The Lakers may have lost out on the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes, seeing the superstar head to the crosstown rival Clippers, but the PR spin is already in full effect. Newly-signed center DeMarcus Cousins talked to SLAM on Thursday about how “incredible” the new roster is with him and former Pelicans teammate Anthony Davis in the fold.
“I think we got a lot of talented pieces on paper,” he said. “On paper we look legit, we look like we have a great chance of competing for a title. It’s obvious that the game isn’t played on paper. It’s our job to come together and mesh and get on the same page and build a chemistry and go out and win games. As far as on paper, we look great.”
With LeBron James, Danny Green, Davis, Cousins and Rajon Rondo in the main rotation, he may be right. A contrary opinion comes from Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd, who says this team could actually finish as a lower seed in the Western Conference playoffs next season.
“I’m not as high on this Lakers roster as everybody else is,” he said on his simulcast show Thursday. “I think the Clippers are better, I think the Warriors are better, I think the Jazz pieces fit better, and I think Denver will be better. This a STRANGE roster full of weird pieces. Rajon Rondo can’t shoot. (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) had so many personal problems two years ago that he wore an ankle bracelet. Javale McGee is fun but quirky. Boogie Cousins struggles to get along with people and is atrocious defensively. Danny Green can shoot but can’t create anything. Jared Dudley has a weird body. Because they waited so long for Kawhi Leonard they got a lot of past their prime guys and used parts.”
Here’s the audio courtesy of IHeartMedia and AM 570 LA Sports.
Lakers Roster & Starting Lineup After Free Agency Signings
* – Denotes Starter
Let’s address Cowherd’s points. Defensively, he’s echoing a large portion of the basketball world’s criticism of Cousins’ defense. As Grant Liffman of NBC Sports Bay Area pointed out back in March, the Warriors defense had trouble adjusting to Cousins’ presence on the court.
The Warriors starting lineup of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Cousins has posted a very porous 116.5 defensive rating so far in 152 minutes together on the court. Compare that to the starting lineup prior to Boogie’s return, when Kevon Looney was the center, and the unit maintained a good 106.2 rating.
However, both Davis and McGee can rotate with him in the frontcourt to hide his defensive deficiencies. In Davis’ case, he can cover for them.
Regarding the potential shooting issues, there’s a little bit of hope. Rondo shot over 35 percent last year from behind the arc, but is only a 31 percent shooter in his career. Green and Dudley both averaged over 35 percent from deep, as well, while Caldwell-Pope canned 34.7 percent of his attempts.
However, neither Davis, Cousins nor Kuzma are consistent threats to stretch out opposing big men. All are in the 31 to 33 percent range from deep for their careers. LeBron is just a hair above that.
With previous LeBron-led offenses in Miami and Cleveland, he surrounded himself with shooters for drive-and-kick situations. New Lakers coach Frank Vogel doesn’t have those weapons, so he may have to resort to a more pick-and-roll oriented attack to take advantage of the offense’s size and athleticism at attacking the rim.
It’s a talented lineup, but one that can’t operate like the ones LeBron thrived with in the past.