When DeMarcus Cousins was traded, the speculation surrounding the deal typically started with ‘wait, the Sacramento Kings only got what?’, and for good reason.
Buddy Hield is an okay young-ish player. Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway are nothing to write home about. Yes, they’re getting a top-three protected first-rounder, but any pick coming from the team DeMarcus Cousins with Anthony Davis is not going to turn a franchise around, especially given the Kings’ poor drafting habits.
Still, the question begged asking: Why was the return so low on a player of Cousins’ extraordinary talent, even with the questions that remained about his character, per the Kings themselves.
Quick side note: Kicking a superstar on their way out the door is not going to go forgotten. That’s a terrible look.
So, what was it that scared so many teams from lining up with serious offers for a 26-year-old All-Star with a couple years left on his contract? Well, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, it turns out Cousins’ agent did not do the Kings any favors.
“Jarinn Akana and Dan Fegan, who represent Cousins, they did their job here, which was to — and this also complicated what they could get in a trade — Jarinn came out publicly last night and privately they told teams, ‘If you trade for Cousins, we’re telling you, he may not stay. He may nor re-sign with you. The Lakers are going to have a lot of cap space again potentially in a couple years. He could go to L.A. as a free agent. He might not stay in New Orleans or he might not stay in Phoenix or anywhere else...’
Woj did mention that New Orleans does have a leg up on other teams as they’ll be able to offer more money when his contract is up at the end of next season, but it won’t be the $209 million behemoth of a contract he could’ve signed had he remained in Sacramento.
Reading between the lines, if Cousins was willing to stick it out for the money in Sacramento, there’s a good chance he’ll opt for the most money when he’s a free agent in a couple years, too. There’s simply no way of knowing whether his agent was blowing smoke to keep his client where he stood to make the most money or if Cousins is actually serious about coming to the Lakers.
Let’s just say he is, and the Lakers try to sign him in a couple summers.
The cap space Wojnarowski mentions will depend upon whether the Lakers pick up D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr.’s team options. Something pretty drastic would have to come up in order for that not to take place, though.
Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov are both under contract heading into that offseason, at rates of $18 and $16 million, respectively. Julius Randle will also be a restricted free agent that year, with a qualifying offer of at least $5.5 million, though that could go up depending on what kind of offer he gets from another team or whether the Lakers decide to extend him as they did Jordan Clarkson this past summer.
If they decide to renounce all cap holds and exceptions, the Lakers could have as much as $40 million in cap space. If the exceptions mentioned above are taken at their exact projected values, that number dips to just over $27 million, which might be just enough to slide in a max contract of around $26 million, though it depends on where the cap finally ends up in 2018.
From there, the Lakers would have to fill out the roster with minimum deals and other exceptions, requiring a level of creativity in and of itself.
Preferably speaking, the Lakers would have moved either (or both) of Deng and/or Mozgov so as to have a little more wiggle room and, by that time, they’ll only have two years left on their deals, making it a little more manageable. Though again, it would probably take another asset going with them and by that time, the two, who are already old, will better described as full-on ancient.
It’s also worth noting that by the time this hypothetical rolls around, Cousins would be 28, and the max deal he’d be signing would take him to the wrong side of 30. All this would need to be weighed.
For now, all we can do is note how his agent handled the situation in Sacramento either at face value or while wondering what other motives might have been at work. Akana very well could have told the Lakers the very same thing he told other interested parties, but with the threat of Boogie bolting after only a year and a half in Los Angeles.
All that matters now is that Cousins is in New Orleans, he will be there for at least the next couple years (unless another trade happens, obviously) and the Lakers have more work to do both this and in future trade deadlines if they want to make themselves a legitimate option for Cousins or other future free agents.