- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Mavericks’ front office prides itself on being opportunistic, has financial flexibility and desperately needs to add a premier young talent to the roster.
So it’d make perfect sense for the Mavs to make a run at troubled Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins, the supremely talented, extremely immature 22-year-old former fifth overall pick whose stint in Sacramento seems destined for an ugly divorce.
There’s no guarantee Cousins would come close to achieving his immense potential in Dallas. After all, he’s been suspended three times this season – twice by the league, once by the Kings – and Sacramento coach Keith Smart refused to bring Cousins on the road trip after his recent suspension was lifted.
There’s no question that Cousins ranks among the NBA’s biggest knuckleheads. But the skilled 6-foot-11, 270-pounder also ranks among the league’s most talented big men.
Could the Mavs get Cousins’ career on the right track? Could no-nonsense coach Rick Carlisle get through to him with the help of veteran leaders such as Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Elton Brand and team sports psychologist Don Kalkstein (who should demand a raise if this deal actually happens)? Could Cousins thrive in the Mavs’ culture?
So, could the Mavs actually pull off a deal for Cousins? That depends on whether the Kings, if they decide to deal him, actually get any decent talent-based offers for their troublemaker. The Mavs would have to try to talk the Kings into making a deal that would be a major money-saver for the financially-strapped Sacramento franchise.
(It is worth noting that Cousins recently switched agents, hiring Dan Fegan, who happens to have a long-standing, excellent relationship with the Mavs. If Fegan gets involved as a deal broker, that’d definitely increase Dallas’ odds of landing Cousins.)
The Mavs wouldn’t want to take on any deals that don’t expire in the summer of 2014, when the only guaranteed deal on Dallas’ books will be Jared Cunningham’s rookie contract. Cousins’ rookie contract also expires that summer.
However, the Kings would surely insist on the Mavs taking back at least one of their bad contracts with another two seasons remaining on them.
The contract of small forward John Salmons, who is dangerously close to being paid a million bucks for each point he averages per game, would be relatively easy to stomach because he’s guaranteed only $1 million in 2014-15, according to the invaluable Sham Sports database.
If the Kings want to drive a hard bargain, they’d probably insist on the Mavs taking either undersized forward/center Chuck Hayes ($5.96 million in 2014-15) or swingman Marcus Thornton ($8.6 million in 2014-15).
The Kings might also want to dump Jimmer Fredette, a bench-riding lottery pick who has a $3.11 million team option in 2014-15.
The Mavs are loaded with expiring contracts, all of whom would be available with the likely exception of O.J. Mayo (a potential building block) and Brand (ineligible to be traded due to amnesty waivers rules). They Mavs are also under the salary cap, so they can make the math work in many ways.
The Kings would be getting back a bargain role player (Crowder) and a bunch of expiring contracts. The Kings would save around $2 million this season and at least $26 million in the future. Oh, and the Kings’ would get chronic headache relief.
Such a deal probably wouldn’t make the Mavs much better immediately. In fact, it’d make them worse right away, according to John Hollinger’s calculations. But it’s not as if they have any realistic chance of being championship contenders this season anyway.
This is about the Mavs getting a prime opportunity to land a potential superstar at a discount price.
It’d be a high-risk, high-reward move, but the whole point of creating financial flexibility was to acquire a franchise player type of talent. Cousins might be the Mavs’ best shot despite – or, actually, because of – all his flaws.