He’s had plenty of opportunities to trade for the six-time All-Star over the years. Ainge’s treasure trove of assets was certainly still in flux ahead of the NBA’s trade deadline back in 2017 – when the Sacramento Kings shipped Cousins, alongside Omari Casspi, to New Orleans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, its 2017 first-round, and a second-round pick.
With Tyler Zeller as the team’s lone “true center” behind Al Horford and Kelly Olynyk, Cousins’ name was certainly linked to the Celtics in terms of potentially filling a void the team needed at the time and Cousins’ style of play – a versatile scorer who can defend at a high level – fit the mold. Last summer, Cousins was linked to the Celtics, yet again.
Days before the start of free agency, Al Horford agreed to sign with the Philadelphia 76ers and, it left some to speculate that maybe Ainge would consider taking a risk. According to Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald, the Celtics – a team fresh off of a tumultuous Kyrie Irving-led season – feared reeling in a guy like Cousins could stir drama.
It’d be difficult to argue things have changed with Cousins since then. We haven’t been able to see it due to a torn ACL he suffered last August while working out with Team USA in Las Vegas. And when a window, because of the three-month layoff, opened for Cousins to join a team ahead of the NBA restart, the Celtics could have rendered a big man like him ahead of their deep playoff run.
Instead, Cousins elected to spend his summer rehabbing for the 2020-21 season. Maybe right now is Ainge’s greatest opportunity to get the most from DeMarcus in a move that could push Boston to a top contender in the Eastern Conference and won’t break the bank.
Who knows if his return from a string of bad luck with injuries will change his battered reputation but would this potential move hurt the Celtics? Maybe, but that depends on how you view it.
It depends on how you feel about Cousins’ personality and if it’s disruptive enough to tear a team apart. It depends on how much you value prospects like Robert Williams, Grant Williams, and Tacko Fall because, in the end, Cousins will stunt their growth in one way or another, if the Celtics were to bring him in. But if it spells a championship run, well then, that makes it all worth it.
DeMarcus Cousins’ 2018-19 Season With Golden State Warriors
Although Cousins’ playoff numbers – 7.6 points, 4.9 rebounds in 16.6 minutes – weren’t great for the Warriors before his injury, his regular-season effort is the kind of production the Celtics could use in their frontcourt – 16.3 points, 48% field-goal percentage, 8.2 rebounds in 30 games.
His outside touch would stretch the floor for guys like Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown to attack the rim while on the opposite end – where the Celtics desperately need a boost – Brad Stevens would have a new weapon who can defend the center position.
Adding Cousins would certainly improve the Celtics’ starting lineup, however, is it enough for a title run? It’s way too early to say.
Will ‘Trader Danny’ Make A Move?
The Los Angeles Lakers were reportedly interested in signing Cousins prior to the restart, potentially to a new one-year deal, but with other suitors vying to upgrade their frontcourt, other offers for DeMarcus will start coming in. Boston is undoubtedly one of those teams looking to improve at the center position.
Still, realistically, Cousins is never going to be at the top of Ainge’s list of targets. The only way the Celtics would even consider courting someone like Cousins is if all other options fail.
Also, there is a hurdle in the way. Ainge would have to create cap space via trade in order to carve out a mid-level exception (MLE) offer for the veteran big man.
Assuming Gordon Hayward will opt-in to the final year, worth $34 million, of his max deal and Boston exercises its option to bring back Daniel Theis for one more season, the Celtics will be over the taxpaying threshold.
Unless Ainge, aka “Trader Danny,” decides he wants to step to the table to start wheeling and dealing. If that happens, well, then all other bets are off.