NBA

DeMarcus Cousins looks on during a Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Clippers game.

DeMarcus Cousins: Franchise player or franchise trading piece?

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DeMarcus Cousins is the most dominant center in the NBA today. He's also the most controversial and outspoken, too. Some would say immature. 

The Sacramento Kings star has progressed on the court, though, during his five seasons in the NBA. But has he matured enough off the court for the Kings to build their future around him this offseason?

The Kings are heading for a new beginning this summer with general manager Vlade Divac, a move to the brand new Golden 1 Center approaching and a new incoming head coach. The roster, too, will undergo changes ahead of next season. But is Cousins the cornerstone of the new era or more of a faulty foundation?

Cousins came into the league after being drafted by the Kings in the 2010 NBA draft. A standout at the University of Kentucky, Cousins was seen as a top-five draft pick, and was subsequently snapped up by the Kings with the fifth overall pick.

All-Star Play

Now five seasons down the road and the Kings have got themselves a dominant center, a two-time All-Star a player who is still yet to reach his full potential. During the recently wrapped up regular season, Cousins registered as the overall fourth highest points scorer in the NBA averaging 26.9 points per game.

He was also fifth highest in rebounds with 11.5 boards per game. The second highest scorer from points in the paint notching a 13.4 points average per outing. Whilst also being first in drawing personal fouls, drawing almost nine per game. Which resulted in Cousins tying first with Houston Rockets' guard James Harden for averaging 10.2 free throws per game.

NBA All-Star Game 2016

The Kings star had his best season to date and put himself at the head of the pack when it comes to the big men in the NBA. An encouraging and exciting sight for the Kings. Although, there are some notable drawbacks, too.

Changing Game

The league is getting smaller, for starters. Small-ball is trending up, whilst the big-men of the league are becoming a rarer breed. Even All-Star voting groups all forwards in the same category and has no mention of a center as a specific position.

This could, of course, merely be a phase. The flavour of the month. The en vogue thing of today. But it could also be the true evolution of the game. Only the beginning. If the NBA is heading for a small-ball league with fewer bigs, then what happens to the centers and the bigger power forwards of the NBA over the coming years? For example, Cousins.

Do they become like a target man in football? A player you may have in the squad just in case you need him. A way of switching up the attack. A secondary option. Will small forwards like Kevin Durant, Paul George and LeBron James become the new breed at the four spot? Whilst the likes of Blake Griffin and Kevin Love become the smaller, more mobile centers? Where does small-ball end?

Character Concerns

The second issue for the Kings is Cousins himself. For all the 25-year-old's talent, questions have been, and continue to be, asked about his temperament and maturity level. Cousins has had five coaches so far during his five years in the NBA and he's had issues of some kind or another with most of them.

Paul Westphal, Keith Smart, Mike Malone, Tyrone Corbin and George Karl have been the five in the Kings' hot seat during those years. The head coach always seems to get fired, whilst Cousins always seems to stick around for the next guy who walks through the door. 

San Antonio Spurs v Sacramento Kings

Karl was the Kings' most recent head coach but was fired after the climax of the regular season. The Kings' finished with a 33-49 record, but the relationship never really clicked between Karl and his All-Star center. In fact, it was quite the opposite. It eventually became fractious and divisive for the team as a whole.

What's Next

So what now for the Kings and Cousins?

The franchise has been linked with a number of names to replace Karl as the team's leader, including the likes of ESPN Analyst Mark Jackson, current Golden State Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton, former Los Angeles Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro and also Sam Mitchell after recently departing the Minnesota Timberwolves. Divac has plenty of options.

But having already made the club's first decision of the postseason in parting ways with Karl, the number two item on the agenda should be Cousins himself. Reports have linked Cousins with potential trades to teams like the Los Angeles Lakers or the Phoenix Suns.

Trade Bait?

If Cousins is made available there will likely be more suitors than just those two, however. Cousins still has a high trade value because of his unquestionable ability on the court, but another season of drama off the court and his value could begin to diminish at a faster rate.

If the Kings' team is to be built around Cousins, then it would be wise for Divac to consider a head coach who may be able to connect with him and not only get the best out of the team's star player moving forward, but also keep him focused and out of trouble.

Sacramento Kings v Denver Nuggets

Whether a coaching appointment should really be made based on whether the coach in question may or may not be able to befriend and tame the team's star player is an entirely different discussion. But history tells you it is a relevant consideration when it come to Cousins.

There is the hope, of course, that Cousins will mature eventually. At 25, surely he is now approaching an age of maturity sometime soon. After all, a mature Cousins - whenever that is - could well be an unstoppable force in the NBA. If the bigs are still as relevant by then, that is.

Topics:
NBA
Western Conference
Sacramento Kings
Pacific Division
DeMarcus Cousins

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