Rockets Give Up DeMarcus Cousins; Lakers among possible landing spots for the veteran big man

DeMarcus Cousins ​​was, at least early in his tenure with the Houston Rockets, one of the worst players in the NBA. In 11 games, he averaged 6.1 points on 26.3 percent shooting. But in late January, the flashes of the former All-Star began to shine. In his last 14 games, he’s up to 12.4 points on 44.6 percent shooting, and in his last outing as Rocket, he gave Houston 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Now the great man has been resigned by Houston, allowing the former All-Star to join another team, possibly a contender.

He is still a defensive player with many flaws and extremely limited mobility. His shot selection is questionable to say the least, and he’s one of the NBA’s biggest injury risks. Your rising superstar, in all likelihood, is gone. But in a very specific type of role with the right teammates, Cousins ​​can still be a moderately productive NBA player, and moderately productive NBA players rarely hit the market in February. Cousins ​​may not have a star advantage, but his advantage relative to the available alternatives is huge. There is going to be interest in Cousins ​​now that it is available, and these five teams are the most logical destinations.

The Lakers took their turn on the Cousins ​​carousel last season and by all accounts, it was a pretty positive experience. Although he never played for Los Angeles thanks to the torn ACL that kept him out all season, he was a good sideline soldier, and when he was fired in February to make room for additions to the buyout, there was mutual interest in a return. Kevin O’Connor from The Ringer reports that the Lakers are still interested in such a meeting now.

In the short term, that’s not particularly surprising. The Lakers are undersized with Anthony Davis out, and even when he returns, the two found success together in New Orleans and enjoyed playing each other so much that Davis drafted Cousins ​​to Los Angeles in first place in 2019.

The pertinent question here is how Frank Vogel would fit Cousins ​​into the rotation. He just can’t live with Marc Gasol on defense. They are both too slow to share a flat. A Montrezl Harrell setting isn’t ideal either. Any team that signs Cousins ​​would do so on the positive side of offense, but according to Synergy Sports, Harrell is in the 98th percentile for overall offensive efficiency. Cousins ​​can’t improve on that. Harrell has flourished as a one-on-one scorer this season, scoring 1.2 points per possession in isolation. Asking him to hand over possessions for Cousins ​​minimizes his value, especially since he’s not a threat from behind the arc. Defenses are also perfectly comfortable hanging on Cousins, further inhibiting Harrell in the paint, and Harrell’s own defensive limitations would further weaken the pair as a whole.

Davis is the only Laker equipped to fill in Cousins’ shortcomings, and he’s out for the moment. Even when he comes back, there just aren’t that many shooting minutes for everyone, especially as Davis starts playing more shooting minutes in the postseason. The Lakers could split the position between Cousins, Gasol and Harrell, but it remains to be seen how happy either of them would be with that arrangement.

Rob Pelinka could address these concerns in the commercial market, although it doesn’t seem too likely either. Both Gasol and Harrell accepted pay cuts to play for the Lakers. Harrell is represented by Klutch Sports, who also represents LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He left money on the table because he believed that being a Laker would help improve his value in free agency in 2021. Was it really worth incurring Klutch’s wrath for betraying Harrell just to add Cousins? Gasol is Lakers royalty. His brother, Pau, is a legend of the team who has already left on bad terms. The Buss family would probably prefer not to further alienate him by trading his brother after he took an extremely team-friendly deal in the offseason.

If Cousins ​​joined them, Vogel would have to juggle another big name in an already packed rotation. He did it successfully last season, and teams led by LeBron James never shy away from high-risk, high-reward additions, but adding Cousins ​​wouldn’t be as simple as inserting another great man into a team that suffers from size. .

Speaking of teams that suffer from size, the Blazers essentially pretend the backup center position doesn’t exist. Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins and Harry Giles are all injured, and the Blazers have turned to extreme small ball only to pass every time Enes Kanter goes to the bench. Create some of the most jarring stylistic contrasts in basketball. Kanter can’t defend outside of the paint. Robert Covington provides more protection at the rim than a player his size should, but he’s at his best roaming the perimeter and looking for steals and detours. The Blazers are trying to get away from the kind of drop coverage Kanter specializes in. It comes with serious limitations in the playoffs. But injuries have strained her hand, so they might as well hug her for now.

Terry Stotts has successfully concealed Kanter’s defensive flaws in the regular season, so he could theoretically do the same for Cousins. Portland I was interested in Cousins ​​in 2018 Before signing with the Warriors, and as we saw with Carmelo Anthony, the Blazers are perfectly poised to grab a former goal long after the rest of the league has lost interest. Anthony’s redemption tour has been largely a success. Perhaps the Blazers could have the same effect on Cousins.

Only one big man on Toronto’s roster has a positive net rating this season. When Chris Boucher is on the court, the Raptors play well. When Aron Baynes or Alex Len are on the court, they don’t. Toronto is already scrutinizing the core market for an update with Andre Drummond reportedly in its sights. Cousins ​​would be a decidedly cheaper option and one that would provide the offensive versatility they tend to prefer in their big men.

The question here would be defense. Toronto isn’t exactly known for the conservative schemes that a physically limited player like Cousins ​​depends on for survival. They change. They bombard. They play aggressive zones that are only as effective as their slower rotation. They would almost certainly be Cousins. Nick Nurse is as adaptable as any basketball coach. If any coach could devise a defense capable of covering his weaknesses without compromising the strengths of the rest of Toronto’s roster, it is him.

But Toronto’s entire identity over the past few seasons has been based on every member of its rotation on both defense and shooting. They had to compromise a bit out of necessity this season, but Cousins ​​would take that to a new level. Desperate times might have required desperate measures a few weeks ago, but with the Raptors 8-3 in their last 11 games, they can afford to be a little more selective than they would have been earlier in the season.

golden state warriors

In terms of pure basketball, a return to the Warriors probably makes more sense for Cousins ​​than rejoining the Lakers. Golden State’s offense falls off a cliff every time Stephen Curry goes to the bench. With it, they add 113 points for every 100 possessions. Without him? Only 100.6. They’ve made up for it with stellar defense on the bench, but a lot of that relies on unsustainable shooting luck. Opponents are hitting 38 percent of their 3s with Curry on the court and 34.7 percent without him. If any part of you thinks it might be Curry’s fault, remember that your minutes are largely tied to Draymond Green’s.

Eventually opponents are going to regress to the mean against the Golden State bench, and when that time comes, they could probably use a little more punch offensively. Cousins ​​could provide it. He knows the system and his passing could fuel the off-the-ball movement that has been lacking without Curry and Draymond.

But if Golden State really wanted to stay with Cousins ​​in 2019, it probably could have. There were hard-cap concerns after the D’Angelo Russell signing and trade, but Cousins ​​might have fit in if they let Kevon Looney go. They didn’t, however, and when Looney returns from injury, there’s no reason to believe Steve Kerr will take him out of the rotation. The same goes for James Wiseman. Its development is too important to the organization’s long-term perspective to sacrifice it for Cousins ​​minutes. Add in an occasional small-ball streak, which has generally worked well for Golden State this season, and the Warriors may not have enough minutes to satisfy Cousins ​​now.

There will be some speculation about Brooklyn as Cousins’ fate given his relationship with Kevin Durant and his lack of size, but in pure basketball terms, it doesn’t make sense. Small ball lineups with Jeff Green at nominal center are working. Brooklyn has more than enough firepower. Can they really afford another defensive risk? Especially one who doesn’t exactly get along with James Harden? Probably not. If Cousins ​​heads to the Big Apple, the Knicks are the most likely landing spot.

They don’t have starting center Mitchell Robinson after all, and their 24th-ranked offense needed a shake-up even before his injury. Cousins ​​has a relatively similar skill set to Julius Randle, New York’s top shot-maker, and could allow for some systemic consistency when he goes to the bench. There aren’t many centers capable of handling the ball, passing it and throwing it as well as Randle does, but if his recent games are any indication, Cousins ​​could be close in limited minutes. While Tom Thibodeau has licensed his most athletic centers to defend the perimeter, the Knicks are not a particularly changeable defense. Cousins ​​could handcuff himself to the rim and survive in New York.

There is also the Kentucky connection to consider. The Knicks have four former Wildcats on the roster, as well as assistant coach Kenny Payne. This would probably have to be a short term addition. When Robinson returns, there will be no minutes for him, Noel and Cousins. But meanwhile? Cousins ​​makes some sense as a Knick.

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