Editor’s Note: Welcome to our “2020 Lakers Season In Review” series, where we’ll be looking back at every member of this Lakers roster as the offseason commences, and answering some questions about what they contributed (or didn’t) to the team’s 17th championship, as well as discussing what their situation is moving forward. Today, let’s discuss Quinn Cook.
How did he play?
A better question, in the case of Quinn Cook, might have been “how often did he play?” The answer was “not much,” and that’s doubly so when games mattered.
Despite being recruited to join the Lakers by Anthony Davis and having LeBron James lobby Rob Pelinka to sign him, Cook averaged fewer minutes in the regular season (11.5) than J.R. Smith (13.2), the latter of whom only joined the team for the NBA bubble. Cook played just 508 minutes total this season, only about 50 more than Troy Daniels, who was waived before the trade deadline. In the postseason, Cook only appeared in six games, mostly in garbage time, playing just 24 minutes total.
It was hardly the storybook return the lifelong Lakers fan probably envisioned when he signed with the team, or after the debut he called “a dream come true.” And when Cook did get on the floor, he just wasn’t all that great.
Cook’s struggles to throw solid entry passes — he averaged nearly as many turnovers (2.3) as assists (3.5) per 36 minutes — were part of the reason the team went looking for more ballhandling in the buyout market. In a year during which Cook set a new career-low in 3-point shooting for a full season (making just 36.5% of his attempts from deep) it was hard to find a role for the small and defensively challenged shooting specialist. The most apt metaphor for his season was the Lakers’ bus literally forgetting him at the arena as the team left to celebrate their title after winning Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
Cook remained a beloved locker room figure who was integral to the team’s vaunted chemistry, always tried to stay ready, never groused about his role and was happy to help in any way he could — including doing his best Damian Lillard impression for the scout team as L.A. prepared for the Blazers — but this was definitely a season to forget for him on the court. Still, he won a ring alongside his friends while playing for the team he and his dad grew up cheering for, so he probably isn’t too upset about it.
What is his contract situation moving forward?
Cook signed a two-year, $6 million contract last summer, but only $1 million of his $3 million salary for the 2020-21 season is fully guaranteed if he’s cut before free agency begins (the official date for which is still not set as of the publishing of this story). That makes him a potentially useful piece as salary filler in a draft night trade, or to just balance out numbers in a later deal.
Will he be back?
Given all of the context above, I don’t really expect Cook to be back next season. Whether he’s used in a trade or cut to make a spot for the Lakers to take a chance on someone else who might contribute, I think there are a fair amount of reasons for the team to move on in one way or another if they’re presented an opportunity to try and improve their roster.
That noted, I would also not be shocked to see Cook return, given his close relationships in the locker room, how much he clearly relished fulfilling his dream of being a Laker — something this team values more than most — and the idea that the Lakers might be cutting bait on him too soon.
After all, it’s unlikely Cook could play worse next season, and every team can use shooters to dust off in case of emergency that are also happy not playing and serve as a valuable part of the team’s rare and important chemistry. Cook is as well-liked as any player in the league, and his shooting — outside of this season — is a valuable skill. There are reasons it would make sense to move on from him after an underwhelming year, but there are also arguments to keep him. Ultimately if I had to guess I’d assume the team will do the former, but he could also very well be back next year as well, depending on what the team is hearing about who is available to them as free agency approaches.
Either way, whatever locker room Cook occupies next will be lucky to have one of the nicest players in the entire NBA along for the ride. Whether he plays or contributes, however, will be a different question entirely.