Sources: The Lakers will be among the teams to pursue DeMarcus Cousins.
The market will be limited for Cousins, sources say. He has struggled this year after returning from multiple major injuries. But for LA or any team in need of big man depth, few options bring higher upside.
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) February 20, 2021
This makes sense on a surface level. The Lakers could use frontline help and Cousins is an available big, plus the Lakers have a relationship with Cousins going back to last season. It doesn’t make much sense if you dig a little (as Sean Deveney did at Heavy.com).
It ultimately comes down to this: Because the Lakers are hard-capped this season, they essentially get one move to upgrade the team at the deadline (unless they trade Kyle Kuzma), one buyout signing. One shot. Do the Lakers spend that shot on Cousins?
Cousins is on his way out in Houston because of his lack of lateral mobility getting exposed defensively. Teams target him in the pick-and-roll. Since Christian Wood went down injured and Cousins’ minutes stepped up, the Rockets defense got seven points per 100 possessions worse, and the Rockets are 0-7. The Lakers have Marc Gasol starting at center, a high IQ defender, but he is not exactly fleet of foot. Having Gasol and Cousins as their bigs would give the Lakers a quality front line in 1995, but not in a modern and spaced NBA.
Cousins is averaging 9.6 points and 7.6 rebounds a game but has not been efficient this season, shooing 37.6% overall and 33.6% from three (where he has taken about half his attempts).
Then there is the money issue. By the end of the week, the Lakers will be able to offer Cousins a minimum contract for the rest of the season (they can’t do it before then because they are hard-capped and they are bumping up against the line). However, several teams have more space or trade exceptions they can use to offer Cousins far more money (Brooklyn has a $4.7 million exception, for example). Other teams can offer Cousins a lot more money.
For a lot of reasons, Cousin to the Lakers doesn’t make a lot of sense. That’s not going to stop the rumors.