Monday, February 20, 2017

Maybe the Best Trades Are the Ones You Don't Make Because You Don't Want To.

The good news for DeMarcus Cousins this morning is that he is no longer a member of the Sacramento Kings. The OK news for Cousins is that he's now with the New Orleans Pelicans. The preceding sentence must be the best news of all for Celtics' basketball boss Danny Ainge.

Deductive reasoning leads us to an inescapable conclusion. Ainge did not want All-Star center Cousins at any price. He couldn't have, since the price the Pelicans paid for him (rookie guard Buddy Hield, veteran Tyreke Evans and their first and second round draft picks this summer) was both absurdly low and an offer the Celtics could have bettered without harming their current and future rosters whatsoever. Ainge has acquired so many future draft picks for the next few seasons commentators and fans have a tough time remembering them. The existing Boston squad, a pretty damn good one according to the NBA standings, has its quota and then some of "nice players" who could be sacrificed to acquire one of the few legitimate centers in the league.

So what wonders what if anything Ainge did offer Sacramento in the much-rumored trade talks over the past couple of weeks. A boxed set of Red on Roundball DVDs? More likely, he offered nothing, but politely listened over the phone as Kings GM Vlade Divac tried to scare up a market for his team's superstar who somehow can't help it win much.

That is not all Cousins' fault. The other Kings are pretty terrible. Some of it, however, is. Cousins is, how to put this politely, apparently not emotionally strong enough to cope with the undeniable stresses of an NBA season without acting out. That's just on the court, which in terms of NBA behavior, is only the visible part of the iceberg. When a bad team gives up on its one All-Star, there's usually a damn good reason for it.

New Orleans must've been aware of those reasons. The Pelicans must also have been aware that there is a long history of NBA big men who've broken their leases with teams in order to be traded away and it's worked out splendidly for the franchises who took on the "problem" centers Right, Wilt? Right, Kareem?

Ainge would not take that side of this rather large bet, even when cold numbers indicate it's an awesome value bet. If there's one thing we've learned from more than a decade of Ainge sitting at the personnel poker table, he's not a tight player. He has made far more than his share of big bets with worse hands than the one he's holding now.

My own wild guess is that Ainge's unwillingness to deal for Cousins has little to do with the latter's personality. More likely it stems from technical basketball analysis, a judgment that integrating Cousins' talents into the 2016-2017 Celtics would be a difficult and time-consuming endeavor that wouldn't be completed by playoff time.

Or maybe Ainge just looks at the cards he's holding and thought "this is what I want to play." That could be correct or not. But it's just as bold a move in its own way as swinging a major deadline deal.


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