However, such a move would not only negatively impact Boston but would slowly cause the franchise to implode.
Looking at Cousins’ stat line—16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in 30.3 minutes a night—it’s easy to fall in love with the 22-year-old Kentucky product.
But don’t get caught judging the book by its cover. Cousins is bad news, and you’d need more than the blurb on the back cover to tell the whole story.
Put it this way: If the Celtics were offered Cousins for free, they would be wise to pass.
They Knew He Was Trouble When He Walked In
Excuse the Taylor Swift reference, but any former coach of the big man can surely empathize with the country pop star on her latest tune.
From high school to college and now in the pros, Cousins has been the bubonic plague for any team he was part of.
His gaudy numbers have always tried to fool us otherwise.
During his senior year at Erwin High School in Birmingham, Ala. Cousins shined, averaging 24.1 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.1 steals, 4.6 assists and 3.2 blocks per game. He led the team all the way to the state semifinals.
While it was a phenomenal way to cap off his high school career, his play will always be overshadowed by an incident that occurred during his sophomore year, when he got into a physical altercation with a school bus driver. He was immediately suspended for the second half of the season for his actions.
During his freshman year at Kentucky, Cousins hoped to put the past behind him.
Cousins averaged 15.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game in just 23.1 minutes a night. He played an intricate roll in leading the Wildcats to the Elite 8 that year.
But just like in high school, his off-court issues remained the focal point.
At the forefront was the menacing forearm shiver Cousins seemed to deliver to Louisville’s Jared Swopshire during a loose ball scrum. Then there was the “call me” gesture he made in the direction of Mississippi State fans following a putback slam.
These and several other actions during the season showcased Cousins' total lack of control of his emotions. He was a loose cannon, so to speak, and every NBA scout knew it.
How else do you explain why a prospect, who clearly possessed the best talent in the pool, fell all the way to No. 5 in the draft?
The warning signs were there for the Kings, however, they simply chose to ignore them. They were desperate. Now, they’re paying the cost.
His rookie season, Cousins was fined by the team after getting into a locker room altercation with a teammate. Sacramento brushed it off as nothing more than frustration on Cousins’ part.
Last year, Cousins constantly butted heads with then-head coach Paul Westphal, ultimately demanding to be traded out of town. Instead, the Kings sent Westphal packing.
This season, head coach Keith Smart has had similar issues. More recently, Smart suspended Cousins from the team “indefinitely” following a halftime verbal war of words between the two. However, Cousins was reinstated only a game later.
The fact that every team seems to let Cousins off easy for his wrongdoings does not seem to help the cause.
He’s a great player. You know, we all know that he has his ways about him. I think he has to do a better job of maturing and getting along with the coaching staff and his teammates…I think once he matures, he’s only going to get better.
[His antics] definitely affected the team at times. But we had our good times too, so you have to take the good with the bad.
How many chances do you take with someone before enough is enough?
A High Stakes Gamble
With all the baggage attached to Cousins, a deal for the 22-year-old should probably come at a cheap price, right? Not quite.
As is the case in a league which is largely performance driven.
Among centers, Cousins ranks No. 4 in scoring and No. 10 in rebounding. He’s No. 2 and No. 3 respectively when only considering players under the age of 25.
That’s an impressive accomplishment as it is. But when you’re the Celtics, who just watched starting center Jason Collins register a stat line of 0 PTS, 1 REB and 1 BLK, Cousins looks downright phenomenal.
But is he phenomenal enough to possibly back up trading Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo in exchange?
According to speculation from basketball analyst Chris Sheridan, that’s exactly what it would take to bring Cousins to Boston.
Bradley is the Celtics’ future at the guard position. With Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa as the only depth at the position, don’t expect GM Danny Ainge to part ways with Bradley anytime soon.
On the other hand, Melo is still somewhat raw. While he may be delivering some eye-popping performances in the D-League as of late, don’t expect that to translate into NBA success anytime soon. I would be perfectly content in dumping Melo in return for a more proven big man.
But the main reason Boston should refuse to go forward with this trade is Sullinger.
More specifically, it’s the fact that the first-round draft pick can very well be just as good as, if not better than, Cousins by his third year in the league.
Sure, his current per-game averages of 5.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 17.9 minutes don’t look that impressive. But take into consideration his performance in the past five games—9.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game in 22.6 minutes a night.
Sullinger seems to finally be settling into a rhythm.
Now, let’s compare his performance thus far to that of Cousins’ during his rookie season.
While Cousins’ averages seem to look better all around, don’t forget that Cousins clocked in an average of 25.1 minutes per game during the first two months of his career. In comparison, Sullinger is averaging 17.9 minutes a night.
To compare them on a more equal platform, I adjusted their stats to display their per-48 minutes averages.
Now, the two players come out looking much more similar in their performances. The only major difference is that Cousins holds a 7.5 advantage in terms of scoring.
However, that can be largely credited to the fact that Cousins takes an average of 9.3 field goals more per 48 minutes than Sullinger. In fact, since Sullinger’s shooting percentage (49.2 percent) is significantly higher than his counterpart’s (40.6 percent), it suggests that Sullinger would outscore Cousins if both players had attempted a similar amount of shots per game.
But the most glaring difference between the two players comes with their ability to take care of the basketball.
As a rookie, Cousins struggled with making great decisions with the basketball. As a result, he averaged 5.6 turnovers per 48 minutes. Among rookies, Cousins finished the 2010-11 season ranked No. 2 in most turnovers and No. 1 in most turnovers per 48 minutes. Unfortunately, it’s a habit he still carries to this day, as Cousins currently ranks No. 4 in most turnovers among centers.
On the other hand, Sullinger has been fantastic with his decision-making. He’s averaged only 1.8 turnovers per 48 minutes. He currently ranks No. 5 in fewest turnovers per 48 minutes among rookies.
Both players have their own positives and negatives. This makes comparing the two solely based on statistical performances a pretty daunting task.
However, when you take into consideration the personalities of the two players, it becomes a no-brainer.
I would take Sullinger over Cousins in a heartbeat.
Summing It All Up
Nobody is denying that Cousins has talent on the basketball court. He is gifted well beyond reason and has all the potential to be one of the best centers in today’s game. Heck, he very well could become the best.
However, a player who cannot grasp the concept that the team comes before the individual will only serve as a danger to not only the entire locker room but also to himself.
If Cousins’ off-court antics and immaturity are not enough to scare you away from a possible deal, just look at what the cost in getting him is.
There’s even speculation of exchanging Rajon Rondo for Cousins and Tyreke Evans. But that’s a whole other story in its self.
While the Celtics’ record may be going in one direction, the progress of their younger players is going the opposite way. Why stunt that growth by bringing in a headache like Cousins?
Sometimes rebuilding a team to become a competitor year-in and year-out is more important than playing well now.
But don’t get me wrong, there are possible deals out there that can improve the team immediately without sacrificing its future.
This just is not one of them.
Patience is a virtue, my friend.
All stats used in this article are accurate as of December 30, 2012
You can follow Sebastian on Twitter at @SP7988