The Los Angeles Lakers have been granted the disabled player exception, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, effectively ending DeMarcus Cousins’ season. The team applied for the exception earlier this month following the news that Cousins tore his ACL during a workout in August.
The exception will allow Los Angeles to sign a player for half of what Cousins is due this season, which comes out to $1.75 million. While that’s not enough to sign a player with more than 10 years of experience like Carmelo Anthony or J.R. Smith — whose veteran’s minimum contracts start at $2.56 million — it is enough to sign a player with less than five years of experience like Marquese Chriss or Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot.
Not impressed by those names? That’s hardly surprising. The players that the Lakers can sign outright at this time of year don’t move the needle for them much, if at all. The same can be said of the players they can trade for using the exception.
The real value of the disabled player exception will come after the NBA trade deadline, when veteran players typically request buyouts if their team isn’t in contention and they’re on an expiring deal. Because the disabled player exception doesn’t prorate, they can offer a 10-year veteran like Jeff Teague or Tristan Thompson the full $1.75 million for the remainder of the season, which is more than double what they’d make if they signed a veteran’s minimum contract with a team in mid-February.
Granted, there will be teams like the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets that can outbid the Lakers using their mid-level exception (assuming it isn’t used by then), but it still makes Los Angeles one of the bigger players in the buyout market.
If the Lakers do use their disabled player exception before if expires on March 10, they’ll have to waive someone to open a roster spot. The most obvious candidate to be waived is Cousins, and the Lakers can now waive him without losing the exception because it’s officially been granted.
Had they waived him while their application was pending, they wouldn’t have been eligible for the exception. Now, the only way the Lakers can lose the exception is if Cousins is traded or he unexpectedly returns to play.
While it’s possible that they’ll decide what to do with the exception sooner rather than later, expect them to hold off until later in the year.