The Houston Rockets have released DeMarcus Cousins, per Shams Charania.
Charania reports Houston has let Cousins go to allow him to have his choice of a new team. The Rockets want to go younger and smaller in the frontcourt.
The obvious link is to the Lakers. Cousins signed with the team before last season, and stayed with them through most of the campaign despite injury ruling him out for the entirety of the campaign. The Lakers could be looking for supplementary frontcourt depth with Anthony Davis sidelined.
Cousins saw his minutes increase when Christian Wood got injured. Unfortunately, his numbers haven’t exactly shone. At a career-low 9.6 points per game, Cousins’ 51.1% true shooting is his lowest mark since his second year in the league. He’s still rebounding at a good rate per 36, and his assist numbers are once again good for a big man.
There’s still major vulnerability on defense. Cousins isn’t the same bruising force on the block he once was, and he’s spending more time on the perimeter. His 8.3 three-point attempts per 36 is by far a career high.
This version of DeMarcus Cousins is nowhere near the four-time All-Star from his Kings and Pelicans days. For the right teams, though, he can still have a useful role as a backup big to stretch the floor.
Free agent destinations
A reunion with LeBron James on the Lakers is by far the most likely outcome. Frank Vogel is without Davis. Marc Gasol is only playing 20 minutes per night, and Montrezl Harrell is at 24. Cousins could help to spread the frontcourt load in Davis’ absence. With his shooting ability, he’d even be a fit alongside Harrell against bigger line-ups.
Of course, there’s the added incentive of returning to Los Angeles and playing for the title favorites. Failing that, though, Cousins could look for a bigger role elsewhere.
Returning to another former team could be an option here. Cousins was on the Warriors team that lost to the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals. Injuries once again troubled his time in The Bay, but a return could make sense for both parties.
The Warriors have been running ultra-small teams of late. James Wiseman and Kevon Looney have missed time. Even when they’re available, there would be minutes for Cousins at the five. While it doesn’t bring the same prospect of a ring as the Lakers, Cousins could be an important piece for these Warriors.
Of the other upper echelon teams, the Blazers could have interest. Portland is suffering their own frontcourt injury crisis. Cousins doesn’t help their 28th ranked defense, but as a free agent acquisition, the Blazers would surely be happy to have another big to help out Enes Kanter.
Over in the East, the Bucks or Celtics could get involved. Boston must be on the lookout for any extra veteran depth. Milwaukee might like another option at the five. The Raptors are on the lookout for a big man too, but Cousins’ defensive limitations might not appeal to Nick Nurse.
Cousins is used to free agent life. It’ll be interesting to see whether he prioritizes minutes or a ring.