Revisiting A Kevin Love – DeMarcus Cousins Trade

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Should the Cleveland Cavaliers call up the Sacramento Kings about Kevin Love for DeMarcus Cousins trade, again?

Earlier this year, it was seemingly inevitable that Kevin Love would be traded in the offseason. He just wasn’t fitting in.

David Blatt was criticized for his usage of Love but in many ways the bigger problem was the psyche of Love. He was passive. Submissive even. He was relegated to being a spot-up shooter on the outside at 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds and possessing an excellent shooting stroke that extended to the three-point range but was far more deadly at the elbow.

From that spot on the floor, Love could be a true triple-threat. He could either drive and attack an opposing big off the dribble with less real estate needed to get to the rim, shoot, or make the pass. In other words, it was preferable to have Love at the elbow more, rather than always spotted outside of the arc.

It would also have helped for Love to take and make more shots from the inside. Yet, Love was inefficient around the rim and lacked the strength to consistently back down opponents.

Nonetheless, those things didn’t happen and while Love remained a supremely talented by underutilized and somewhat underachieving third star for the Cavs, he was supposed to be a superstar. He wasn’t supposed to be able to be schemed out of games because he couldn’t keep up with the power forwards on the perimeter, the quickness to make timely rotations or have the strength to prevent himself from being bullied in the pain. Yet, those were many of the problems that existed Love last year.

At the same time, in the Western Conference, there was a supremely talented but mishandled superstar that seemed destined to leave the team that he had been drafted by. DeMarcus Cousins, widely considered to be one of the two best big men in the league along with New Orleans Pelicans forward-center Anthony Davis, was on a team that looked like it was heading nowhere fast while playing for a franchise with no direction.

He’s one of the most volatile players in the NBA. Having been drafted into the world of professional basketball at 20-years-old, the face of the Sacramento Kings franchise after being drafted fifth overall in 2010, Cousins has been battling on the court for a franchise who has given him six different coaches in seven seasons. The environment, one of disarray and without a winning culture, had a pronounced effect of Cousins’ behavior on the effect. This isn’t to excuse Cousins, just to paint a better picture of why a player so talented might seem so irrationally irritated when he’s on the court.

With his contract expiring after next year, it was widely thought that Cousins would head for greener pastures.

 The Boogieman’s Present

However, basketball insider Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders has a different perspective of what will happen when Cousins’ contract expires.

Because of the “designated veteran player extension“, the new CBA will allow the Sacramento Kings to pay Cousins far more than any other team, there is a stronger possibility that Cousins will opt to stay with the Kings rather than leave.

In addition,  with the team’s chances of improving through the draft and a trade of Rudy Gay, Cousins may very well be in a different environment soon. One with consistency and capable of winning a championship.

However, Cousins has never one any type of championship since he started playing organized basketball. That’s a factor that may play against the Kings franchise although Cousins will be eligible for an extension for up to 35.0 percent of next season’s salary cap.

Yet, there’s a possibility that Cousins might not resign with the team who trades for him; a team that will have to give up one of it’s best players, if not its best player, in a trade for Cousins. There are teams that could have the package necessary to acquire Cousins. Nonetheless, only a team having playoff success are going to entice Cousins to re-sign.

Those teams aren’t likely to give up the pieces that the Kings need to feel comfortable making a trade for Cousins. They’ll be wary of rocking the boat. Fixing the unbroken.

With Cousins’ volatile attitude and the cameras that will follow Cousins anywhere he goes after a trade, the team will have to be wary of the drama that surrounds Cousins and how it will affect their team chemistry.

Thus, a team has to have strong leaders, playoff success and the guts to trade for Cousins. If Cousins signs an extension, his contract will be so hefty the other team will have to give up two major players. All the while, Cousins will be putting up these types of numbers on a nightly basis, chipping in 1.5 blocks per game to boot.

Per Game Table
Season FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% 2P 2PA 2P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL PTS
2016-17 9.9 21.6 .457 1.8 4.7 .388 8.0 16.9 .476 7.5 9.7 .773 2.1 8.2 10.4 3.5 1.3 29.1
Career 7.5 16.4 .460 0.3 1.0 .324 7.2 15.4 .469 5.4 7.4 .732 3.0 7.8 10.7 2.8 1.4 20.8

These are the types of number that give teams the incentive to make an offer the Kings can’t refuse.

Lots Of Love

As for Love, he’s currently having his best season of his NBA career. He’s been absolutely sensational this season and is having a career-year shooting the ball from behind-the-line, as a free-throw shooter and defensively. He’s certainly the most aggressive he’s been since he’s been in Cleveland but the most important part is that he’s being efficient.

Per Game Table
Season FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% 2P 2PA 2P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL PTS
2016-17 7.0 15.3 .458 2.8 6.8 .407 4.3 8.5 .498 5.2 6.0 .869 2.5 8.5 10.9 1.7 1.1 22.0
Career 6.1 13.8 .445 1.5 4.1 .366 4.6 9.7 .479 4.7 5.8 .818 3.1 8.4 11.5 2.4 0.7 18.5
6 seasons 6.4 14.1 .451 1.2 3.3 .362 5.2 10.8 .479 5.3 6.4 .815 3.7 8.5 12.2 2.5 0.7 19.2
3 seasons 5.7 13.1 .432 2.1 5.7 .372 3.6 7.4 .478 3.7 4.5 .824 2.0 8.0 10.0 2.2 0.8 17.1

A trade for Love, while he’s playing so well within the Big Three and has formed a genuine bond with the team, is going to be impossible. Looking like the player that was deserving of two first overall picks all season, with a 34-point first quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers and has scored 20 or more points in 18 games this season while being efficient, aggressive and displaying his basketball intelligence on both ends of the court.

He’s been playing so well that, although the Cavs called about Cousins’ availability in the summer according to Kyler, there’s probably no way they’d trade Love. Even for a player who may be the best big man in the league.

Is it a mistake?

With the way the Cavs are rolling, it doesn’t seem like it. Aside from the time it would take Tyronn Lue to integrate Cousins into it, there’s a question of if Cousins will play the defense necessary to make a serious difference for the team. While Love isn’t going to stun crowds with a defensive impact that produces highlight-reel blocks, suffocating defense on players on the perimeter or play much low-post defense, he’s typically in the right spots at the right time and able to minimize the impact his lack of athleticism might have on his defensive ability to making the correct rotations and playing with tremendous effort on the defensive end.

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Swapping Love-Boogie

The defense, as opposed to the offense, is the question because with Cousins on the floor the Cavs have a player that can do everything Love can and more as a scorer. Love does have him beat as a passer however, especially on fast breaks.

Cousins, who often gets pushed back by bigger centers and may need to convert some of his “country strong” frame into pure muscle so that he plays better post defense. It can be done and it has been done by Love himself this past offseason. Nonetheless, once he makes this slight alteration to his game he would be the perfect center for the Cavs.

With Tristan Thompson‘s ability to play both power forward and center as well, the Cavs will be able to put Cousins at center where he can guard players closer to his own size. In Sacramento, the fleet-footed Cousins was often playing defense against the opposing team’s power forward, a move that prevents Cousins’ from maximizing his defensive potential. Cousins has proven an ability to stick with the power forwards in the league, having played the position since he was drafted. Nonetheless, his 6-foot-11, 270 pound frame would be better protecting the rim than chasing forwards around the perimeter.

Again, bigger centers are able to push Cousins back in the post but if Cousins dedicates himself to improving his strength in the summertime, there’s virtually no way to see him failing. His body will support the additional muscle well and what the league may have if they give Cousins the environment he needs to maximize his play is a dedicated, focused and determined Boogieman.

Meanwhile, Thompson will be locking down opposing power forwards who are closer to his 6-foot-9, 238 pound frame than the majority of centers in the league. Thompson does an admirable job battling against the bigger players night-in and night-out. Nonetheless, he’s at an advantage against the power forwards in the league. With the league trending towards small-ball, Thompson will often be matched up against power forwards who aren’t as big or strong as traditional power forwards but quicker. With Thompson’s mobility, the opposing big doesn’t have any advantage against Thompson. However, with Thompson’s strength and ferocity inside, the opposing power forward will have his hands full all night.

Currently, the Cavaliers have to hope that Love has improved his physique enough to stick with the opposing team’s power forwards and when other teams go small, the Cavs have to hope that Love can be on the court to guard a even quicker power forward. Against centers, Love is unable to play against all of them; he’ll either be too undersized or unable to protect the rim because of his bounce. Love isn’t a player who jumps to block shots, he’s a player that slides in to take the charge.

With Cousins playing center and being able to guard both frontcourt positions and Thompson playing power forward, the Cavs will be able to have mismatches both offensively as well as opposing coaches try to figure out how guard both Thompson and Cousins inside. Put a forward on Cousins and Cousins will be too big. Put a center on Cousins and Cousins will be too quick. Put a center on Thompson and that means you’re putting a forward on Cousins. Keep the power forward on Cousins and Cousins will be too strong inside. Double-team Cousins from the post and he’ll find Thompson underneath, or pass to the outside for a player to complete the hockey assist.

The best part is that because of Cousins and Thompson’s mobility, as well as Cousins’ proficiency from outside, the Cavs don’t have to play small against teams against the Golden State Warriors.
They can overwhelm the Warriors, an example because of their small-ball dominance and not just their expected meeting with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2017 NBA Finals, inside. With their size, the Warriors may be forced out of the Death Lineup and opt to use Javale McGee and Zaza Pachulia more at center than Draymond Green. That keeps the Warriors from being bullied inside but takes away a playmaker on the perimeter and thus weakens the offensive potential of their team.

Would the Cavs trade Love even for the prospect after having easier victories against the Golden State Warriors? Maybe not this season. However, with a loss to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals who knows. The bigger problem is Kings reluctance to trade Cousins. Nonetheless, because Cousins can not only ask for a trade but because there may a team willing to offer the Kings a package they can’t refuse to Cousins, he may still be available after signing a max extension.

When he signs the max extension it may actually give other teams more of an incentive to trade for Cousins because they know he’ll be a part of their franchise for four more years.

Should the Cleveland Cavaliers and Sacramento Kings still be discussing a trade that centers around DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section or Twitter @KJG_NBA.

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