This upcoming season, all eyes will be on the superstar tandem of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but the Los Angeles Lakers also have another player who is just a year removed from being a top-20 player in the NBA in DeMarcus Cousins.
During the 2017-18 season, Cousins averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game while posting a box plus-minus of +1.6. The only other player to match those averages that season was Russell Westbrook, who averaged a triple-double.
Then, midway through the season, Cousins suffered a torn left Achilles tendon — an injury that kept him sidelined for almost an entire year. When Cousins did make his return to the court, he was able to be productive, averaging 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists through 30 regular season games with the Golden State Warriors, but he didn’t look like the All-Star he was before he got hurt.
This year, Cousins is hoping to return to elite status and his new head coach, Frank Vogel, is confident that he’ll be able to do that. During a recent interview with Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times, Vogel said Cousins’ second year removed from injury should be his best and even compared it to Paul George’s devastating leg injury in 2014:
Frank Vogel was the head coach of the Indiana Pacers at the time. He’s now using George’s path to inform his approach to another supremely talented player coming off a devastating injury.
“I talked to DeMarcus about Paul George and overseeing his recovery from that broken leg,” Vogel said. “The first year you’re out. You don’t play. You’re not even in uniform. I mean, you’re just not even in uniform. Year 2, you’re in uniform, but you’re not quite yourself the entire year. Gordon Hayward saw it this year. It takes, to me, a full second year to regain all of your rhythm, timing and explosiveness and quickness. It just takes time.”
If Cousins can stay healthy this season, Vogel believes Cousins can still compete at a high level:
“This is the year that I think that [he] hopefully starts to really gain his form, and if he does, then we have one of the most powerful, dominant players in the game,” Vogel said.
Truth be told, the Lakers don’t need Cousins to average 20 points and 10 rebounds per game for them to be considered a title contender, especially when you consider the fact that he’ll be splitting playing time with JaVale McGee and Anthony Davis at the center position. That being said, Vogel certainly wouldn’t mind if Cousins rediscovered his All-Star form at some point in the season and it’s safe to Lakers fans wouldn’t either.
Should that be the expectation going into the season? Probably not, but with a coach that believes in him and teammates that think highly of him, there’s reason to be optimistic that this season will better than the last for Boogie.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.