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In the most Sacramento Kings-esque rumor I've ever heard, it seems that DeMarcus Cousins may not be mean-mugging in Sactown for much longer.
An anonymous Western Conference GM told Sporting News that "[Sacramento] has three months, tops." Boogie is one of the most notoriously ornery personalities in the NBA, clashing with both the front office and the revolving door of coaches. Sacramento currently resides in the bottom half of the league in points/game, opponents points/game, pace, offensive rating, defensive rating, and even attendance. At this point, the ownership has to realize that they're not going to be able to resign him and his trade value is much higher with Cousins still under contract for 2017-18. Cousins is so talented, it almost makes you wonder why there hasn't been a real offer, but then you look at his history with the league. Regardless, Cousins and the Kings should have plenty of potential trade partners for one of the most gifted bigs in the league.
Boston Celtics—Sacramento Kings
Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Brooklyn's 2017 First Round Pick
DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi
If the Kings are really behind a rebuild, this is a great potential package. Brooklyn is locked into a high lottery pick; Marcus Smart is a premier perimeter defender and is learning how to be a point guard; Jaylen Brown is a potential two-way stud as a prototypical do-it-all forward. For Boston, Isaiah Thomas has been doing his best Chandler Parsons impression. Thomas told Sporting News, "I've got his respect, I've always had that."
The Celtics certainly have the assets to go after Cousins, the only question is are they ready? A friend of mine told me, "I love [the Lakers and the Timberwolves]. They're pretty good right now, but they're on track to peak when LeBron's had enough." Bringing on Cousins could really tip the scales to making them a true contender. Their elite perimeter defense would take some of the pressure off DeMarcus' uninspiring defense and the front court of Cousins and Horford would be elite on the offensive end. They're both smart passers and the high-low game between the bigs could open up more attacking patterns for an already shapeshifting Brad Stevens offense. Omri Casspi is just the apple sauce on the latke.
The only reason to do this trade as the Celtics, is if they think they can win now. This Boston lineup could exploit Golden State's weakness on the inside, but could they break out the East? I'm not sure they're deep enough, I think they'd still be a move away.
Milwaukee Bucks—Sacramento Kings
Jabari Parker, Greg Monroe, 2017 First Round Pick
Let me say this: I don't think this trade will happen. The Bucks like Jabari too much and if DeMarcus is serious about wanting to win, Milwaukee's probably not the place for him. Plus, DeMarcus in Milwaukee? He'd get up to some shit.
That being said, I think this trade legitimately makes both teams better. For the Kings, Jabari Parker is the answer at the four spot. Played next to Willie Cauley-Stein and Rudy Gay, the defensive switching can be endless. For Milwaukee, once again, you have a strong perimeter defense to hide DeMarcus' shortcomings and it gives them a go to scorer in the half court. Monroe was supposed to be the lynchpin for the Bucks' half court offense, but Cousins isn't nearly the plodder Monroe is and can really move in the open court. Plus his elite level gravity when posted up in the paint opens the floor for cuts and space for shooters. Take a look at what these starting fives would look like:
Charlotte Hornets—Sacramento Kings—Washington Wizards
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kings), 2017 1st Round Pick (Kings)
DeMarcus Cousins (Wizards)
Bradley Beal (Kings)
Marcin Gortat (Hornets)
2017 First Round Pick (Hornets)
This really isn't enough for DeMarcus, but if it gets close enough to the deadline, I could see the Kings swinging for it.
Getting Beal and Kidd-Gilchrist gives the Kings two young guys to build around. Beal is a young, two-way guard who solves the whole Ben McLemore (yikes) problem and MKG is a top tier defender and rebounder that could complement Rudy Gay as interchangeable forwards. The Kings get much better defensively and get to start a little fresher with defensive minded coach, Dave Joerger.
The Wizards get to reunite Cousins and Wall (who's becoming increasingly frustrated in Washington, as evidenced by back-to-back ejections a week ago), who were part of an absolutely stacked Kentucky team that included Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson. Their wing depth falls off the chart a little bit, but with Wall and Cousins on the same team, it might not matter. Even Scott Brooks couldn't ruin that team (could he?).
The Hornets get a center to play with Kemba Walker in pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop sets with equal efficiency. Gortat isn't a premier rim protector, but he's an enforcer and a smart player on both ends of the court. On top of that, Steve Clifford has a habit of turning players into elite system defenders. Gortat's basketball IQ fits in perfectly with the culture Clifford's established in Charlotte. Of course, Gortat didn't win anything in the NCAA so I'm not sure Jordan's behind it. Neither am I, really, but don't tell my editors (they don't care).
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I'm not a Knicks fan, but that doesn't mean I don't want a good New York sports team!
I'm from New York and I'm not a Knicks fan. It sounds like I'm reciting a pledge and it kind of feels like it too, but it's the truth. Regardless, I was absolutely interested in what the Knicks would be coming into the season. I remember pre-injury Derrick Rose. I remember when Carmelo Anthony was the best one-on-one scorer in the league. I remember Joakim Noah coming in fourth in MVP voting. I thought Kristaps Porzingis was overrated but would provide spacing—which, when you have Rose at the point—is invaluable. Who didn't have that brief thought, hey, maybe they'll be good? And then they threw Brandon Jennings into the mix and I thought, wait, could they be good and fun? There's nothing quite like being in a city with a winning sports team. Remember Linsanity? I do. it lasted less than a month, but what a month it was!
Well, eight games into the season and they're not doing much to satisfy a crowd. They're a bit like a shitty party, yeah, more like this:
They sport a 111.5 defensive rating, good for third worst in the league. They're in the bottom half of the league in pace, despite guards like Rose and Jennings who thrive in transition. And when they get caught in the half court, watch the video below at your own risk.
They get a good look in transition and miss. The long rebound finds the ball back in the Knicks' hands and then it gets ugly. Six more shot attempts go up before they finally turn the ball over, so… points for persistence? The offense is strictly pick-and-roll sets with no movement on the wings and no baseline action.
We're only a few weeks into the season and there's a lot of basketball left to play. Jeff Hornacek is in his first season coaching this squad and already, he has the most intolerant Zen Master ever, breathing the triangle down his neck. It takes time for coaches to establish their culture and philosophy as a team. But the results so far make it hard to watch the Knicks. Not because of their anemic half-court offense; not because of their unintelligible efforts on defense; but because I was wrong for holding onto hope for a good Knicks team. And because I thought Kristaps was overrated.
As fans, sometimes we forget that even the guys on the end of the bench are among the best basketball players in the world. Here are few guys who need more minutes to remind us.
Let me just be clear about something: my fantasy basketball team is named "Shabazz Nice.". Yes, that includes the period. Since being drafted 24th overall by the at-the-time Charlotte Bobcats, Napier hasn't seen much playing time. Traded almost immediately to the Heat, Napier spent his time bouncing back and forth between the NBA and the D-League. He was traded from Miami to Orlando in exchange for a top-55 protected pick, then from Orlando to Portland for cash considerations. Let's go over that for a second. Napier was traded for a future bottom five second round pick and then for an undisclosed amount of cash. Is this the same guy who single handedly led UConn to a chip over Julius Randle's Kentucky?
Napier was a heady player in college and that hasn't changed since coming to the NBA. Just look at the way he exploits the switch at :27. Or how about his understanding of the pick and pop game at 1:59? His shooting mechanics off the dribble aren't all there—look at the way his legs snap out when he pulls up off the bounce, but he certainly knows how to get his own shot. Remember what he did in Brooklyn?
Napier is stuck behind Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Evan Turner, and Allen Crabbe. With the way that Terry Stotts staggers Lillard and McCollum's minutes and Evan Turner's ball handling ability, that leaves a scarce amount of time for a guy like Shabazz. He's an admittedly poor individual defender, poor measurables (6'-1" with a 6'-3" wingspan) hold him back from being able to lock up a man, one on one. However, time as a four-year college player means he knows where to be within a team defense. I think Shabazz is a perfectly serviceable back-up point guard. Just not in Portland.
Here's another undersized combo guard who just knows how to play basketball. Two years at Louisville under Rick Pitino is like four years under Tom Thibodeau. Rozier was the guy for the Cardinals, initiating the offense by picking up full court almost every possession. As a result, he has great defensive instincts and in his limited minutes, was a nightmare to dribble and pass around. He's a high energy player who zips around the court with abandon. He had a handful of great games as a rookie, including this one against the Nets:
Where Rozier will need to improve is as a playmaker. He's a shoot first point guard who generates most of his assists within a system. Tightening up his handle will be a must for him as a 6'-1" guard. Being a threat to turn the corner in pick-and-roll situations would make him a true two-way threat and grant him more passing lanes to create more in the half court. As it is, he's behind Isaiah Thomas and much improved guards in Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart. More minutes at the NBA level and the game will start to slow down for him. He's not there yet, but Rozier will find his place on the right roster.
Boy, do the Nuggets have logjams throughout their roster. Wing depth is almost a problem for them. When Gary Harris returns from injury, they have five wings (Gary Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Will Barton, Wilson Chandler and Jamal Murray) fighting for playing time. Moreover, with a frontcourt of Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, Kenneth Faried, and Wilson Chandler (who's at his best at the 4), there just aren't enough minutes to go around. With a silky—if inconsistent—jumper that stretches to the 3-point line (a 39% 3-point shooter last season), Arthur is a valuable commodity as a stretch-4.
Throw in a 6'11" wingspan on a 6'-9" frame and Arthur has the measurables to be a prototypical 4 in today's NBA. A plus defender for most of his career, Arthur will have to prove his ability to hit the three ball out of pick-and-pop sets with increased consistency, but put him in the right situation with a good point guard and a versatile defensive line-up and Arthur could be a major contributor on both sides of the ball, either switching out defending the pick-and-roll or stepping out and making defenses pay in pick-and-pop opportunities. Watch him blow up the offense while hedging off the screener:
For a guy who's shown he can go both ways at the four, 7.5 minutes/game to this point in the season is just not enough.