2019 NBA Free Agents: DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins will enter the offseason looking to sign a long-term contract, but will likely be met with short-term deals from all potential suitors. His injury history is downright frightening, and after an evidently rusty campaign with the Warriors in which he played only 30 games (not to mention being throughly played off the court at times in the playoffs), teams will (rightfully) not be rushing to hand Boogie a long-term contract with a lot of guaranteed cash. Unless a team gets careless with its spending this free-agency, look for Boogie to sign yet another prove-it deal.
Cousins flashed the ability to space the floor and orchestrate the offense in the half court. His poor efficiency is likely to improve over a larger sample size, and a full offseason to rehab and train should do wonders for his conditioning (he looked completely gassed at times and was noticeably heavier).
Regular Season Per Game Stats: 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.5 blocks on shooting splits of 48/27/74 (FG%/3PT%/FT%).
Postseason Stats: 7.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.8 blocks on shooting splits of 40/25/64 (FG%/3PT%/FT%).
Playmaking and scoring at all three levels are the hallmarks of a truly great offensive front-court player in today's NBA, and a healthy Cousins possesses those traits in abundance. While mostly a shell of himself due to his conditioning, he still showed flashes of brilliance in the postseason, hitting threes and operating the pick-and-roll with aplomb. Cousins is a much better shooter than his splits this past season let on; his career shooting percentage from beyond the arc is a below-average 33%, but you can likely put Cousins down for a three to six percent improvement in that area this upcoming season. Enough cannot be said about the finesse of his low-post game, and his rebounding can only be described as prolific. Expect Cousins to prove his real worth during this next (likely) meagre contract, if he can get healthy over the summer.
He's not exactly the same old DeMarcus Cousins who put averaged (over the course of the 2017/2018 season) a line of 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks, and that's mostly due to his injuries and lack of complete rehabilitation. Even if he does condition himself to be in game-shape, the injuries he has suffered may hinder him from ever returning to the player he once was. In the playoffs, he often appeared lost on defense, and struggled to get up and down the court in transition; increasingly fast, high-octane offenses are trending across the NBA, and Cousins' defense may never return to the standard where you can afford to play him for more than 30 minutes per night without haemorrhaging points.
In an environment with various plus defenders and three-point shooters to space the floor, Cousins would do well as an offensively-minded five who plays 20-30 minutes per-game. Whether coming off the bench or as a starter, Boogie can turbocharge a team's offense, and is likely best deployed in quick bursts of playtime. He can operate as a team's star player on some nights, but on most he will be targeted on defense viciously; a team that can cover for him on that end of the court while running to catch outlet passes and hit open threes would be optimal. A team with a guard that can get him to his spots and form an inside-out rapport would be preferable.
Possible Landing Spots
Los Angeles Lakers: Coming to Hollywood on a steep discount would make a lot of sense for Cousins if he wants to continue his ring-chasing ways while rehabbing his value. He would pair back up with Anthony Davis in the front-court, or serve as the team's primary back-up center. Should the Lakers decide to spread out their newly created $32 million max slot over multiple role players, Cousins will be hard-pressed to find a better situation.
Golden State Warriors: The Warriors will not be able to offer Cousins as much as other potential suitors, and will likely be priced out of Boogie's services. Coming back would likely mean taking a discount, and that may not be okay with DeMarcus at the moment, no matter how greatly he'd help Golden State stay afloat in a loaded Western Conference sans-Durant (and possibly, for a while, Thompson). Still, he may have fond memories of his time in the Bay, and see their present situation as great way to spike his asking price for his next deal.
Dallas Mavericks: Should the Mavericks strike out on their top free agency targets, Cousins would make a great third-wheel to the pair of Doncic and Porzingis, and his age aligns relatively well with their timeline. This team is likely a year away from truly being considered a contender, barring anything especially unexpected, so Cousins could rehab in Dallas and potentially sign a long-term deal there in the future if his fit is clean.
Los Angeles Clippers: If the Clippers don't end up signing two A-level free agents, expect for them to reach for Cousins in an attempt to gather some brand-name value on a short-term deal. They have oodles of cap space, and can quickly pave their way to even more should they need to; Cousins could end up on a contending Clippers team as well, given the financial flexibility of the circumstances and the talent already present on their roster.
New York Knicks: Two max slots. It's New York. If anyone is going to overpay DeMarcus Cousins on a short-term deal, it's the Knickerbockers, who are desperate for an infusion of free-agent star power. Holding their cap space over into 2020 would be a wise move, if that free agent class didn't look so... bleh. Getting Cousins to New York to mentor Mitchell Robinson and provide big minutes alongside RJ Barrett and Dennis Smith Jr makes a fair bit of sense. And who doesn't wanna play in Madison Square Garden?
Expected Next Contract: Anywhere from 1-3 years in length, ranging from $9-16 million per year. His final destination is truly unpredictable, as it would seem that the team with the most cash on the table will win his favour. Who will that be? The Knicks? The Clippers? Is he going to run it back with the Warriors yet again? Will he be his signing team's plan A, B, or C? We shall soon find out.