Welcome to a mid-season edition of the Blazer's Edge roundtable. Today, our staff is considering a simple question with many complicated answers: Given the opportunity, would you trade Damian Lillard for DeMarcus Cousins?
A couple caveats: We don't know that Lillard and Cousins would be the ONLY pieces moving, but assume that is the "meat" of the deal for discussion purposes. Also, assume that Cousins has 100% agreed to re-up with Portland this summer when his current contract expires. Obviously this deal is a non-starter if there's a chance Cousins leaves at the end of June.
Dan Graves - @inKelso
OH, COME ON! Who dreams these questions up, anyway? Seriously, I'm speechless right now. Blazer fans should revolt to this notion. Here are five good reasons why this will never happen:
1) The Blazers' marketing department would start parking in Neil Olshey's designated parking spot.
2) The Blazers' social media folks would start posting anonymous goofy Neil O memes on their Facebook pages.
3) Twitter would go down... instantly.
4) Instead of "Lillard Time," there would be "Boogie Time" (ugh).
5) Paul Allen wouldn't find curbside parking for tatoosh while vacationing in Cannes.
As you can see, the implications are just too great. Sorry... ain't gonna happen.
Ryan Rosback - @RyanRules21
No. Just no. Not to say that Damian Lillard isn't without his weaknesses - there's certainly room for improvement - but this isn't about that. What Dame means to the Blazers and the City of Portland goes way beyond production on the court. He's the kind of marketable star fans have longed for since the days of Clyde Drexler: somebody who can burst out of the isolated doldrums of the Pacific Northwest to become a bona-fide national icon, and for all the right reasons. No more closed-door locker room scuffles; no more hot-boxed Hummers on I5.
It's not fair to say that Boogie Cousins would send Portland back to the Jail Blazers era, but it's not a move in the right direction. For a player by many considered to be the best center in the game, the guy hasn't carried his team to a decent record in six seasons, leads the league in technicals over that period, and probably has a better chance of getting ejected from a playoff game than winning one. Just ask Patrick Beverly's stomach. He might be one talented son-of-a-gun, but Cousins brings too much baggage on and off the court to justify cutting ties with a franchise player.
This team belongs to Lillard.
Eric Griffith - @DeeringTornado
Here's the thing: This trade is NEVER going to happen for all the reasons listed above. Neil Olshey believes Dame is the future of the franchise, for both on-court and off-court reasons, and is going to treat him as such.
That said, I do wish Olshey would at least consider the deal. Lillard is the only player on the roster that, by virtue of his intangibles, could be traded straight up for a player that exceeds his personal on-court impact. In this case, Dame is a top-15 guy, while Cousins is possibly the top center in NBA. From a pure basketball standpoint, a straight swap of those two is a win for the Blazers. Mix in that the Blazers have another potential top-20 combo guard waiting in the wings, and the deal becomes even sweeter.
The follow-up question, of course, is whether or not Cousins is worth the hassle. Without being in the locker room, that's almost impossible to answer. However, from the outside looking in, you'd be hard pressed to find a player more in need of a change of scenery than DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings have been a toxic wasteland of bad management for years, and it's hard to blame a young player for growing weary of that environment. By contrast, the Blazers are very well-run with one of the best coaches in basketball. It at least seems possible that Cousins could thrive in a new environment.
The bottom line: Portland's not going to get a player of Cousins' caliber in return for McCollum, so refusing to even consider trades like Lillard for DMC closes off an avenue of potential improvement. For a rebuilding team, that might be a mistake. Ultimately, skill on the court is going to win games, so there's a limit to how far a team should rely on intangibles when evaluating trade opportunities. No amount of good chemistry could fix last year's under-powered 76ers, for example. Is DMC for Lillard past that limit? It's hard to say, but should at least be discussed.
Brandon Goldner (@GoldnerPDX)
And I HATE saying that. I really do. Dame has become the face of the franchise in a way no Blazers player has done since Brandon Roy, and some could argue even more deeply than that. Lillard, by all accounts, loves it here. He respects his community, he respects the fans, he puts himself out there, he's a consummate professional, and he's still growing both as a player and a person. Why on EARTH would you want to move someone like that?
It's because DeMarcus Cousins is a once-in-a-generation force. He has low post moves. He can shoot. He can pass a little, he can play a little defense (when motivated). He can even shoot threes. And he does all of this at 6'11" and 285-ish pounds. He's a beast.
But the "if he's motivated" part is the hangup. Damian Lillard is never not motivated. He may bring bursts of energy that make the times in between look like coasting, but he's never checked out of a game. Boogie Cousins checks out of games for stretches. That's dangerous, and for as many years as he's been in the league, it doesn't seem to be getting much better.
How much of that is the franchise? The Kings are among the league's most made-fun-of teams, and for good reason. The dysfunction starts at the top and seeps all the way down, and it's been that way for Cousins' entire tenure in Sacramento.
Is a change of scenery, a solid system, a reliable coach not known for getting on players' nerves, and an offense that would likely be built around his strengths enough, combined, to push along his maturation process? Maybe. Maybe not. But his talent is unique and deep enough that, if given the option, the Blazers ought to give it a shot.
Ryan A Sterling
ABSOLUTELY NOT. No denying that Cousins is a world-class big man. 28.3 points per game, 10.7 boards, almost two blocks. Not a lot of problems with injuries. The issue is his attitude. He became a locker room nightmare in his first two seasons, and was suspended four times, including once for punching Patrick Beverley in the stomach. Nearly every coach he has ever had has complained about his work ethic and effort, and Cousins has complained about them right back. O.J. Mayo claims that Cousins has "severe mental issues." His temper problems are well-documented, and technical fouls have been a regular occurrence. Could the relaxed atmosphere of Portland make him chill out? Could Coach Stotts get him to hustle in a way George Karl, John Calipari, and others before him could not? "Maybe" to both of these questions, but why give up a world-class player in Lillard, who stays out of trouble and does not have hustle problems?
In the meantime, we know even considering the topic will seem like sacrilege to some. (Believe me, we looked at each other and asked, "Can we even talk about this?" Then we said, "We're Blazer's Edge. Of COURSE we can talk about this!") For those for whom a Lillard trade is a question too far, we make this offer. If we get 100 tickets donated today to help send underprivileged kids to see the Blazers-Sixers game on March 9th, we will declare an official moratorium on any and all Lillard trade talk through the end of the season (excepting legit news stories, of course). Offended at the notion? Here's how to send kids to see your guy play!
This year’s Blazer’s Edge Night comes on March 9th, 2017 as Damian Lillard and the Blazers face Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76’ers.
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