It remains to be seen if their request will be granted, but the Los Angeles Lakers took the first step towards being able to fill the void left by DeMarcus Cousins going down with a likely season-ending ACL injury, as Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting that the team applied for the disabled player exception:
According to Larry Coon’s invaluable CBA FAQ, the disabled player exception is defined as follows:
This exception allows a team which is over the cap to replace a disabled player who will be out for the remainder of that season (it can also be granted in the event of a player’s death). This exception is granted by the league, based on an application from the team and a determination by an NBA-designated physician or Fitness to Play panel that the player is substantially more likely than not to be unable to play through the following June 15.
Given that Cousins’ ACL injury is likely to require at least a year before he can take the floor again, it would seem exceedingly likely that the Lakers’ request will be granted. Again according to the FAQ, the exception allows a team to “sign a free agent for one season only, for 50% of the disabled player’s salary or the amount of the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception, whichever is less.”
Since Cousins was only making a reported $3.5 million this year, the number Charania references above represents half of his salary, and would be what the Lakers are allowed to spend on a potential replacement.
Because $1.75 million is right around the veteran’s minimum for most players with any experience in the league, this won’t grant the Lakers any extra spending power right now to lure players that are bought out — like, say, Memphis’ Andre Iguodala, should the team eventually let him loose — but it could give them a bit more to offer later in the season, as Bobby Marks of ESPN explains:
Because the DPE doesn’t prorate, the value of the $1.75M DPE would come during the waiver buyout period (post trade deadline). https://t.co/jTk04sOhb9— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) August 15, 2019
However, contrary to my original understanding, the team would still have to cut someone to use that money:
FYI- must have an open roster spot (LAL doesn’t right now). Best to use in mid-Feb during the buyout market. DPE doesn’t go away if Howard is waived after the exception is granted. https://t.co/2TWDZr05KD— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) September 9, 2019
Essentially, this exception gives the Lakers an extra avenue to pursue a player to replace Cousins, but they’d still have to cut him or someone else on their roster to take advantage of it. That’s probably (in part) because even if the Lakers are granted this exception, Cousins could still return to the lineup if he recovers quickly, as according to the CBA FAQ “if the disabled player comes back sooner than expected he may be activated immediately, and the replacement player is not affected.”
Of course, even if Cousins is healthy enough to play more quickly than expected there is still the unresolved matter of his misdemeanor domestic violence charge in Alabama.
It is unknown as of now when the league will make a determination on the Lakers’ eligibility for this exception, so stay tuned.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the disabled player exception does not give the Lakers an extra roster spot, just extra money to spend.