All-Star centre DeMarcus Cousins signed with the Los Angeles Lakers last off-season. An ACL injury ended his season before it began, however, and the former All-Star was released by the Lakers a few weeks ago.
Cousins was heading for a max contract before an Achilles injury. The New Orleans Pelicans had just traded for the star centre, but the injury sidelined him long-term. A prove-it deal with the Golden State Warriors followed for 2018/19, though injuries yet again riddled Cousins. He had his moments, and impressed at times in the playoffs, but the health issues persisted.
Signing another one-year deal with the Lakers, Cousins was due to be the third offensive option alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. It, of course, did not work out, and the Lakers shared their centre minutes between Davis, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard.
Cousins’ absence hasn’t been felt thus far. McGee and Howard have exceeded all expectations, playing a limited game in the paint at both ends. Davis has covered the five when other teams have gone small.
The Lakers wouldn’t have been the same defensive force with Cousins on the floor. The team would look very different at both ends of the court, and considering their regular season success, that poses a question about him potentially re-signing with the Lakers for the next NBA season (whenever that may be).
As it stands, the Lakers are favoured to re-sign Cousins in free agency. His relationship with the franchise was good – he was often seen on the sideline – and he continued his rehab at the team’s facility after being released. On the court, however, it might not be the best move for either party, and another big-market team lurks.
The New York Knicks, under new management, are dusting themselves off after the Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant embarrassment. A season that began with talk of a playoff push resulted in ugly basketball and the firing of David Fizdale. A roster that looked ill-fitting turned out to be just that. RJ Barrett was not put in a position to succeed in his rookie year.
Star hunting this off-season will be a challenge. The free agent class is barren, and there are no obvious big trades on the horizon. The Knicks’ new front office should be looking to build for the future, but James Dolan will be pushing for a big name or two. Cousins fits that bill and will be attainable without committing a chunk of the salary cap deep into the 2020s.
It’s a fit from a reputation and PR standpoint, but once again, it doesn’t make a tonne of sense on the court. Cousins, whether he warrants it or not, will want to be a starter. Mitchell Robinson, part of the Knicks core, should be taking 30 minutes per night at centre. Running both together would be a dodgy fit defensively.
The reasons for the Knicks and Lakers being matched with Cousins are understandable. From a basketball sense, it’s hard to justify, although a one-year, low-cost deal carries minimal risk for a franchise.
Both the Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics are more appropriate suitors for the sidelined big man. As we know in the NBA, though, there’s more that impacts decision making than what takes place on the court.