Lost in the chaos that has swirled around the Los Angeles Lakers over the last few weeks has been what they have at stake in the upcoming offseason. With names like Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard available, all this noise could be just that if Rob Pelinka can convince such talent to come anyway. But if they strike out completely, the timeline can get really dark, really quickly.
Ken Berger of Bleacher Report wrote about the impact DeMarcus Cousins’ injuries might have on him financially and, as part of that piece, spoke to one executive who described the offseason that would probably be the final nail in the coffin of the Jeanie Buss era.
“If you’re chasing Kevin Durant and you don’t get him, what’s the next option?” the executive said. “Do you settle for Khris Middleton or Tobias Harris? A lot of teams are going to be left at the altar and are going to have to pay the max to someone who doesn’t deserve it.”
Thus, even if he’s unable to secure a multiyear deal, Cousins could still stand to get a one-year payday between $10 million and $15 million from a team itching to spend.
Before we get to what this would mean for the Lakers, I would like to point out how calloused it sounds to speak of Cousins this way. He worked his ass off to come back from a torn achilles only to have his future spiral further into peril. He’s probably in a really bad place both physically and mentally. His first chance at a postseason run was probably going to finish with a championship, but it was taken away.
Yes, he likely still gets a ring, but this isn’t at all what he imagined when he went to Golden State. This sucks, and referring to Cousins like this really feels like kicking a man when he’s down.
All that said, if Cousins really is all the Lakers walk away from this summer with, everyone’s worst fears will be realized. Buss’ decision to keep Pelinka rather than bring in a heavy hitter to replace Magic Johnson will have completely blown up in her face. Those rumors of distrust LeBron James tried to quell will be impossible to ignore.
It’s nothing against Cousins, either. As the article points out, he could return to Golden State to a team that likely won’t have Durant and thus will have a larger role for him. If he’s a part of the team that wins a title despite Durant’s departure, that’s a really cool ending to what’s been a tough story thus far.
But the Lakers can’t afford to take a gamble on a player coming off two legitimately career-threatening injuries when such other promising names are out there for the taking — not given the disappointment last summer was outside of signing James.
I’m pulling for Cousins. I really am. If he comes back next season and shows he can stay healthy for an entire year, maybe it’s worth taking a closer look next summer. But right now, if he really is the top prize the Lakers land this offseason, everyone has to go, starting with the owner who hired those responsible for the disaster.