Lakers Rumors: DeMarcus Cousins could be pursued as backup plan

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 04: DeMarcus Cousins (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 04: DeMarcus Cousins (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Everyone knows that the big free agent targets for the Los Angeles Lakers this summer are Lebron James and Paul George. But there is another bona fide All-Star free agent they could go after.

Los Angeles Lakers rumors are going to really pick up in the coming days. On July 1, NBA teams will be allowed to start negotiating with potential free agents and their representatives (at least officially).

As we’ve known for months, there has been a myriad of reports linking Lebron James and Paul George to the Lakers. There is also the potential of them trading for Kawhi Leonard, although the Spurs have reportedly told the Lakers and other Western Conference teams to fuhgeddaboudit, according to USA Today’s Sam Amick.

In addition, Magic Johnson put even more pressure on his broad shoulders on June 25 by saying that he’ll quit his job as president of basketball operations if the Lakers don’t acquire a big name star either this summer or next summer.

Clearly, the Lakers are playing a high stakes game, and they may be the only NBA team that is fully equipped to do so right now.

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But what if they strike out on James, George and Leonard in the next few weeks? There is another heavy hitter they could pursue who has been to four All-Star games, has twice made the All-NBA 2nd team and has averaged 25.9 points, 11.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game the last four seasons.

On a recent Yahoo Sports NBA Podcast, Shams Charania said that the Lakers could offer Demarcus Cousins a one or two year deal this summer if all other big name options fail.

Cousins has been one of the best, and possibly at times, the league’s best big man the past few seasons. His skill set seems to fit the modern NBA pretty well, as he’s expanded his game to the 3-point line the last two seasons and hit over 35 percent from downtown during that span.

He’s been discussed somewhat as a potential target for the Lakers the last few years, albeit not nearly as much as Lebron or Paul George.

However, Cousins is coming off a torn Achilles tendon that he sustained in January, the same injury that effectively ended Kobe Bryant’s career. NBA players, in general, don’t have a good track record of coming back from such an injury to continue to play at a high level.

Perhaps the only one to do so was Dominique Wilkins, who averaged 27.9 points per game for two seasons after popping his Achilles in early 1992. However, he wasn’t really the high fly act he used to be when he earned the nickname “The Human Highlight Film”.

The other concern with Cousins has been his attitude. He has been involved in several incidents with teammates, coaches and referees over the years, and GMs around the league were hesitant to trade for him this season when the Kings ended up sending him to New Orleans. The Lakers have put in lots of effort towards building the foundation of a winning culture, and they should be careful about adding a player with Cousins’ checkered past to their team.

However, if James and George say no to the purple and gold, it may not be an entirely bad idea for the Lakers to take a flyer on Cousins. Yes, his shooting percentage is low for an All-Star big (46 percent for his career), and he doesn’t seem to make the impact that someone with his stats should make (he’s averaged only 5.2 win shares over his career).

But Cousins is only 27, and if his work ethic and desire to come back from his injury and prove his critics wrong is there, signing him could be a low-risk, high-reward thing.

Perhaps the Lakers could offer him a two-year deal, with the second year being a team option. This would accomplish two things – first, it could give Cousins an incentive to work harder than ever and be on his best behavior.

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Second, if he doesn’t pan out, at worst he could be a “placeholder” to preserve their cap space so that they could give it another try next summer when Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker, among others, may be free agents.