Last week, a couple of anonymous NBA executives made some headlines when they said that they could see the Los Angeles Lakers re-signing DeMarcus Cousins for the playoffs when the NBA resumes its season in Orlando.
How could the Lakers do that, you ask? Well, players have until June 24 to let their teams know if they’re planning to go to Orlando, and at some point after that, organizations will have a week-long transaction window in which to add players to replace those who choose to sit out (the exact dates for that window have not been publicly revealed).
And even though Cousins had been continuing to rehab around the Lakers when the season shut down, he did technically get cut so that the team would have a roster spot with which to add Markieff Morris off the buyout market. But if any Lakers — say, Avery Bradley or Dwight Howard, just for example — chose to sit out, the Lakers would be allowed to add Cousins because they only cut him and didn’t trade him.
But Cousins will also be eligible to be signed by any other NBA team during that window, and we already know of at least one that might be interested. Washington Wizards guard John Wall isn’t going to play at Disney World, but that hasn’t stopped him from advocating for his team to add his former Kentucky teammate (via Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated):
Spears: Hey, Boogie’s a free agent, man. Y’all could sign him. Are you on that?
Wall: You know I’ve been on that for like five years!
Spears: I mean, you could sign him now!
Wall: I want to sign him right now. If I could talk to him, I’d sign the papers now. I’ve talked to him.
Spears: Have you talked to Tommy Sheppard and told him?
Wall: Yeah, we’ve been talking a little bit here and there but, you know, I talk to Boogie and (Eric Bledsoe) almost every other day.
The only question for the Lakers, Wizards, or any other team trying to sign Cousins would be his health. Cousins tore his ACL on Aug. 15, 2019, and so the NBA’s proposed restart date of June 30 would still be less than a year since his initial injury, and that’s without mentioning that he probably hasn’t been able to get the same level of rehab while outside of the team facility due to the pandemic, as well as that he already had two prior injuries (including an Achilles tear) in the same leg. Is he really going to be ready to play?
Wall said he doesn’t know about that second part, but he did reveal that Cousins is feeling better:
Spears: Do you know if Cuz is healthy and could go right now?
Wall: He’s healthy. I don’t know if he could play right now, but I know he’s healthy.
If Cousins can’t play, then the only reason for another team to potentially sign him is to bring him around their organization and potentially get a leg up on him in free agency this summer, or to see if they could get him on a multi-year deal (it’s not clear if the latter will be allowed during this unique transaction window, however). But coming off of three serious injuries in the same leg, does he really warrant that kind of pursuit?
The answer likely depends on the organization. For the Wizards, Cousins may hold a bit of extra value in that he’s a close friend of their own recovering superstar, and maybe they’d want to unite the two former Wildcats and see if they could get the best out of each other during rehab. Otherwise, especially for a team like the Wizards that will likely be eliminated from contention for a playoff spot relatively quickly in Orlando, it’s hard to see the on-court value in making an addition like Cousins who may not be ready to help at any point during this resumed season.
As far as the Lakers go, this is why replacing Howard, were he to pass on going to Disney World, is not as simple as “just sign Boogie,” no matter how much that seems to be the prevailing sentiment among Lakers fans. General manager Rob Pelinka and the front office surely have much better information on Cousins’ status than I do, no arguments there, but no matter how often head coach Frank Vogel left the door open for a theoretical Cousins return this season, it’s still hard to imagine that he’ll be healthy enough to be not just counted on to play, but to be effective more effective than their existing options — or even, say, G League Rookie of the Year runner-up and Lakers two-way player Devontae Cacok — in whatever minutes he did get.
Still, it’s just worth noting that if such a mindset leaves the Lakers lukewarm on adding Cousins for the stretch run, he may get opportunities elsewhere from teams with less to play for. That’s probably not a big loss for this season, but if Cousins does beat the odds and regain some semblance of his previous ability next year, it could hurt then.