DeMarcus Cousins: An Idiot's Guide to Getting Traded in the NBA

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterJanuary 1, 2013

SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 19: DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings stands on the court during their game against the Golden State Warriors at Sleep Train Arena on December 19, 2012 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

There's officially a science to getting traded in the NBA. You can't just request a trade like it's an aisle seat.

It's an art form with complexities that center around timing. Timing is everything when making a trade, whether you're the general manager looking to act or a player looking to bolt.


The Trade Demand

The trade demand is ugly. Neither party wants any part in it. The league actually fines a player if he demands a trade publicly. Just ask Stephen Jackson.

What a trade demand really does is create an awkward situation where the GM must decide if he wants to jeopardize his team's chemistry or future roster.

DeMarcus Cousins is currently in the midst of a fit that resembles an angry child not getting their way at Toys"R"Us.

In an attempt to get himself traded, Cousins is perpetuating the belief that he's a headcase and unstable. He's recently been suspended for talking back to his coach and his teammates are tired of him.

Cousins is probably thinking, "How could they not trade me?"

But the trade demand isn't that simple. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.


Recognizing Leverage

In 2010, Carmelo Anthony found himself in the final year of his contract in Denver. He made it known that he was unlikely to re-sign and wanted to go to New York. Rarely does a player hold all the cards in the deck, but in this case, 'Melo was in charge.

A contract year is the ideal time to demand a trade, if you're the player of course. If the team declines to satisfy the player's request, it risks losing him for nothing in free agency.

In this case, Anthony was only willing to play for New York, which means teams interested in trading for him were unwilling to offer a substantial package without a guarantee 'Melo would re-sign with them.

The Bulls didn't want to deal Joakim Noah just so they could have 'Melo for half the year before he signs elsewhere in July.

'Melo got his wish by forcing Denver's hand. By making it clear he wasn't going back to Denver and that he wanted to be in New York, he eliminated outside offers while strengthening the Knicks' offer.

DeMarcus Cousins would have no leverage in a trade demand right now. He's still got two years left on his rookie deal, so he can't threaten to leave after the season the way 'Melo could.

If you're going to demand a trade, you have to know the right time to do it.


Measuring Value

Whether you're the general manager making a trade or the player demanding one, measuring value is key to the process.

In terms of basketball value, DeMarcus Cousins is up there with some of the brightest stars in the league because of his age, price and ceiling. He's young, he's currently cheap and he's got the potential to be great for a very long time.

A guy like Stephen Jackson can request a trade in a non-contract year because he's not worth the headache in terms of value. Cousins is, which is why a trade demand would be pointless.

You don't trade something that valuable without getting equal value in return, which is difficult to find. If teams have that kind of equal value on their roster, chances are they're not looking to trade it.

Orlando wanted to comply with Dwight Howard's trade request knowing it would lose him for nothing over the summer, but it couldn't find equal value. That, along with Howard senselessly waiving his early termination option, is why it took so long for a deal to get done.


When to Pull the Trigger

Usually, if a player turns down an extension, that's a green light for a trade. When the Thunder offered James Harden a $55.5 million extension, they essentially gave him the choice of playing for $4.5 million less than the max in Oklahoma City or playing for the max in a city that he has no control over.

I'm not sure Harden knew he was getting traded when he turned down the extension, but GM Sam Presti did. He flipped the soon-to-be free agent faster than you can say "smelly beard" in a quick, painless act.

You make a trade if a player on your roster isn't in the long-term plans, whether that's by your choice or his. The Hornets didn't want to trade Chris Paul, but they had to. 

The Kings don't have to trade DeMarcus Cousins, at least not right now. They're still in the middle of the room and have enough time to figure out how to keep from being cornered.