For the better part of this year, Detroit Pistons fans have eagerly anticipated this month.
Unlike past years, it is not because of a potential NBA Finals run that became typical of the 2000's squad.
Given that the Pistons were seemingly out of playoff contention by December, the fans were looking forward to this month because of the promise of a new dawn in the Motor City.
Pistons fans were looking for that new franchise savior that would deliver the team from mediocrity and bring them back to their rightful place amongst the Eastern Conference elite.
Those hopes were momentarily tempered when the lottery balls bounced in an unfavorable way, instead giving the Philadelphia 76ers the vaunted position of unlikely leapfrogger.
Nevertheless, the Pistons still have an upper echelon lottery pick, and with it the responsibility to choose wisely. This is the most important draft team in president Joe Dumars' career, and arguably the most crucial pick in franchise history.
Choose wisely, and the team is a few moves from jumping right back into relevance; choose poorly, and heads will fly and the rebuilding will take a major step backward.
Given the stakes involved and the players available, it should surprise no one that Dumars will do everything he can to secure former Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins.
The only question is whether or not this will be a wise decision.
The Case for Cousins
Make no mistake about it; this draft is a fairly deep one on talent, but very thin in upper echelon talent.
John Wall is probably the only sure-fire star in this draft. Sure, he will have to develop his jumper, but he has a swagger that will likely lead to great things.
Evan Turner has a lot of skill and is a very talented scorer, but where exactly is he going to play? He is not a natural point guard, and his jump shot is way too shaky for him to be a top-notch shooting guard.
Wesley Johnson has all the tools to make him a star, but his desire has to be in question. There were just too many times that he disappeared last year for Syracuse.
This leads us to the big men of the draft. There are arguably four or five power forward/centers that warrant a top 10 selection, but each comes with plenty of question marks.
Derick Favors has great athleticism and the potential to become another Antonio McDyess or Amar'e Stoudemire. But he also needs to bulk up and show that he can score against NBA talent.
Greg Monroe has a silky smooth jumper and a great back-to-the-basket game, but questions about his toughness and athleticism abound.
Ed Davis and Ekpe Udoh are both talented defenders with plenty of athleticism, but neither has shown an ability to score at the next level.
This leads us to the biggest question mark in the draft: Cousins.
Cousins has a myriad of issues that we will discuss later, but first let's take a look at what he does well.
He is the only true, legitimate big man in this draft. His size, athleticism and strength are unmatched in this or any recent draft. Quite simply, he is a beast near the hoop, capable of taking over games in the paint.
He loves the game, and he seems to love contact. When given the option of going around or through people, he quite simply removes the option and goes on his way. Toughness, like size, is not something that can be taught.
And Cousins has both.
He also has tremendous footwork for a big man. Not since Shaquille O'Neal have we seen a man so big move so well.
Quite simply, Cousins could become a dominant big man in the league.
The (Big) Case Against Cousins
Where to begin on this one. Simply put, Cousins has some issues.
Just as often as you hear comparisons to some of the game's great big men, you also will hear comparisons to Benoit Benjamin, John "hot plate" Williams, and Shawn Kemp the latter years. Cousins not only has an appetite for the ball, but he has an appetite for sundae bar.
Basically, Cousins has the potential to eat himself out of the league due to his large frame and some serious discipline issues. After his season ended in late March, Cousins had just one job—get in shape for the NBA Draft Combine where he would be poked and prodded by NBA executives determined to avoid wasting millions on a potential bust.
So what did Cousins do? Packed on the weight to the tune of nearly 300 pounds and a ridiculous 16.4 percent body fat. Not only did this show a lack of discipline, but to NBA executives, this showed a shocking lack of maturity.
When you know that the biggest opportunity of your life is weighting for you, why would you chance it? Basically, it's like going on an all-night bender the night before taking the SAT's, or better yet, holding off until the day before a winning lottery ticket expires and then waiting until closing time to cash it in.
Additionally, there had been whispers about maturity issues surrounding Cousins before, and the weight issue added fuel to the flame.
Watching Cousins play last year, it was easy to notice from time to time that he vanished from the game, and appeared to sulk at points.
Overall, most people agree that he is just too much of a gamble, despite the fact that he may be the single most talented player in this draft.
Why Dumars Loves Cousins
After reading the assessment of Cousins, it should shock no one who follows Detroit sports that Dumars loves Cousins.
Take a look back at Dumars' time as the top man with the Pistons.
He built a championship out of players that other teams had given up on (Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups), that other teams had labeled as bad apples (Rasheed Wallace), and that other teams had overlooked (Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince).
In subsequent years, Dumars rolled the dice on the likes of McDyess, Kwame Brown, Rodney Stuckey and a host of others who NBA people had written off for assorted reasons. Bad apples and reclamation projects are what Dumars does.
Secondly, Dumars is committed to re-establishing this team's identity as one built around toughness and love for the game. Cousins embodies both of those qualities to the fullest degree. What better way to bring back a culture of toughness than to bring in the toughest big man to come out of the draft in a decade.
Thirdly, Dumars is confident that he has the veteran leaders needed in order to mature Cousins and show him the ropes. In one way or another, Dumars will get Ben Wallace to return, if for no other reason than to be the Crash Davis of this team and turn Cousins into the player he wants him to be.
Lastly, Dumars' job is on the line. He needs this pick to be a winner, and the big man with unquestionably the highest ceiling is Cousins. Dumars needs a home run, and the other bigs are likely just singles or doubles. Cousins could be a strikeout, but he also could be a dinger.
Three Ways This Will Happen
There are three ways that this trade will happen, and all will involve some luck and ability.
First, Dumars can hope that Cousins falls to Detroit with the seventh pick. This could happen, but this is probably the least likely scenario. Cousins may scare away a lot of general managers, but nobody wants to pass on a potential cornerstone player (just ask Portland GM Kevin Pritchard).
Second, Dumars can make a trade before the draft begins. Rumors have been swirling that Philadelphia, Golden State and Minnesota are interested in trading down, and Dumars likely will give them some thought.
Philly apparently wants any team to rid them of Elton Brand, who has a ridiculous contract. Golden State would likely want one of the Pistons' young guys like Austin Daye or Jonas Jerebko, and Minnesota will probably try to part with Al Jefferson in any potential deal.
This seems like a very strong possibility, and it all comes down to how much they are asking for. If it comes down to Dumars having to part with someone like Stuckey in order to get Cousins, I could see him pulling the trigger.
The last possibility is that a team which selects before Detroit picks Cousins and then essentially holds him for ransom to the highest bidder. I could easily see Minnesota doing this if they are unable to draft either Johnson or Turner.
Again, this puts Dumars in a situation where he will have to determine just how much he wants his man.
The bottom line is that Dumars will likely have the opportunity to select Cousins if he really wants him, but he will have to make some tough decisions in the process and likely break up some of his young nucleus.
Good Call or Bad Call?
Overall, Pistons fans should be scared to death of this draft. On the one hand, Dumars appears focused on one guy, and he is confident he can be the player he hopes he will be. On the other hand, very few things that Dumars has done over the past five years should inspire a sense of confidence in the Pistons front man.
He has had disastrous signings (Charlie Villanueva among others), disastrous trades (Allen Iverson anyone?) and a less than magical touch when it comes to player assessments (Rasheed Wallace instead of Memo Okur, Hamilton's extension). Chances are that knowing that Dumars has his mind made up about someone should send warning signs down your spine.
However, in the years that led up to the Pistons title, Dumars showed a Midas touch when it came to players that were questionable. And at the very least, you should be curious about whether or not Dumars sees something that you may not.
Bottom line, Cousins is likely coming to Detroit. The only question is whether he will be more like Tim Duncan or Oliver Miller.