DeMarcus Cousins for Kevin Love
DeMarcus Cousins for Kevin Love (Rick Bowmer/AP Photo)
The Cleveland Cavaliers are in “strugglesville”. The New Orleans Pelicans are in nowheresville with a 26-21 record, despite having two All-Star Starters (Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins). The NBA Rumor Mill has been milling away lately and there are more than a few people saying the Cavaliers and Pelicans may be cooking up a deal that could include DeMarcus Cousins for Kevin Love and the 2018 Brooklyn Nets 1st Round pick. Since this is a scenario that would have some compromises for both teams, I’ll be using the greatest problem-solving tool of all: the famous pros-and-cons list.

Pro: Kevin Love is a workable fit next to Anthony Davis

Davis has made it clear on numerous occasions that he doesn’t want to be a center. Offensively, that makes sense. At this point in his career, he hasn’t really developed a consistent 3-point shot. However, since his arms and legs stretch into infinity, he’s basically one dribble from the basket anywhere inside the half-court line. He’s a good mid-range shooter (58% on 2 pointers, per Basketball-Reference.com), but has often counted his ability to finish at the basket as his bread and butter. Defensively, Davis plays more like a center, but, a center from the future. Like… distant future. He’s fast enough to cover perimeter players on the wing, as well as long enough to protect the rim effectively.

His strengths and weaknesses would fit together with Love’s well. Love has become a solid 3-point shooter, he rebounds very well, and is definitely a starter on the all-time “Did You See How Far He Threw That Pass?” team. But, despite proving to be an opportunistic defender as of late (11 steals in the first three finals games last season), Love is still historically regarded as a minus on the defensive end. He would certainly benefit from a rim protector like Davis backing him up.

In a perfect world, on defense, Davis would play power forward and Love, center, and on offense, vice versa.

 

Con: Love is specifically a finisher, like Davis

Although Love is known for his mastery of the full-court outlet pass, he is far from a traditional distributor on offense. In Minnesota, he was the starter AND the finisher on offense. In Cleveland, he’s surrounded by better players (including possibly the best player in the league, LeBron James), so his main role has been as a shooter. This year, he’s only averaging 1.6 assists, which barely better than Dwight Howard (1.3 assists). And we all know… Dwight ain’t passing to nobody.

Pro: DeMarcus Cousins is an extremely gifted offensive player

It truly is remarkable to watch Boogie play offense. He can shoot (36% from 3, on over 6 attempts per game), he’s a skilled passer (averaging 5.2 assists, unheard of for someone who is 6-11 and 270 lbs), he rumbles through traffic as a ball handler, and can be cruel as a powerful dunker and slick finisher. He’s a fantasy owner’s dream.

Con: The Cavaliers don’t need any more offense-only players

The Cavs are great at a lot of things: scoring, shooting, dribbling, and… scoring. One thing the Cavs aren’t so great at is defense. Somehow, the defending Eastern conference champs are now ranked 29th in the league in defensive rating, just above the Sacramento Kings. That’s not the kind of company you want to keep. The key to an average defense is effort, and the Cavs clearly do not give much of it during the regular season. Adding Boogie to that mix sounds like taking a sandwich full of garbage and trying to make it better by adding more garbage. Boogie is the MVP of making his team play 5-on-4 on defense because he decided to mosey his way back on defense. Needless to say, he most likely would not be a plus on defense for the Cavs.

Pro: The Pelicans still have a chance to get value for Cousins before his contract is up at the end of the season

The Pelicans are clearly scouring every wall in southern Louisiana, hoping to find the writing regarding if Cousins will re-sign and stay in NOLA. If they get an inkling he will not, it’s in their best interest to try to trade him for something rather than allow him to walk in free agency. At that point, the Pelicans know that win-now teams (like Cleveland or possibly Washington) would be willing to take a chance on a rental and hope that they might be able to woo him into signing a long-term deal.

Con: The Cavaliers would want to know if Cousins would sign with them over the summer

The problem with this scenario is no one can read Boogie’s mind. He’s known as somewhat of a locker room problem, and with players like that, it’s hard to know what their long-term plans are. It is possible that Boogie likes the idea of playing with an all-time great like LeBron, and becomes a more balanced version of himself. It’s also possible that LeBron walks in free-agency and Cousins would once again be stuck as a “good stats, bad team” guy. Or, Boogie could just walk out the door after the season, and the Cavs lose lose a possible top-10 1st round pick in the process.

Pro: The Pelicans need a talented young wing player, and could use the Nets pick in 2018 draft to get one

The Pelicans are somehow both exceeding and falling short of expectations this season. On one hand, the Boogie/Brow combo is averaging around 50 points, 23 rebounds, and 8 assists per game. On the other hand, the team’s still only 26-21 as of Jan. 25. One reason for their middling performance is their supporting cast. Coming into the season, there was an argument to be made that the two best shooters on the team were their two tallest players (Cousins and Davis). Not a great place to be in this version of the NBA. If you don’t have a wealth of shooting, you’re going to struggle to win games. Luckily for New Orleans, the Brooklyn pick will likely fall in spots 7-10 of the draft. This would be a perfect spot to pick up an effective young wing to bolster the offense. According to nbadraft.net, Collin Sexton is listed as possibly being available at the 8th spot (Cleveland’s projected pick, via the Nets pick) and could be a great addition to the team as a shooter who can get hot, and score off the dribble.

Con: The pick might not be as valuable as it was when Cleveland got it last summer

When the Celtics got the fabled Nets 2018 first-round pick in 2013 for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry, it was a win-now move for Brooklyn and a look-towards-the-future move for Danny Ainge and the Celtics. Five years later, that trade looks awful. When the Celtics were looking to make a big trade, every team knew they had that particular piece and it would take that pick to get a big name in return. Now that Cleveland traded Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and Brooklyn’s 2018 first-rounder, the Brooklyn pick is losing value at an alarming rate.

As of Jan. 25, the Brooklyn Nets are 18-30. That’s certainly not on pace to compete for a championship, but they are only 20 wins away from equaling their win total from last year. Additionally, they’ve stayed mostly competitive this year, despite being without arguably their best player (D’Angelo Russell) for most of the season. As they keep winning games, the odds of the Brooklyn pick staying in the lottery get lower and lower, like the chances Jahlil Okafor will ever play any meaningful minutes in the NBA.

 

Pro: Getting Cousins would be another win-now move for the Cavaliers

Bringing Boogie onto a struggling Cavs roster could very possibly be what that lineup is missing. He’s strong, a good rebounder, versatile scorer, a skilled distributor, and would feast on all the wide-open looks LeBron gets for his teammates. While the perception around the league is the Cavs could not care less about the regular season, this season appears to be different. They aren’t able to flip a switch and destroy teams like they have in the past, and a guy like Cousins who can do it all on offense could be what it takes to rev up a bored and uninspired Cavs roster. Also, if the Cavs make it out of the Eastern Conference playoffs, they’ll most likely have to face a team like the Golden State Warriors or the Houston Rockets. While history shows that it’s really tough to out-Warriors the Warriors by out-shooting them, a lineup of Isaiah Thomas, JR Smith, LeBron, Jae Crowder, and DeMarcus Cousins is dang sure gonna try.

Con: Cavs don’t know if LeBron will re-sign, and they may be reticent to trade an extra first round pick

With the uncertainty surrounding LeBron James and if he’ll remain in Cleveland after the season or sign a deal with another team, the future-planning the Cavs want or need to do is on hold. So, say you trade Kevin Love and the 2018 Nets pick for DeMarcus Cousins. If LeBron leaves Cleveland, does a roster of aging has-beens and under-developed young players in Cleveland, OH sound like a place Cousins would sign?! I haven’t played truly organized basketball since middle school, and I don’t know that I’d sign there once LeBron left. I do call for a lot of successful alley-oop layups in pickup ball, though.
This possible trade scenario is not one that would bring the NBA to its knees, but it could make two teams better. It also might not move the needle at all, in terms of teams being able to truly challenge the Warriors in a seven-game playoff series. But, what it would do is change the landscape and future of at least two franchises that desperately something to change in order to move on. Also, doesn’t it feel like 10 years have passed since the Cavaliers won the NBA championship? I feel like I still had braces then, and I’ve actually never had braces.