even gone as far as saying there are no downsides to this deal.  And while the Pelicans gave up very little to bring in a player the caliber of Cousins, that isn’t quite true.

There is no doubting Cousins’ on court ability and production, but the big question mark has always been attitude/effort/temperament. I spoke to Leo Beas (@beasleo) of Cowbell Kingdom in today’s edition of Locked on Pelicans and he gives some great insight into why Pelicans fans should be a bit concerned. Give it a listen:

Akis Yerocostas (@Aykis16) from Sactown Royalty also has a similar opinion of the deal and Cousins:

For Sacramento, this was a trade meant to signal a fresh start. In all honesty, it probably should have happened a while ago before the Kings devoted so much time and energy into trying to build a team around Cousins. Cousins himself is a phenomenal player; He can pretty much do anything on the court and he keeps improving his game year after year. But Cousins isn’t good enough to carry a team by himself like some other superstars, and he comes with baggage as well. Cousins is volatile, and for a lot of fans and people within the organization, his act on the court when he didn’t get his way grew tiring. It was frustrating to watch him sit on one end of the floor and complain while the other team ran on the other end to score.

The Kings had their chances to build around Cousins and get him the teammates that might have made this a winning team, but too many draft busts and poor decisions (like letting Isaiah Thomas go for nothing or firing Mike Malone) meant the Kings were too asset poor to do anything. Unfortunately the Kings realized this too late.

Now Cousins is paired with Anthony Davis, easily the best player he’s ever been paired up with in the NBA. Jrue Holiday isn’t chopped liver either. There will definitely be a learning curve as Cousins gets used to not having the ball as much and Davis learns to play off of him, but if they can figure it out, they could be a dominant frontcourt pairing for a long time. More than anything, Cousins wants to win. He’s now in the best situation he’s ever been for that, and he’s also done a lot of growing up since his early years in Sacramento. There will be times when fans get frustrated with DeMarcus, but I suspect before long he’ll become a New Orleans fan favorite. I am not looking forward to facing the Pelicans anytime soon.

Despite sounding tired of the attitude issues, there is optimism here. First impressions matter and you have to figure Cousins would like to change the perception of him around the league. But other than expecting him to be a model citizen—at least for the remainder of this season; next year is a bit more up in the air—the attitude issues aren’t a huge concern to me.

The Pelicans spent the offseason trying to build a new locker room culture. You’ve heard the phrases “blue collar desperate” and all the talk about work ethic. Jrue Holiday and Solomon Hill are strong locker room influences. Cousins isn’t going to come in and destroy all that has been built like a house of cards.

And if he does? Well, Cousins didn’t suddenly lose his value around the league. The Pelicans could flip him this offseason or before the trade deadline next year for a first round pick. Or, if they simply let him walk after next year, this trade is effectively done. The Pelicans don’t owe any other first round pick to Sacramento. This deal is nowhere near similar to the deal between the Celtics and Nets which cripples Brooklyn’s future. Yes, some assets were given up, but the Pelicans had to gamble on a risky move if they wanted to become competitive.

Now, there is one more potential risk involved with this deal, but I’ll save that for tomorrow.

But with what the Pelicans gave up to bring Cousins to the Big Easy those risks look rather small right now.

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