In a shocking move, the Los Angeles Lakers waived DeMarcus Cousins to make room for Markieff Morris on Sunday.
From a purely logistical standpoint, it was an absolute no-brainer for the Lakers to waive Cousins, who is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, as opposed to waiving another healthy player on a guaranteed contract. However, by waiving Cousins, the Lakers put themselves at risk of losing Cousins to another team, and disrupting the chemistry in the locker room.
It’s for that reason people expected the Lakers to waive Troy Daniels over Cousins despite the fact that Daniels is in good health. Daniels is on the outside looking in of Frank Vogel’s guard rotation, and even if an unfortunate injury were to strike the team, giving Daniels meaningful minutes wouldn’t move the needle for them. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Lakers are 6.3 points better per 100 possessions offensively when Daniels is off the court, and 1.6 points better per 100 possessions defensively.
If the Lakers make another move this season, Daniels will likely be the player that’s waived, and that theory has only been reinforced by the types of players they’ve looked at. Earlier this month, Brian Windhorst and his colleague, Adrian Wojnarowski, reported that the Lakers were expected to have an “exploratory conversation” with Dion Waiters.
According to a report by Brian Windhorst on the most recent episode ESPN’s “The Hoop Collective,” that conversation happened last week (h/t Real GM):
“They’re going to give Dion a look. They had a meeting with him last week. I expect they will have a workout with him in the short-term and see what kind of condition he’s in. They’re mulling it over and it’s because they need some sort of perimeter player who can score a little bit.”
Waiters was waived by the Memphis Grizzlies on Feb. 9, almost immediately after he was traded from the Miami Heat at the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 6.
Waiters, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, isn’t the shooter that Daniels is, but he’s a more versatile scorer than Daniels is because of his ability to handle the ball. He’s also more capable of finishing at the basket because of his strength.
The question is whether or not Waiters is that much of an upgrade over Daniels, and if he’s not, is it worth shaking up the locker room again with less than two months until the start of the postseason? A private workout would give the Lakers more clarity, so it wouldn’t be shocking to hear they’ve set one up. The Lakers are also expected to work out J.R. Smith, assuming they haven’t already done so quietly.
Whatever happens though, one thing is apparent: The Lakers haven’t stopped looking at ways to improve their roster, so if an impact free agent unexpectedly hits the market before the March 1 playoff waiver eligibility deadline, they’ll likely be in the mix. Given that Waiters was waived well before then, they can afford to wait and see if anyone else becomes available.
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