The idea that the Boston Celtics are going to land a whale like DeMarcus Cousins is beyond hilarious. Just a week ago, the Sacramento Kings said that Cousins was not on the market. Then the Kings went on a four-game road trip in which Cousins a) was a model citizen and b) averaged 24.5 points on 53 percent shooting, 15 rebounds and four assists. So did the Kings see that and move off their "will not trade" position to one in which, heck, yeah, they'll take Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger! Why not?
For the 400th time: the league does not revolve around the whims of the glamorous franchises. Just because a team with 17 banners wants an awesome young player with a damaged reputation does not mean that the team with 17 banners can just have him. Just because the Celtics or Lakers are struggling does not give them property rights over a player who can help fix it. And no one talking about a Cousins-to-the-Celtics trade is presenting anything remotely reasonable.
Avery Bradley is a nice young player. He's also a shooting guard. That is the one position where the Kings actually are better than their opponents, thanks to Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton. Regardless, Bradley is not close to fair value for a beast like Cousins. Even if Cousins had a mediocre road trip and was still giving his coach lip, Avery Bradley would not be close to fair value for Cousins. When you look past Bradley, the packages get worse. Sullinger helps the Kings do nothing in the big picture; at best, he displaces Jason Thompson or Thomas Robinson. At worst, he floats around as a shrug-worthy asset. Lee plays the same position as Bradley. Fab Melo? Fab Melo?
If the Celtics are going to trade for DeMarcus Cousins, they are going to be giving up Rajon Rondo. The league isn't ready for that, OK? The league is not ready for Rajon in Sacramento or Cousins without a point guard next to Kevin Garnett. I'm pretty sure President Obama would block that trade in the best interest of American national security.
So, in that case, keep dreaming Boston. Not going to happen.
Speaking of players who are exceptionally difficult to trade, Rudy Gay fits the bill. I liken Gay to Andre Iguodala, who eventually got moved out of Philadelphia after three years and 20,000 trade rumors. Both are really talented players whose impact on the court is completely not what you'd expect. Iguodala typically has sub-elite box score numbers, but his impact tends to be pretty huge thanks to his defense. Gay is the opposite: his box score numbers are legit, but his impact doesn't really show up much in stats like on-off or plus-minus. Both make ridiculous money. (Ridiculous as in "a lot.") So it's easy to see why it'd be difficult to trade them: reasonable people can differ wildly on their actual value to a team.
I remain skeptical that the Grizzlies want to alter a good thing, though don't underestimate the influence of new owner Robert Pera and his first two hires, CEO Jason Levien (who has a background as a player agent and assistant GM) and senior executive John Hollinger (ESPN's longtime advanced metrics warlord). A team chasing Gay would need to be a squad who can't pull an All-Star on its own and has a gaping hole at small forward, and preferably a team in need of a scorer. The return package would almost assuredly include a guard, preferably one who can handle the ball to spell Mike Conley. It's too bad the Wizards have few assets; Gay would be a nice fit there.
This is the first point in the season in which benign roster moves cause fans to freak the heck out. Monday is the deadline to waive players with unguaranteed contracts before those contracts become guaranteed. So naturally, lots of players with unguaranteed deals are getting waived. And natually, when a team like the Celtics waives two players, fans immediately wonder if it's a precursor to a major trade. "They are clearing room for a blockbuster, multi-player deal!"
No. No they are not. They are shrinking their unavoidable tax bill. Having flotsam players on the end of the roster has never prevented a blockbuster trade: you would simply waive those players to make room as the deal was being finalized. It happens all of the time. (Heck, even some decent players get waived in those situations, if the trade merits it.) In the mean time, it makes financial sense to waive players you aren't using. If you need them temporarily, you bring them back on a 10-day contract. It's all minor finances, not blockbuster prep.
Besides, very rarely do major trades happen in early January. Give it a couple more weeks before letting your blood pressure rise.
The Hook is an NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives.