Coast to coast, which NBA contenders could DeMarcus Cousins help the most?

Coast to coast, which NBA contenders could DeMarcus Cousins help the most?

Illustration for article titled Coast to coast, which NBA contenders could DeMarcus Cousins help the most?
Illustration: Getty Images

It’s been over three years since DeMarcus Cousins ruptured his Achilles amid what will likely go down as his final All-Star season. We’re also 18 months removed from his torn ACL that saw him never suit up in 2019-20 despite signing with the Los Angeles Lakers. This season, the 6-foot-10 center had been on a rehabilitation run with the rebuilding Houston Rockets, not closely resembling his All-Star form outside of select games and flash moments. Due to his recent release, he at least proves as a curious enough candidate for a center-needy squad entering the second half of the 2020-21 season.

In 25 games with the Rockets, including 11 starts due to Christian Wood’s absences, Cousins averaged 9.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in just 20.2 minutes per contest. Though those are easily the lowest counting stats of his 11-year career, Boogie Cousins is still averaging 13.6 rebounds per-36 minutes, the best tally he’s ever had. A few glaring issues arise when analyzing his numbers, though. Cousins is only shooting 37.6 percent from the field and 33.6 percent from three. For the first-time in his NBA tenure, more than half of Cousins’ field goal attempts have come from behind the three-point line, which is generally a sign that someone is at the end of the line, especially at 6-foot-10 and around 270 pounds. Cousins’ player efficiency rating is also just 15.1, which is just above league-average (15.00) but ranks far below his career-average PER of 22.2.

In his favor are some landmark moments he’s had, particularly while stepping in for Wood. Cousins averaged 13.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in his 11 starts, averaging around 28 minutes per contest. He’s also put forth some peak Boogie-like games, like his 28 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, and four threes against the Dallas Mavericks, along with his 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and four threes against Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers in his final game before being granted his release.

But was Cousins merely a good stats, bad team beneficiary who feasted when the Rockets entered games short-handed, as they often have this season? Apparently, we’ll soon find out because several contenders have been linked to him.

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Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers

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Cousins was a Laker last season but was released in February before ever playing a game. Amid the recent release of Quinn Cook, it’s expected that the Lakers will soon make an addition to fortify their roster, perhaps on the interior in the absence of Anthony Davis for an extended period. Montrezl Harrell, who is 6-foot-7, and Marc Gasol, who is 36 years old, are the only Laker bigs averaging at least 20 minutes per contest. Head coach Frank Vogel anticipates Davis’ absence to carry well into March, opening the door for a Cousins type of addition, especially since the team is on a four-game losing streak.

However, the Los Angeles Times reports that the Lakers are unlikely to reunite with Cousins:

“There are no immediate plans to fill Cook’s roster spot, and multiple people with knowledge of the situation said they don’t expect the Lakers to reunite with Houston center DeMarcus Cousins if he becomes available as expected. The team will, however, monitor the buyout and trade markets for potential additions to their frontcourt.”

Of note, the Lakers are giving a 10-day trial run to former first-round pick and veteran center Damian Jones as of this afternoon.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks does note that Cousins could be added to the Lakers at the cost of not signing a 15th player.

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Miami Heat

Miami Heat

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Not only do the Heat have interest in Cousins, but because of Meyers Leonard’s season-ending shoulder injury, they also have been granted a disabled player exception of $4.7 million, which expires on April 19. The Heat are on a 9-5 stretch since Jimmy Butler’s return from COVID, and are currently on their second four-game winning streak of the run. One of their primary issues plaguing them is a need for a stretch-big, or at the very least, a big man next to Bam Adebayo who could rebound. It would be especially essential when Adebayo shows on pick-and-roll defensive switches and cannot rebound from the perimeter.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports of Cousins: “The Heat continues to seek potential roster upgrades and free-agent center DeMarcus Cousins is one of several power rotation players on Miami’s radar, according to a source.

The league source said Cousins is one of a handful of players that the Heat internally has discussed and been considering.”

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Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn Nets

Illustration for article titled Coast to coast, which NBA contenders could DeMarcus Cousins help the most?
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There’s no reporting to suggest that the Nets and Cousins are in lock-step of any kind, but it has become a debate on the Nets fan section of Twitter regarding whether this would help. The Nets recently requested waivers on Andre Roberson, Iman Shumpert, and Noah Vonleh then signed Tyler Cook to a 10-day contract. An open roster spot is available for Cousins, and Brooklyn also has a disabled player exception worth $5.7 million granted to them following Spencer Dinwiddie’s season-ending torn ACL.

It’s not seamless because Brooklyn would benefit from more of a defensive interior presence than Cousins, which he has never been, but they do need someone else to play back-up center instead of Jeff Green. (Unless Nicolas Claxton emerges between now and eventual playoff time.)

The main thing to remember is that getting James Harden has obviously been great for Brooklyn, but he needed to leave Houston, partly because of his antics toward the end, which didn’t sit well with Cousins.

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Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors

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The Raptors are in the market for Andre Drummond, so clearly, they understand their need for a center to aid their playoff push. Toronto is only 16-17 but are fifth in the Eastern Conference, and even if they trade Kyle Lowry, they should still remain competitive. Aron Baynes has been a bust in the absence of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, and the Raptors could use consistency rotating with Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher on the interior. Is Cousins the answer? Well, they’re the worst rebounding team in the league at just 41.7 boards per contest. They need someone.

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Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

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They have a traded player exception worth over $28.5 million, but even so, they need more than whatever that becomes to swing their NBA Finals’ hopes back in their favor. The Celtics haven’t been linked to Cousins as much as the Heat or Lakers, but Sixers beat writer Austin Krell reported that an agent named the Celtics as Cousins’ likely destination. Other than Kemba Walker going back to being Kemba Walker, they still have issues on the interior and simply have gotten enough out of their noteworthy Tristian Thompson signing, or anyone on the interior for that matter. Cousins won’t be Hakeem Olajuwon defensively, but he’ll score from the interior, which the Celtics aren’t doing a ton of these days.

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