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updated: 11/3/2017 6:22 AM

Why DeMarcus Cousins could be a good fit for the rebuilding Chicago Bulls

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  • New Orleans Pelicans forward DeMarcus Cousins (0) shouts at an official during the first half in an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz Monday, March 6, 2017, in Salt Lake City.

    New Orleans Pelicans forward DeMarcus Cousins (0) shouts at an official during the first half in an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz Monday, March 6, 2017, in Salt Lake City.

  • New Orleans Pelicans' DeMarcus Cousins, left, is guarded by Chicago Bulls' Cristiano Felicio during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Chicago.

    New Orleans Pelicans' DeMarcus Cousins, left, is guarded by Chicago Bulls' Cristiano Felicio during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Chicago.

 
 

There's a reason John Paxson has cautioned Chicago Bulls fans to be patient with the rebuilding process.

He wants to collect more high draft picks and sometimes those guys don't pan out (see Okafor, Jahlil).

Eventually, the Bulls will need to add a veteran or two via trade or free agency.

The Bulls can't expect to jump into free agency right away because NBA stars typically aren't interested in joining a losing team (see summer 2000). But they don't want to wait too long either, because once they re-sign Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and perhaps Kris Dunn, their cap space will disappear.

But what if a high-level free agent, a first-team, all-NBA caliber center, becomes available? This guy has no history of winning, but he has posted some of the most impressive numbers this decade.

Of course, we're talking about DeMarcus Cousins, who will visit the United Center on Saturday with the New Orleans Pelicans.

Yeah, he has a temper. Sure, he gives his teams headaches sometimes. This is absolutely a move that would be atypical for the Bulls.

But so far this season, Cousins is averaging 29.4 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.9 assists. Anyone who plays NBA fantasy cherishes the guy.

Surely, it must be possible to build a winning team around Cousins. Being paired with Anthony Davis in New Orleans may not be the right formula, which is reason to believe Cousins could hit the open market as a free agent next summer, with few teams able to give him a deal in the neighborhood of $25 million-$30 million per year without doing a sign-and-trade.

Bulls guard Justin Holiday watches the Pelicans every chance he gets, since his younger brother Jrue is the point guard. So I asked him, can a winning team be build around Cousins?

"I guess I'm not really sure," Holiday said. "I know that game they played against Cleveland, they looked like a winning team to me.

"He (Cousins) took care of the ball. He got guys on back cuts, got a lot of assists and then still was a force on both ends of the floor. That's how he's going to have to play, and that's how the team is going to have to play for them to win. I think that's a winning play right there."

Cousins posted a triple-double in a victory over the Cavaliers this week, finishing with 29 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and 3 steals. Two days earlier, he produced a rare 40-20 game in his return to Sacramento.

Just imagine the possibilities. Cousins could help get Markkanen open looks at the 3-point line. He could complement LaVine as an inside scoring threat, and he has a potential pick-and-roll partner in Dunn.

Add a top-five pick in next year's draft to the Bulls' roster and it's enough to think this could work. Maybe.

If New Orleans decides not to go all in on a Davis-Cousins future, the volatile big man will be looking for a new home, and the Bulls have one of the best attractions going right now -- they don't play in the Western Conference.

There are plenty of potential downsides. Cousins has led the league in fouls three times and ranks first so far this season. He's a high-turnover player. He gets too many technical fouls (league-leading 18 last season) and has been known to lose his temper, as evidenced last season at the United Center when he decked a garbage can outside the locker room after a controversial Kings loss.

On the other hand, Cousins recently received the first NBA Cares Offseason Community Assist Award. He's very active in Sacramento and his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. So no one is saying he's a bad guy.

As it stands today, the Bulls will have about $38 million in cap space next summer but will need a big chunk of that to re-sign LaVine next summer.

They could add significant space, though, by declining Nikola Mirotic's option for 2018-19 and trading Robin Lopez. In that scenario, the Bulls could have about $65 million in cap space to spend on LaVine and others.

Pursuing Cousins would be a bold, risky step for the Bulls. At the same time, waiting for a bunch of high draft picks to pan out, while losing 60 games a year, isn't a stroll down Bourbon Street.

While watching Cousins play at the United Center on Saturday, it's worth wondering if the volatile big man could ease the rebuilding blues.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

By the numbers

NBA career stats for center DeMarcus Cousins:

Year (Team): Pts / Rebs / Assists

2017-18 (NOP): 30.1 / 13.0 / 5.9

2016-17 (SAC): 27.8 / 10.6 / 4.8

2016-17 (NOP): 24.4 / 12.4 / 3.9

2015-16 (SAC): 26.9 / 11.5 / 3.3

2014-15 (SAC): 24.1 / 12.7 / 3.6

2013-14 (SAC): 22.7 / 11.7 / 2.9

2012-13 (SAC): 17.1 / 9.9 / 2.7

2011-12 (SAC): 18.1 / 11.0 / 1.6

2010-11 (SAC): 14.1 / 8.6 / 2.5

Career: 21.3 / 10.9 / 3.1

Source: basketball-reference.com

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