A little more than a year ago, I scoffed at the idea of Chris Paul going to Houston. I ignored the guy feverishly conspiring about it like he was Lucy Barker in internet rags. Then it happened. A rumor born of imagination, suspicion, and too much cold brew became reality. Paul pulled a sign-and-trade, said smell ya later to the Clippers, and joined the Rockets. The rest was history (by which I mean Houston shooting 7-for-44 in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals).
I humbly present rumor mill Round 2: DeMarcus Cousins to the Wizards, and the 10-point plan that gets him there.
1. The year is 2009. Boogie and current Washington point guard John Wall are teammates at Kentucky.
Look at those smiles. Seven years later, having not played together again since, Wall said the two want to be teammates again in the future. “We talk about it all the time,” he said. Boogie got more specific: “[Wall] wants me [in D.C.].” (They also mentioned wanting Eric Bledsoe, who also played on that Kentucky squad. Things change.)
2. In April, after a season of hurt feelings between Wall and center Marcin Gortat, Wall says the Wizards “don’t really have an athletic big.” Shots. An athletic big, you say?
3. New Orleans, which previously sounded like it’d accept being locked in a room with King Baby Cake for 72 hours if it meant keeping Cousins, subtly changed its tune before the trade deadline. An unnamed Eastern Conference personnel man told Sporting News that “there’s no question about his talent, but he’s a big-time mistake player and an obvious cancer.” Alvin Gentry reportedly wanted to trade Boogie.
4. So Boogie isn’t immediately signing an extension, marking the first free agency of his eight-season career. First, there are teams that do have the cap space to sign him outright, which would leave the Pels will nothing: the Lakers, who have been connected to the big man for some time, and the Mavs, who are reportedly interested.
But he might not be either franchise’s first choice. L.A. has enough room for two max contracts, and it seems like there’s some pressure steaming in that front office to get something—anything—done to make a pitch to LeBron James. But that pressure is manifesting itself around Kawhi Leonard, while there hasn’t been too much recent chatter about Boogie.
Dallas seems the more likely of the two teams to land Boogie, but there’s another big man the team likes that might trump an unhealthy Cousins. The Mavs reportedly have their sights set on DeAndre Jordan, and have for quite [train emoji] some [car emoji] time [The Persistence of Memory emoji]. DAJ could pull the same maneuver that former teammate CP3 did a year prior—opt in, then ask for a trade.
5. Meanwhile, the Pelicans are in a pickle: They have Cousins’s Bird rights, meaning the front office can go over the salary cap to re-sign him. But that would mean deep-diving into the luxury tax. Boogie is eligible for a max extension—five years at 30 percent of the salary cap—which he would be a no-brainer for … if healthy. Coming off an Achilles tear, Cousins is a gamble. The injury-scarred Pels may be gun-shy even if they liked his charm in the locker room.
BUT if the Pelicans let Cousins walk, there’s a 99.99999999 percent chance they won’t clear enough cap space to do anything powerful in free agency. The Pelicans surely don’t want to let go of Cousins for nothing in return, so how do they get some pieces back? Hold that thought ...
6. When we last left the Wizards, we were talking about Gortat. Coincidentally, the rapidly deflating 34-year-old Polish Hammer was traded Tuesday to the Clippers for guard and nepotism beneficiary Austin Rivers. The move will save Washington $1.4 million in tax, but appeared otherwise meaningless until you remembered that Gortat’s backup is Ian Mahinmi, which is to say, the Wizards have no one at the center spot.
Gortat fell short the last couple of seasons for a team otherwise ready for contention. His offensive range was limited, and, for a guy who solely depended on getting fed in the paint, he had a bad case of slippery hands. He’s fine. But he’s no missing piece. How should the Wizards fill that hole? Three words ...
7. SIGN. AND. TRADE. The Wizards are broke. They’ve given max contracts to Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr. They’re already over the luxury tax by $5 million and are committed to Wall until 2022, and Porter and Beal until 2021. It’s a plus that the roster has talent locked in, until the playoffs come and it’s obvious that it’s not enough. Washington has the taxpayer midlevel exception at its disposal ($5.5 million), and could sign someone like Dwight Howard, who was bought out by Brooklyn. But let’s not get off course.
9. To pull off a sign-and-trade and keep the core, Washington would need to dump nearly $28 million. That would keep the team under the hard cap ($127 million—how ’bout them taxes, Ted?), as broken down by SB Nation’s Bullets Forever.
One of the reasons the CP3 trade worked was because Houston had multiple solid pieces that appealed to the Clippers. Washington has Kelly Oubre Jr. and Tomas Satoransky. And if Wall had never gotten hurt, we wouldn’t even know the name Satoransky. Or … Jason Smith? The Wizards bench is dryer lint. New Orleans would likely demand Porter in a sign-and-trade, and that would be one of the hardest sells of the summer for Washington. (Then again, it’s the Wizards front office talking to the Pelicans front office. Don’t expect it to make sense.)
The trade likely wouldn’t live unless Washington throws in something for Cousins to take a smaller cap hit, too, like a player option for the second year. Wilder things have happened.
10. Why would this all work? The Pelicans would get back some pieces for an injured big who plays a similar position to their superstar and would avoid a steep luxury-tax bill. Meanwhile, for the Wiz, Boogie can be the wired to Gortat’s tired: He can create his own offense, has a jump shot and some 3-point range, and is a walking double-double. His outside game would open room for Wall to drive and leave Beal in space. When Wall went down, Beal said he wanted to be known as a playmaker, then proved he could move the ball and create for his teammates.
The Wizards would have three playmakers on the floor. If they could find a way to keep Porter, they’d have a 3-point assassin, too. Who does that sound like?