As Drew Peterson knows, making long-term commitments can be a risk.
Soon the Sacramento Kings must decide whether to marry DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins has one year left on his rookie deal before he becomes a restricted free agent in the summer of 2014. The center will be also eligible for a contract extension, and according to The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Jones, his agent expects a maximum offer or else.
That’s a lot to ask for a player who’s led the NBA in personal and technical fouls and migraine-inducing antics. Cousins hasn’t consistently inspired his teammates with his basketball play either, often settling for midrange shots despite being 6’11” and 270 pounds and opting to draw charges instead of protecting the rim.
But for all his well-documented flaws, Cousins is a novel talent at the five (career averages of 16.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest) with the coordination and instincts of an athlete who stands a foot shorter. The fourth-year pro has never suffered a significant injury, as a matter of fact he misses more games to suspensions than health-related issues.
Cousins will be 23-years-old when he hits the market after next season, so the Kings (or Lord-forbid, someone else) would control the big and his massive potential through his physical prime.
Sacramento can sell Cousins a better deal than rival clubs (5 years and nearly $80 million total as opposed to 4 years and $58 million) so it’s been suggested that the Kings should match an opponent’s max offer and save money.
But if there’s anything to be learned from Tyreke Evans’ surprising departure, it’s that players want to be appreciated and feel used when manipulated in a larger scheme to limit costs. Giving Cousins his extra millions will ensure that he knows Sacramento is home and allow him to focus on delivering the contract.
Worst comes to worst, if Cousins blows out a knee or decides to impersonate Antoine Walker, his cap hold may become a burden to move, but fortunately in the NBA there’s always a buyer. Rod Higgins or another insecure general manager would gladly flip an expiring deal in exchange for the chance to mold Cousins more effectively than the Kings could.
And of course, Cousins might evolve into an NBA monster. Coaching from Shaquille O’Neal should help, as well as his ever-swelling pride and a human tendency to mature as we get older.
History shows the Kings don’t often get a chance to own the talents of a player like Cousins, and being in a small market, these less attractive clubs are commonly forced to overpay. Sacramento is going nowhere without Cousins, so why not just bite the bullet and groom an immensely skilled, mentally unstable franchise centerpiece?