The Lakers are moving quickly now to fill out their roster and have added one of the biggest names left on the market, big man DeMarcus Cousins:
While we do not yet know the terms of the deal, Cousins is a moderate risk, high reward signing that could pay big dividends for these Lakers. While the rest of the league is clearly transitioning to wings dominating the landscape, the Lakers, for this upcoming season at least, have built one of the more physically imposing front lines you can find by adding Cousins to LeBron and Anthony Davis.
It remains to be seen what Cousins can be physically after returning this past season from a ruptured achilles tendon and then suffering a partial tear of his quadriceps in the playoffs. Glass half full perspective is that an achilles injury is a 2 year injury and the Lakers would be getting him back in the window where you’d hope he’d progressed more than what he was in Golden State this past year. Glass half empty, however, is that suffering another leg injury in his return from the career altering achilles is not a great sign for his long term health.
From a personality standpoint, I think Cousins has made real strides after moving on from Sacramento two years ago. He flashed more maturity in NOLA than Sacto and then was, by most accounts, a good teammate who didn’t make any waves in Oakland last year. If that attitude has staying power and maintains over the course of this season in LA, there is reason to be optimistic about what Cousins can bring.
And that’s because, even with his injury history (and concern for the future, too), Cousins offers a unique skill set for a big man in today’s NBA offensively. He can shoot the 3 ball with good accuracy for his position (36.1% and 35.4% his last two seasons) and is a load in the post. He can brutalize teams who switch smalls onto him in P&R coverages and is a wonderful passer all over the floor. He also is a massive man whose presence on both the offensive and defensive backboards can tilt games, not to mention his ability to turn defensive rebounds into grab-and-go opportunities that can create open court scoring chances.
Defensively, there are issues to deal with, though. At his peak, Cousins was probably a better defender than given credit for — especially in drop coverages where he could challenge shots at the basket and use his large frame to make players uncomfortable from floater range to the restricted area. But, even at his best, he was a liability in switch coverages that forced him to play on an island against ball-handling wings and guards. At this stage physically, Cousins is not near his peak and, as we saw in the Finals, he can be picked on not only at the point of attack but in off-ball actions that require him to move laterally into the paint while having to recover back to the 3-point line vs. shooting bigs.
I am happy to have Cousins, though. Again, his upside as someone who can operate in the hub of your offense as a scorer and passer can be valuable to any team, but especially one that does not currently have a lot of shot creators from the guard positions. He can pair with AD to form a twin towers lineup and can also play behind him as the lone big who can be the figurative and literal center of your attack. If he’s focused and channels his emotions in (mostly) positive ways all while staying healthy, I think he can be a huge contributor. If those things don’t happen, he could be an overall detriment.
Which is why he was on the market at this stage of free agency in the first place, I suppose. But, for a team that needs more talent and depth and would like to slot their other big men appropriately, I like this signing a good deal.