DeMarcus Cousins has torn his ACL, leaving the Los Angeles Lakers with a roster dilemma ahead of the 2019/20 NBA season. Cousins was signed to a one-year contract earlier this summer, reuniting him with former Pelicans teammate Anthony Davis and giving floor-spacing that LeBron James so desperately needs.
Along with JaVale McGee, Cousins was seen as the solution to Los Angeles’ problem at centre. Davis, despite playing the five frequently with the Pelicans, prefers playing as a four. With Cousins and Davis’ New Orleans partnership still fresh in the memory, Rob Pelinka acquired the former Sacramento King to allow Davis to play power forward. Cousins’ absence leaves a hole on the roster.
The Lakers can go a few ways about this. Another centre seems the obvious pick, and while they won’t be a starter, there are players who could at least play some minutes as a five. Other options are out there, however, which could mean shifting Davis up a position and using James and Kyle Kuzma in the forward spots.
Frank Vogel has a few roster questions to answer before the season begins – Cousins’ injury has just thrown up another. The point guard position remains uncertain, even though it has previously been reported James will start there. The allocation of minutes to the supporting cast will be interesting, as Vogel looks to find units that work well together.
If a like-for-like is the way the Lakers go, Dwight Howard and Joakim Noah are two centres that could interest them. Neither are anywhere near the level of Cousins, of course, and don’t offer the same floor spacing, but can be a presence in the paint if Davis wants to be given the freedom to drift onto the perimeter. Their screening would be valuable.
On the topic of screening, former Houston Rockets forward/centre Kenneth Faried is still available, too. The Davis-LeBron pick and roll is a tantalising prospect – Faried would be another threat on the roll, as we saw during the 2018/19 season with James Harden. A good screener and aggressive roller to the bucket, the Faried pick and roll could work nicely with LeBron or Rajon Rondo during bench minutes.
There’s the other, much discussed option: Carmelo Anthony.
LeBron’s long-term friend and nearly 12 months into life as a free agent, Carmelo has been linked with the Lakers more frequently than anyone (other than perhaps the Pelicans version of Davis). He’s not a replacement for Cousins positionally, but Vogel and Pelinka might see Anthony as a guy who can replicate the scoring they expected to get from the All-NBA centre. Anthony has talked the talk about accepting a new role, whether the Lakers believe he can become the eighth or ninth man on the bench is an altogether different question.
Cousins’ injury is obviously a major disappointment. It hurts the Lakers’ chances, but there was always uncertainty with the former Warriors big man over both form and fitness. They still have options in free agency and the roster is still strong enough to compete deep into the postseason.