Lakers Rumors: Chatter Surrounding DeMarcus Cousins and NBA Draft Trades

Nate Loop@Nate_LoopFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2015

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins pumps his first after the Kings scored in the closing moments of the Kings 108-101 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

Most years, the Los Angeles Lakers approach the NBA draft with a semblance of calm. The eminently successful franchise is often coming off a strong season with late draft picks and the luxury of being able to take the best player available.

However, keeping in line with recent seasons, Thursday won't be one of those times. The Lakers are in a state of flux, uncertain about who will carry the torch after what will probably be Kobe Bryant's last season. They are also curious as to the development and potential of Julius Randle, while featuring a roster filled with glaring deficiencies at nearly every position.

With so much at stake for a franchise and fanbase unaccustomed to mediocrity, it's little wonder the league is flush with draft and trade rumors regarding the Lakers.

There is always attention paid to Tinseltown, but the spotlight is especially harsh this season. Let's take a look at some of the latest rumors and chatter surrounding the Purple and Gold.

DeMarcus Cousins

Reports indicate something strange is going on behind the scenes in Sacramento—and the Lakers are hoping to capitalize.

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This apparently involves prying DeMarcus Cousins, a budding superstar who averaged 24.1 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game last season, from the beleaguered divisional rival Kings.

Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski wrote on Tuesday that: "Coach George Karl's intense desire to trade the All-Star center has made it increasingly unlikely this coach-star partnership can peacefully co-exist next season."

Wojnarowski also noted which assets the Kings may be looking for in return for giving up who is easily their top homegrown player:

The Los Angeles Lakers have had significant interest with Cousins, but their No. 2 overall pick isn't as appealing to the Kings as finding a deal that includes established, veteran players. [Vivek] Ranadive doesn't want to rebuild with a move into a new arena on the horizon, and Karl is chasing Don Nelson's all-time NBA career victories record. Karl's interest isn't in cultivating long-term assets, but rather compiling as many victories as possible in the near future.

Karl tried to downplay the rumors on Tuesday, telling the Sacramento Bee (h/t ProBasketballTalk's Kurt Helin): "It’s just a lot of crazy, crazy fibs and lies."

When pressed directly on wanting to trade Cousins, however, Karl pivoted: "My interest right now is commitment, trust and building a team that’s excited about being in Sacramento, excited and committed to being a good basketball team and representing the city of Sacramento."

If the Kings really are chasing established players, it's difficult to see what package the Lakers might come up with that would even come close to approximating Cousins' value.

Guard Jordan Clarkson showed promise as a rookie last year, but he's still quite raw. Center/forward Jordan Hill could fill in at Cousins' position, although his contract might complicate matters. Hill has a $9 million club option for the upcoming season, per Spotrac. Nick Young would be another possible veteran with whom to part ways, but he had a down year, shooting just 36.6 percent from the field.

Hill, Young, Clarkson or a signed-and-traded Ed Davis wouldn't be the only players the Lakers might send to Sacramento, and other forces could be working in their favor, per CBS Sports' Ken Berger:

"Cousins' agent, Dan Fegan, would like to steer his client to the Lakers, who can offer Julius Randle and this year's No. 2 pick—though rival teams doubt the Kings would send Cousins to a division rival."

Cousins' could be the most important factor in this saga, but other contenders might still trump L.A.'s best offers. The Boston Celtics would appear to be a strong suitor, as it has the 16th and 28th first-round picks and can package any number of veteran players at myriad positions, from Isaiah Thomas to Kelly Olynyk to Jared Sullinger.

If there is any actual chance the Lakers can acquire a player of Boogie Cousins' caliber, it's an opportunity they should pursue aggressively. He's one of the league's best centers, and there's no guarantee that potential No. 2 pick Jahlil Okafor will become the player Cousins already is.

At 24 years old, Cousins is young and talented enough to lead a team for years to come and would make a fine cornerstone of any title contender.

Trading Picks With Philadelphia?

Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

Even if the Lakers lose out on the DeMarcus Cousins sweepstakes, they may not stand pat at the 2015 NBA draft on Thursday. Berger writes that they could find another moribund NBA franchise willing to swap picks at the top of the draft:

League sources say the Sixers want D'Angelo Russell and are willing to trade up from the No. 3 spot to get him. It would create an interesting opportunity for the Lakers, who could still get Jahlil Okafor and extract a future pick in the process. Among others, the Sixers control the Lakers' 2016 first-round pick, which is top-3 protected.

While many mock drafts have the Lakers snagging Okafor with the No. 2 pick, the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan notes the team may have serious interest in drafting Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell:

"But the NBA's recent shift to a space-and-pace mind-set—thank you, Golden State—is partly why the Lakers are strongly considering Ohio State point guard D'Angelo Russell after he shot extremely well during a workout for the team."

In terms of the current roster, the Lakers would appear to have a much greater need for Okafor than Russell. Losing Davis is a distinct possibility, and the declining Hill's club option would leave the Lakers with greater flexibility to pursue free agents.

Los Angeles already has a budding option at guard in Clarkson, who averaged 11.9 points and 3.5 assists per game as a rookie, and Bryant is likely going to soak up another backcourt spot for another year.  

But drafting Okafor doesn't get the Lakers any other future assets. Making Philly sweat over Russell certainly could—as Berger points out, the Lakers have a 2016 first-rounder tied up with the Sixers as part of the disastrous Steve Nash deal. According to NJ.com's Eliot Shorr-Parks, Philadelphia also has four first-rounders in 2016 and five second-round picks this year.

The Lakers do need bodies to fill out the roster. With Bryant likely retiring and no guarantee of snagging Cousins, putting a full-on youth movement in motion via trade might be their best course of action come Thursday night.


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