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If The Bulls Want To Compete In The East, DeMarcus Cousins Needs To Be In Chicago

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bulls continue to fall short of overtaking LeBron. There’s one man that can change that situation…

As the NBA trade deadline approaches, rumors continue to build around the league. One of the more intriguing rumors is that the Sacramento Kings are unhappy with their superstar center, DeMarcus Cousins. Almost halfway through his sixth season in the league, Cousins has been putting up monster numbers. “Boogie” is averaging 26.1 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 2.8 APG, and 1.3 BPG. The big man is clearly on his way to his second straight All-Star game, but his lack of maturity and temperament have halted his growth into becoming one of the game’s truly elite players.  

Potential trade destinations for Cousins have been rather minimal, likely due in part to Kings General Manager Vlade Divac voicing his opinion that the Kings are still in favor of keeping Cousins. However, there is one team that seems to have been making a push to land “Boogie”: the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have been searching for that ever so important second star, and the landing of Cousins would be exactly what they need to succeed in the Eastern Conference. 

The Bulls have had a very “topsy turvy” kind of year. The hiring of Fred Hoiberg appeared to be the right move after Bulls GM Gar Forman and company had enough of Tom Thibodeau. Sadly, the Bulls have had more or less the same issues that plagued them under Thibodeau. Last season under Thibodeau they averaged just under 101 PPG, and this year they are averaging just a point more. With the addition of Cousins, who is primarily an offensive star, their scoring would likely increase. 

Hoiberg was brought in to fix the Bulls offensive struggles and to create a more positive coaching environment. One way they hoped to do this was by better allocating players minutes. We all know the story by now—Thibodeau played his starters way too much. Some people believe he is the sole reason for the collapse of Derrick Rose’s stardom. Despite this, the number of minutes for the starters have remained roughly the same. 

In the 2014-2015 season, Jimmy Butler averaged 38.7 MPG, Pau Gasol averaged 34.4 MPG, and Derrick Rose averaged 30 MPG. This season, Butler’s minutes have slightly decreased to 38.2 MPG, Rose is averaging 32.6 MPG, and Gasol is  averaging 31.6 MPG. So if you really think about it, there has not been much change. So can you blame these issues on Hoiberg, or do the Bulls not have enough talent on their roster to compete?

Despite the fact that Jimmy Butler is having a MVP type year with 22.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.3 APG, and a player efficiency rating of 21.8 (20th in the NBA), in today’s NBA, having just one stud isn’t enough. In comes DeMarcus Cousins. 

On Thursday, January 14th,  Jimmy  Butler scored 53 of the Bulls 115 points. One day later, he scored 4. He needs help. (John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports)

Now, the big question: how does Cousins make his way to the United Center? It’s actually a lot easier than you might think. He is in the midst of a four-year, $62 million contract that was extended after his rookie deal ended. He is making just under $16 million this season. So who do the Bulls send to Sacramento?

This is also a very easy question to answer. The Bulls have been rumored to be shopping Pau Gasol because of his increasing age and durability issues. Gasol is earning just under $7.5 million this season, about half of what Cousins’ contract is. So with Gasol as a clear salary swap piece of this deal, who do the Bulls package with him?

The perfect choice is Nikola Mirotic. A fellow countryman of Gasol, Mirotic could become the focal point of the Kings as Gasol slowly mentors and teaches Niko the ways of the game and what it means to be a symbol of Spain. Mirotic is earning $5.5 million this year, so the Bulls would be gaining around three million in cap space.

With the departure of of Mirotic and Gasol, the door for Bobby Portis‘ opens. The Bulls have expressed that they are impressed with rookie Bobby Portis, and want to utilize him more in the rotation. Unfortunately, Portis is buried deep in the depth chart and is only averaging 14.6 MPG despite having an incredible player efficiency rating of 14.7. For such a low amount of minutes, this efficiency rating suggests that Portis may be due to receive more playing time in the future.

The 1st-rounder can gain valuable playing time to develop his raw set of skills and become part of the Bull’s future. Additionally, the departure of Gasol and Mirotic opens the door for long-time sixth man, Taj Gibson. Gibson has had a mediocre first half of the 2015-2016 season, averaging just under 8 PPG and 4 RPG.  By no means do these number stand out, but like Portis, Gibson is trapped in a carousel of Power Forwards. He and Portis would each contribute around 20 MPG. Gibson would finally have his opportunity to prove that he is worthy of being a starter, and Portis would slowly start to develop his game. 

 Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

If this all goes as planned, the Bulls would have a chance to fight with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. It seems that almost every season in the east, it always winds up as the Bulls vs. LeBron James. Whether it’s LBJ on the Heat or the Cavs, the King makes the Bulls look like his servants. If Cousins were to make his way to Chicago, there could be a “changing of the guard” in the Eastern Conference. If you look at the best teams in the league, they have options 1 and 1a. Golden State has Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, San Antonio has Kawhi Leonard and LeMarcus Aldridge, Cleveland has their big three of Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, and LeBron. Those three teams are the best in the league, and it should truly come as no surprise because they all have multiple offensive studs. 

A trade that sends DeMarcus Cousins to Chicago would be one of the larger “blockbuster” trades in recent memory, and the impact that it would create for the Bulls is enormous. The projected starting five would be as follows:

PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Jimmy Butler
SF: Tony Snell/Doug McDermott
PF: Bobby Portis/Taj Gibson,
C: DeMarcus Cousins.

The hope would be that Fred Hoiberg and Jimmy Butler’s mellow demeanor could balance out Cousins’ fiery personality. With the excellent leadership of Butler, the talent of Cousins, and the potential of Snell, McDermott, and Portis, the Bulls would have everything they need to make a run in the postseason. 

DeMarcus Cousins is the only player in the NBA who can have a 10 minute montage of highlights and also have a 10 minute montage of technicals and fights…

Edited by Jeremy Losak, Emily Berman.

Who was teammates with DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky?
Created 1/18/16
  1. Anthony Davis
  2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
  3. Eric Bledsoe
  4. Brandon Knight

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