Over two years ago at the NBA trade deadline, the Los Angeles Lakers made a run at disgruntled All-Star DeMarcus Cousins but they refused to part ways with No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram in the deal. That controversial decision was reportedly what led team governor Jeanie Buss to fire her brother Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak.
Fast forward two years and Cousins is with the Lakers, while Ingram is with the New Orleans Pelicans, the team that won the Cousins sweepstakes in 2017. However, Cousins isn’t the same player he was when Los Angeles first showed interest in him—at least not yet.
The four-time All-Star suffered a devastating Achilles tear in January of 2018, just a few months before he was set to cash in on a max contract in free agency. So, instead of signing a long-term, big money contract with the Pelicans, Cousins signed a one-year deal worth $5.3 million with the Golden State Warriors.
While Cousins himself didn’t have a tremendous first season back from his injury, he was able to play in his first-ever NBA Finals. He also formed a few strong relationships during his time in Oakland, including a friendship with All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson.
During a recent interview with Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times, Thompson had nothing but glowing things to say about his former teammate and said he expects Cousins to be a valuable player for the Lakers, if not one of the best:
“DeMarcus is a great teammate and I developed such a great chemistry with him, coming off screens and cutting off from posts,” Thompson said. “I’ll miss him. I know he’s going to be a huge asset for the Lakers. When they slow it down, he’s so good on the block and such a great decision maker. People don’t realize what a great decision maker he is. Above all, I love his will to compete. He was very hurt last year during our Finals run but he was still out there making a huge impact and getting double-doubles and he won us a couple games, honestly.
“He’s just such a gamer and I’m going to miss competing with him. L.A. got a very good player, who’s very hungry. I know he’s eager to get out there and show everybody he’s still one of the best players in the world because he has all the talent.”
The history of Achilles injuries hasn’t been kind to big men, but Cousins’ skillset is so unique that there’s reason to believe he can still be an extremely impactful player even at 70 or 80 percent. If Cousins averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks per game with just a few months of conditioning, imagine what he’ll like with a full summer.
Will Cousins be the All-Star center the Lakers tried to trade for in 2017 this season? Maybe not, but he should at least be better than he was last year and that alone will make him not just a good player, but a great player. Anything else he contributes on top of that is gravy.