As NBA free agency kicked off, rumors of DeMarcus Cousins heading to the Lakers to join LeBron James started to gain traction. With James announcing he is headed to Los Angeles, many fans expected Cousins to be next in line. The Lakers made it increasingly clear in the hours after James announcement that Cousins joining James is highly unlikely.
The Lakers were always going to find it challenging to fit two max players on their payroll, even with their cap clearing moves at the trade deadline. The Lakers have already agreed to terms with Kentavious Caldwell for an estimated $12 million for next season. This eats up a large chunk of the Lakers remaining cap space, as James is expected to sign a max contract which starts at more than $35 million per season. Los Angeles has also agreed to deals with JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson.
Prior to James’ signing, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported Cousins was a “fallback” option for the Lakers, in part because of his injury.
Cut to the summer of 2018: The Thunder have re-signed George to a four-year, $137 million deal, and the Lakers have turned their attention to DeMarcus Cousins, as I reported late Saturday. Cousins was once considered by league sources to be a top target for the Lakers coming into this summer, but after rupturing his Achilles tendon in January, he’s merely a fallback.
O’Connor went on to suggest Cousins could consider joining the Lakers on a discounted, prove-it deal, but that was before the Lakers used up the majority of their space.
Signing Boogie Cousins could be a sweetener for LeBron. In January 2017, James called Boogie “the best big man in our game.” LeBron’s praise of Cousins came before the New Orleans big man had suffered a major injury, but sources say he remains interested by the idea of playing with Boogie. The Pelicans’ unrestricted free agent center received a call from the Lakers at the start of free agency and is expected to schedule meetings with the Los Angeles and New Orleans, The Undefeated’s Marc Spears reported Sunday. Boogie’s fit with James is intriguing if Cousins returns to form, or near form…
The nice thing about the new NBA is that every season is temporary. Short contracts are the new normal. James could be sold on the idea of a trial with Cousins, with the possibility of filling the second star seat with a better option in the future. If the Lakers make an offer, league sources expect it to be a shorter-term max contract for either one or two seasons. The Pelicans could also make a two-year offer, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Thursday on SportsCenter. But if the Lakers become a legitimate threat to sign Cousins, it’ll be interesting to see whether the Pelicans are pressured to offer him a longer-term deal.
Prior to the Lakers signing a trio of players to short term deals, ESPN’s Ryen Russillo also suggested Cousins to the Lakers on a short-term deal could be an option.
“Lakers will continue to go after Kawhi. (This was made very clear to LeBron) I think Ingram would be a better asset than what others can offer. No Kawhi, Boogie on a short deal to keep cap space clear for next summer,” Russillo tweeted after James’ announcement.
By all accounts, the Lakers have very little cap space left, and will use the remainder to sign their second-round picks. Los Angeles could turn their attention to trying to acquire Kawhi Leonard. Cousins made $18.06 million last season, and is looking for a raise this summer. The big man is likely to find it difficult to find a buyer with so few teams with cap space, in addition to concerns over his ACL injury.