Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins has been anything but under the radar during his first three years in the NBA, making headlines for both his on-court talent and attitude when things aren't running smoothly.
There's been a lot of both—Cousins holds steady career averages of 16.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists in three seasons, and the Kings have yet to make the playoffs during his time with the franchise.
That streak includes two drafts where Sacramento had a lottery pick inside the top 10, only to select Jimmer Fredette and Thomas Robinson with the two selections. Neither has panned out so far, and Robinson was traded to the Houston Rockets in the middle of his rookie season.
Considered one of the league's "bad boys," Cousins has clashed with both of his head coaches—Paul Westphal and Keith Smart—as the Kings prepare to bring in a third (former Golden State assistant Mike Malone) to revitalize the franchise that received new life in the form of avoiding relocation to Seattle.
Although the buzz around the Kings is bigger and better than ever now that the future of the city and the team are secure, one future that is not so secure is that of the 22-year-old center.
Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee caught up with the embattled forward recently and he's done nothing to finally squash rumors that his time with the Kings is going to be long term, blurting out an inefficient "no comment" when asked about the direction in which the franchise is moving.
Let the trade rumors begin. Here's an excerpt from Jones' report, chronicling what many feel is a make-or-break time in the Cousins-Kings relationship:
His agent, Dan Fegan, has instructed Cousins not to speak on anything relating to the Kings team, management or ownership. Cousins is eligible for a contract extension this summer, and Fegan wants a maximum deal for his client with the threat of a trade demand looming if a deal isn't reached.
With that information planted in your mind, it's important to note that teams often make trades right before or during the NBA draft. Sacramento owns the No. 7 pick, a phenomenal talent in Cousins who will draw league-wide interest and a roster that needs upgrading either way.
Cousins has even caught the eye of the United States' mens' basketball team—he'll be heading for a minicamp for Team USA in July, as Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports on Twitter:
If Sacramento can't find a way to reach the terms of the contract extension he wants or otherwise keep him happy in the final year of his rookie salary, then it might be time to officially open up the phone lines to a potential trade partner.
Here are three teams that should up their pursuit of Cousins if it becomes painfully clear that his future no longer resides with the Kings.
If the fact that the Mavericks had only seven players on the current roster isn't enough, the Mavericks are starved for a potential suitor to one day take over the throne that Dirk Nowitzki has sat in for the past decade and change.
ESPN's Chad Ford mentioned the Mavericks as one of three teams (Charlotte Bobcats and Cleveland Cavaliers the others) that would have legitimate interest in the young center, and why not? Dallas didn't get the production it expected from Chris Kaman last year and Cousins is a legitimate star in the making—one that Dallas continues to chase in free agency even this offseason.
Tim MacMahon called it a "long shot" that Cousins winds up with the Mavs at the end of the NBA offseason in his NBA piece, but stranger things have certainly happened with respect to making a trade happen.
The Mavericks would no doubt be willing to part with the No. 13 overall pick to make it happen, but as MacMahon notes, the future obligation to give a first-rounder to the Oklahoma City Thunder (via Los Angeles Lakers thru Houston Rockets) will keep "future draft picks" out of any conversation.
A cap dump that included a bad contract (John Salmons, Marcus Thornton) might entice the Kings to find a way to get rid of Cousins, but a third team would no doubt need to be in the mix for Dallas to make this trade happen.
Still, Dallas has to have a backup plan if Dwight Howard and Chris Paul don't end up teaming up with Nowitzki by the end of the 2013 calendar year. Cousins is anything but "backup" material based on talent alone, but he has some growing up to do to be the unquestioned star a new team would need him to be.
He'd have a solid support group and one of the NBA's best all-time players to lean on, and this would be a good match for both sides if Dallas fails in its efforts for the Howard-Paul-Nowitzki trio.
A formal rumor hasn't been substantiated so far when it comes to the Wizards and Cousins, but there's more than enough information to suggest that Washington would love to have him in its lineup in the near future.
ESPN's Bill Simmons conjectured about a trade just hours after the Wizards won the third pick in the draft after the lottery in May:
For starters, Kentucky teammate John Wall is the leader of the Wizards, and his second-half return from injury was enough to suggest that the franchise is just one or two pieces away from putting together a contender in the East.
Wall and Cousins go way back, and make sure to mention each other all the time on Twitter, too:
Washington owns the No. 3 pick in the draft, so Sacramento would have its sights set on acquiring that pick and keeping No. 7 to load up with first-round talent in a rebuilding effort for Malone.
Cousins, Wall and Bradley Beal would form a potent threesome in Washington. And even if the Wizards couldn't find a way to keep the No. 3 pick, with Cousins coming to town and reuniting with Wall, the Wizards would be on their way to developing an emerging starting five next season.
Cleveland is mentioned as one of the three teams that will be interested in Cousins in Ford's report, and with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters already in the fold and the No. 1 pick as trade bait, Cleveland has a lot to offer the Kings in any potential trade.
Bolstered by the fact that we're a week away from the draft and Cleveland still doesn't have a clear-cut choice for the No. 1 pick, Cousins is going to be better right away than any of the potential options (Nerlens Noel, Alex Len) that Cleveland would find at center in the draft.
Additionally, the Cavs could move Cousins to the power forward spot if Anderson Varejao gets fully healthy, a move that would make even more sense if the Cavs sent Tristan Thompson to the Kings in any deal that includes the No. 1 overall pick.
If Cleveland could find a way to keep the No. 19 pick, there's a good chance it could still find a way to bolster the wing situation behind the starters even without that top pick in the draft.
Let's face it—Cousins could be the NBA's best center if he gets his act together over the next few seasons.
Even if the Cavs must surrender multiple draft picks, they have four to work with, so they won't have to completely sacrifice their future in this specific draft to find a player who could form a fearsome one-two tandem with another burgeoning star—Irving.
All three of these teams are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to finding a potential match for Cousins, but with cap space to absorb a large extension, assets enough to open the phone lines and a change of scenery all being offered, these three franchises are a good place to start.
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