Promising yet problematic center DeMarcus Cousins was suspended for a game last night because of an alleged trade demand the two-year King made to Sacramento coach Paul Westphal. But Cousins’ agent says that he didn’t make a trade demand, and Kings co-owner Joe Maloof told Yahoo! Sports, "We’re not trading him."
Perhaps it’s good that Cousins won’t get traded, at least in the short term. Mike Miller is getting closer to a return, and Pat Riley may want to include him in a trade for Cousins. Just before last year’s trade deadline, Riley reportedly offered Miller to acquire Brendan Haywood or Nene. Miami’s signings of small forwards Shane Battier and James Jones to three-year contracts last month certainly makes Miller more of a luxury for this team, and the Heat could use an upgrade at the center position.
Moreover, the impressive play of Norris Cole and – to a lesser degree – Mario Chalmers has stood as the biggest surprise of the Heat’s young season. Cole and Chalmers are Miami’s fourth- and fifth-leading scorers, respectively. If Erik Spoelstra divvies up 48 minutes between Cole and Chalmers, he cannot use three-wing lineups that would allow the Heat to make room in the rotation for Battier, Jones and Miller with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James logging heavy minutes.
Quite possibily the second-most talented player in the 2010 NBA Draft, the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins could turn the Heat’s biggest weakness into a position of strength. The Heat can get by most teams with Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem playing power forward and center, but Dwight Howard could change the entire scenario. If the league’s best center goes to the Los Angeles Lakers and Mitch Kupchak keeps Pau Gasol out of the trade, the Lakers would become a serious threat to win the West. The Heat would need someone who has the size and mobility to keep up with Dwight Howard in a seven-game series.
Cousins’ immaturity led him into several punishments from the Kings through his brief NBA career, and it’s why he may get traded before the March 15 deadline. But the Heat have fellow center Alonzo Mourning as an executive who can mentor Cousins. Riley and Erik Spoelstra can also ask some of Miami’s veterans – the Big Three, Haslem, Juwan Howard – to keep the young player in line. Trading for Cousins also ensures Miami’s position as a contender for multiple years. Wade may turn 30 this month, but James and Bosh are still 27, Norris Cole is 23 and Cousins is 21. Cousins would have to accept getting relegated to a fourth option, but Riley could sell him on building his career legacy as a championship center.
It would be difficult to fathom the Kings trading a player with All-Star potential for Miller, even if he does play well for a few games once he returns from the sports hernia injury. The Heat also gave away numerous draft picks in the sign-and-trade moves to acquire James and Bosh. Miami does have a first-round pick for 2012, but it would end up at the bottom of the first round. While it may stand as a long shot, Riley should try to trade for him. As I mentioned earlier, Riley will have to take risks on centers. This chance provides Miami the opportunity to sign a highly skilled big man in a move that has benefits that end up outweighing the potential pitfalls.