Leor on Sports: Why the Celtics Need to Trade for DeMarcus Cousins

By: Leor Handelsman

Ever since we traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets in 2013 for plentiful high draft picks, our future looked promising. Since then, we have traded for Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, signed Al Horford, and drafted Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, therefore providing excellent, young talent. Although our balanced team is playing great, currently third place in the conference, we are no match against powerhouse teams such as the Cleveland, Toronto, Golden State or San Antonio. You simply can not compete for the title when your three best players are Thomas, Crowder, and Horford. There is only one team in history that has won the title without a first team all NBA player on the roster: The 2004 Pistons. But even though we do not have that superstar on our roster, we have the assets to trade for one. In the 2013 deal with the nets, we landed their 2017 first rounder, which is most likely going to be the first or second overall pick in the draft. Looking forward, there are two standout players that will most likely go first and second overall: Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball. The only problem: They are both point guards, the one position that the Celtics don’t need. In order to get the best value out of that pick, we need to trade it for a superstar.

Celtics’ general manager, Danny Ainge’s next task is to find that superstar. The few big-time players that have just begun their primes are the following: Anthony Davis, (who is locked into a contract until 2021 and is pretty much untradable), Jimmy Butler (the Bulls have made it clear that he is going nowhere), and Paul George (same situation as Butler). At this point, the Celtics are almost desperate to make a big splash soon. However, there is one player left. Demarcus (Boogie) Cousins. Although very few people have noticed, Boogie has been one of the best centers in NBA history. If you’re reading this, then you’re probably laughing and thinking that Jed Shugerman’s 15 year old child is insane. How could anyone compare a guy that has never made the playoffs to legends like Shaq, Chamberlain, and Kareem?
Well get ready, because I’m about to throw some crazy stats at you. In his first six seasons, Cousins averaged 20 points, 11 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. Only two other players in the history of the NBA have put up those numbers in their first 6 seasons: David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon. Even if we take away the steals category, only 11 players have accomplished what Cousins has done, and they are all either Hall of famers or soon to be. This season, Boogie Cousins is averaging 28 points a game, and overall, his stats have improved all around. Also, Cousins will fit into the Celtics’ unselfish offense immediately, and is the perfect example of a guy you can build your team around. Somehow, despite having teammates that completely lack talent, Cousins has averaged 3 assists a game, and that number rises every year. His shooting range is also excellent for a big man. He surprised basketball fans everywhere when he made 73 shots from downtown in just 65 games, last season. This year, Cousins is shooting 37% from deep, and is knocking down almost 2 three-pointers a game. Cousins would be a wonderful addition to the Celtics roster.

The Celtics need to made an impact now. Piling up draft picks is a good strategy that has gotten them into the great place that they are in now. But at some point, we need to turn those unpromising assets into an all-star that will help our team. But why are the Celtics waiting? What player is going to come their way who has more talent then Demarcus Cousins? It takes a couple years to turn a 2017 draft pick into a star, but we never know whether Isaiah, Crowder, or Bradley will be gone by then. Trading for Cousins would make the Celtics an instant contender and potentially bring a banner home to TD Garden.

Author: Jed Shugerman

Jed Handelsman Shugerman is a Professor at Fordham Law School. He received his B.A., J.D., and Ph.D. (History) from Yale. His book, The People’s Courts (Harvard 2012), traces the rise of judicial elections, judicial review, and the influence of money and parties in American courts. It is based on his dissertation that won the 2009 ASLH’s Cromwell Prize. He is co-author of amicus briefs on the history of presidential power, the Emoluments Clauses, the Appointments Clause, the First Amendment rights of elected judges, and the due process problems of elected judges in death penalty cases. He is currently working on two books on the history of executive power and prosecution in America. The first is tentatively titled “A Faithful President: The Founders v. the Unitary Executive,” questioning the textual and historical evidence for the theory of unchecked and unbalanced presidential power. This book draws on his articles “Vesting” (Stanford Law Review forthcoming 2022), “Removal of Context” (Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities 2022), a co-authored “Faithful Execution and Article II” (Harvard Law Review 2019 with Andrew Kent and Ethan Leib), “The Indecisions of 1789” (forthcoming Penn. Law Review), and “The Creation of the Department of Justice,” (Stanford Law Review 2014). The second book project is “The Rise of the Prosecutor Politicians: Race, War, and Mass Incarceration,” focusing on California Governor Earl Warren, his presidential running mate Thomas Dewey, the Kennedys, World War II and the Cold War, the war on crime, the growth of prosecutorial power, and its emergence as a stepping stone to electoral power for ambitious politicians in the mid-twentieth century.

4 thoughts on “Leor on Sports: Why the Celtics Need to Trade for DeMarcus Cousins”

  1. Leor, you make some good points. But there are some big questions about Cousins as a team player. I trust Coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics’ core leaders to manage most situations, but this challenge might be too much for them. Horford is a true team player, a “5” who passes well and plays strong defense, but I worry about how Horford and Cousins would play together. I think the best move — their Plan A — should be to wait for Kevin Durant to leave the Warriors (whether they win or lose) this summer and keep their top-three pick in the draft (and draft a power forward or trade the pick for one). That team would win a championship: A big three of Horford, Durant, and Isaiah, with terrific supporting cast (and excellent defense) from Bradley, Smart, Crowder, Amir Johnson, plus the top-3 pick and Jaylen Brown off the bench. If Cousins is one of their big three, that’s an imbalance of two centers on the court at the same time, even if they both have more range.


    1. Dad, I agree that there may be some questions about the Horford-Cousins combo. But our biggest struggle last post season was our rebounding. The two big man combo would definitely upgrade our boards and defense. Also, my number one point was to not wait around and hope for luck. Even if Durant does leave the Warriors, there is still a low chance that we can sign him. And then what happens if we can’t land Durant? We’re stuck with Lorenzo Ball, the 19 year old point guard whose style and athletisicm has been questioned by almost every scout in the country.


  2. Leor, I think the Celtics really did come in second in the Durant chase last summer. And I think he’ll see that the Celtics are a better match for his skills this summer. In Golden State, he is one of three long-distance shooters with no legitimate centers and one smallish PF (Green). The main reason to go after Cousins is to win this year, even though that move would eliminate our shot at Durant for salary cap reasons. But I think the Kings would demand more than just the Nets’ pick this year (precisely because there isn’t a guaranteed star in this draft). They’d ask for the pick plus Jaylen Brown or Marcus Smart. Do you really think adding Cousins midseason (and losing one key player) makes the Celtics a title contender? I think they’d still lose to the more balanced Cavaliers.


    1. First of all, The Kings know that the aren’t in any position to make a deep playoff run in the near future. They are happy restarting and building around the best prospect in the country. Even if the Kings are too stubborn to give up Cousins for the pick straight up, I am happy adding Smart to the deal.I strongly believe that the Celtics can contest for the next few years with a lineup of Thomas, Bradley, Crowder/Brown, Cousins and Horford. We may not be the favorites, but we would be the clear number two team in the conference.


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