The Los Angeles Lakers losing DeMarcus Cousins to a (likely season-ending) injury in the middle of August was an unforeseen gut punch to a player trying to get his career back on track, and a team hoping he could put them over the top.
But with JaVale McGee as the only other full-time center on the team’s roster, the Lakers are going to have to look at other options to man the pivot. While they technically don’t have an open roster spot after signing Demetrius Jackson last week, they could easily cut him or any of their other three non-guaranteed contracts to free up a spot, and also could probably apply for the Disabled Player Exception in the wake of Cousins’ injury, which according to Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ would allow them to sign a player “for 50% of the disabled player’s salary or the amount of the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception, whichever is less.”
So, essentially, the Lakers could likely free up two roster spots if need be, which is important to note since they seem to want to keep at least one open in case Andre Iguodala is bought out by the Memphis Grizzlies. That would still leave them with one open slot, and while there has been a lot of reporting connecting Dwight Howard to that spot, it seems he isn’t the only name they’ll look at, according to Ohm Youngmisuk and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
Lakers are looking into options on the big man market, including Joakim Noah https://t.co/BBUJ0OJAdr— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) August 19, 2019
Wow are those not names I expected to be writing about upon my return when I left for vacation 11 days ago.
Anyway, the Lakers’ interest in Noah makes sense for a few reasons, but most practically because Howard is still technically on the Grizzlies’ roster, and still needs to be bought out in order to sign anywhere. In the (admittedly unlikely) event Memphis is unwilling to pay Howard to go away, it seems improbable that the Lakers would be willing to give up assets for him in a trade, and would have to look at other options.
If L.A. decides to go a different way, there are worse options than Noah, especially when factoring in durability. Howard has dealt with nagging health issues going back to his Lakers days, and while both players are 33 years old and not spring chickens, Noah did play 42 games last year after being picked up by the Grizzlies midseason, while Howard played in just 9 for the Washington Wizards. However, to be fair, Howard played in more games than Noah in the three seasons prior to last season.
Still, Noah was good last year off the bench for the Grizzlies, averaging 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds off the bench while shooting 51.6% from the field. It’s not a certainty he’d be better than Howard, but he would be a totally defensible option if the Lakers wanted to skip out on a reunion with their former center for whatever reason.
Neither Howard nor Noah will be able to replicate what Cousins had the potential to bring as a burly, seven-foot floor-spacer and playmaker, but that’s why they’re available in mid August, and why Cousins was signed in the first few weeks of July. Even so, both are decent options when considering what part of the offseason the Lakers have reached, and it will be interesting to see which player the team ultimately goes with, or if they go another route entirely.