The Los Angeles Lakers are looking increasingly unlikely to sign Paul George after it was revealed he’ll be partying with Oklahoma City Thunder officials and Russell Westbrook when 2018 NBA free agency kicks off, which would could leave Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka flipping to targeting injured big man DeMarcus Cousins, who LeBron James is said to be a big fan of.
DeMarcus Cousins sounds like an increasingly likely target for the Lakers on a short-term max contract now that it appears Los Angeles will lose out on Paul George, per league sources. In January 2017, LeBron James called Cousins "the best big man in our game."— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) July 1, 2018
If DeMarcus Cousins is ok with a short term contract, I could see the Lakers taking a look. Which I didn’t think a few months ago. https://t.co/cY9gwG8qBM— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) July 1, 2018
Marc J. Spears of the Undefeated reported that the Lakers have reached out to Cousins:
New Orleans Pelicans All-Star free agent center DeMarcus Cousins received calls from the Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers tonight once free agency began and is expected to have meetings scheduled with both teams soon, a source told ESPN's The Undefeated.— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) July 1, 2018
In a vacuum, that would sound like a perfect signing and a great pivot for the Lakers front office, but in reality things are more complicated. Cousins was having one of the best seasons of his career this year, but the big man tore his Achilles tendon in January and is projected to be out for at least half of next season, given the normal recovery timetable for that type of injury.
That is obviously not ideal for the Lakers, especially considering the amount of money they would be throwing at him. The team could still theoretically re-sign Julius Randle even while paying Cousins close to his max contract next season (nearly $30 million), but Cousins being out to start the season and not at full capacity for likely a year after returning (as is usually the case with Achilles recovery) is hardly ideal.
And before arguing that the Lakers can get him for cheap, it was recently reported that Cousins was “likely” to return to the New Orleans Pelicans, meaning the Lakers would probably have to pay him every penny they could (even on a short term deal) if they wanted a chance at him.
That combination of money and availability/recovery issues hardly seem ideal for a team that will presumably be looking to win now and make the most of James’ prime, and there is also no historical precedent for a player of Cousins’ size returning to full capacity after the type of injury he sustained.
Put it all together, and this doesn’t seem like a great fit, but it seems like the Lakers are going to look into it.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.