When DeMarcus Cousins suffered a torn Achilles back in January of 2018, most around the NBA knew that it was going to cost him well north of $100 million in free agency that summer.
Cousins ultimately took a one-year deal at the mid-level exception ($5.3 million) with the then-defending champion Golden State Warriors.
The All-Star center would not get on the court again for nearly a calendar year. While Cousins performed well at times for Golden State last season, he suffered another injury and displayed a lack of consistency.
Multiple indications leading up to the start of free agency this weekend are that Cousins will once again find a bare free-agent market.
“League sources confirmed to SNY that the Knicks are also considering making a significant short-term offer to DeMarcus Cousins,” Ian Begley of SNY reported. “But some in the organization have said that going after younger players like Randle and Portis is a priority that’s ahead of pursuing Cousins, who will be 29 at the beginning of next season.”
New York was said to be potentially willing to offer Cousins a one-year deal at a high salary. Based on the team’s roster make up, this didn’t seem to be a solid plan. Some within the Knicks’ organization agree with that sentiment.
Meanwhile, others around the NBA are not sold on Cousins getting a contract to his liking.
“I think he’s struggled with consistency,” one NBA scout told The Athletic recently. “He’s had nights where he’s looked like one of the better players on the floor and then nights where he doesn’t look 100 percent comfortable or confident.”
What does this all mean? There’s certainly some variables here.
Warriors reunion: This could make the most sense for Cousins.
- With injuries to Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, there’s room for a No. 2 scorer behind Stephen Curry.
- Cousins has one year in Steve Kerr’s system and will be closer to 100 percent to start the 2019-20 campaign.
- The All-Star can sign a one-year deal for nearly $7 million, hopefully building up his value for free agency next summer.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr noted after their NBA Finals loss that they’d welcome Cousins back. He did, however, say that the market would dictate a potential return. For his part, Cousins has been open to the idea of returning.
Golden State can only offer Cousins a 125 percent pay raise from the $5.3 million he earned last season. This leaves open others possibilities.
The Los Angeles Lakers: He could fit in well.
- While the Lakers might be looking for another max-contract player to team up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, this route makes sense.
- Los Angeles could add multiple players at between $7 and $8 million. It could even go mid-level range with a few while giving Cousins $10-plus million.
- At issue here is scoring opportunities. Cousins would likely be the fourth-best option in Los Angeles, behind James, Davis and Kyle Kuzma.
The other options are a bit more convoluted.
- Dallas Mavericks: This team is said to be honing in on Patrick Beverley or Kemba Walker. That would not leave room for Cousins.
- Los Angeles Clippers: Doc Rivers and Co. are looking primarily at top-end free agents. They are seemingly not interested in the second-tier market.
- Houston Rockets: Clint Capela could be on the outs, opening up a spot at center. But that would come with Houston adding another star, disabling its ability to offer Cousins much.
Non-contenders are a possibility for Cousins. These teams have the cash to offer the All-Star. But at this point, Cousins wants to play for a winner after getting his first glimpse of success last season.
This all pretty much means that the chances of Cousins re-signing with Golden State are better now than they have ever been.