Yesterday, Zach Lowe took a look at the future of mega-talented and mega-frustrating big man DeMarcus Cousins. Lowe refers to him as a "mystery man", and one that the Kings would be wise to wait on, rather than sign to what would likely be a sizable extension.
It's a fine article, and one that points out some of the reasons a player as good as Cousins remains such a risky bet to make for a franchise.
Though he doesn't specifically mention Dallas as an option in the article, the player Lowe describes Cousins as might fit almost perfectly into the category of "fallen angel", a term Cuban used in his open letter a few days ago. As Cuban wrote, the fallen angel is a player who is "traded or left unsigned because everyone in the league thinks that they can only be the player they saw in another organization". Cuban's contention is that this type of player can succeed in Dallas because of the culture within the organization, from the well-respected coaching staff, to the unselfish on-court play of franchise star Dirk Nowitzki, to the strong veteran presence in the locker room.
Personally, I'm a Cousins fan. He turns 23 next week, and he's already had two seasons where he's averaged a double-double(essentially; he averaged 9.9 rebounds last year). He is an enormous man who is both incredibly strong and surprisingly skilled, possessing a soft touch and quick hands. He has rubs: Lowe notes that his defensive effort is, at times, atrocious, and his maturity has rightly been called into questions on numerous occasions(just ask O.J. Mayo's balls). He also is not the most ideal of frontcourt partners for Dirk, being a poor shot blocker and not the most nimble guy. Still, the upside is tremendous and it would be extremely unsurprising to see it all click for him later in his career, much the way it has for Zach Randolph in Memphis.
It isn't too difficult to connect the dots between Dallas and Cousins: Dallas has been reported as interested in Cousins for a long time. Constructing a realistic scenario where Cousins can be acquired before next offseason is a bit trickier, however. I have seen some of our more optimistic readers suggest this is possible, but I just don't see it. Dallas has very little in the way of tradable assets. When Sactown Royalty's own Tom Ziller explored possible trade packages, his analysis was that Dallas didn't have anything worth considering.
Now, I wouldn't shut the door on this completely. If Sacramento does decide not to extend Cousins, he will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Dallas would be in position to offer the RFA max, which the Kings could in turn match.
If Cousins does not demonstrate the desired level of improvement, and is traded, it's hard to think there won't be a team better equipped to swoop in. Perhaps the best way for Dallas to be a factor in possible trade talks would be by taking on salary along with quality pieces from a third team, and then using those pieces to acquire the man known as "Boogie". We have seen Cuban operate creatively in this way, before. Perhaps now that the Powder era has past and there are no Dwight Howard/Chris Paul level stars to remain in a holding pattern for, we can see that Cuban return to forefront. There really isn't any reason for Dallas not to take a chance on somebody. Certainly not anymore. I fully expect the team to be opportunistic and really listen to substantive trade offers. I could be wrong, but I don't think they had been doing that the last few seasons.
Although this offseason for the Mavericks is all but finished, and many new faces in town, I think it can be said that the real future of the franchise is probably not yet in the building. With Dirk now 35 years old, and many other key players also past 30, the team will be headed towards a rebuild soon enough, one way or another. If Mark Cuban wishes for the careers of Dirk Nowitzki and the next star Dallas Maverick to overlap, it's time to make something happen.