NBA Exec on DeMarcus Cousins-Lakers Rumors: 'Can He Still Play?'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2021

Houston Rockets' DeMarcus Cousins plays during an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

NBA executives reportedly don't view the Los Angeles Lakers as the best fit for veteran post player DeMarcus Cousins if he's released by the Houston Rockets soon.

One exec told Sean Deveney of Heavy that the Lakers' available roster spot has better potential uses than Cousins, who signed with the team in July 2019 but never appeared in a game because of a torn ACL:

"In the end, you have to think they could do better. Cousins is a big name but so what? Can he still play? Is he better than Trevor Ariza or P.J. Tucker or even like a Wayne Ellington, a shooter they need? I don't see how he can step in and make them better. The Lakers have one shot at finding someone to help and they need to be careful with it. I don't think signing Cousins is being careful."

Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic reported Tuesday the Rockets are releasing Cousins, giving him the freedom to sign with any team as an unrestricted free agent.

The Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers are also expected to pursue the four-time All-Star and can offer him more money, per Deveney.

In addition, Cousins wouldn't bring the type of defensive versatility L.A. could use in its frontcourt.

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"Just in terms of the X's and O's, I don't see how it goes together," an assistant coach told Deveney. "Gasol does not move, he gets killed in pick-and-rolls. Same thing with Boogie. Harrell is small, he does not protect the rim. So you would be adding a guy who has the same holes in his game as your other two, at least defensively."

Cousins has averaged 9.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists across 25 appearances (11 starts) for the Rockets. He's shooting just 37.6 percent from the field, which would be a career low.

He would make sense for the Lakers in the short term as another option to help replace Anthony Davis, who's sidelined through mid-March with calf and Achilles injuries.

The 30-year-old University of Kentucky product would be merely a rotation piece once Davis returns, however, and it's unclear whether he'd be interested in that type of unsteady role while also taking less money than he could receive from other teams.

On the flip side, the Lakers figure to benefit more from adding either an athletic defense-first center or another wing scorer capable of knocking down outside shots to help spread the floor.

So, while the rumors connecting Cousins to L.A. don't come as a surprise given his decision to sign there before last season, there are seemingly better fits for him.

Teams will also want to see whether he's healthy before signing him as he missed Monday's game against the Chicago Bulls because of a heel injury prior to the release.