Lakers apply for disabled player exception for DeMarcus Cousins' potential season-ending injury, per report

The Los Angeles Lakers sustained a big loss when DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL in an August workout. The former All-Star was expected to split center minutes with JaVale McGee, and with an extra year of recovery from his previously torn Achilles tendon, Cousins was expected to be better than he had been with the Golden State Warriors. With a torn ACL, however, he will likely miss the season, forcing the Lakers to sign Dwight Howard as a replacement. 

The silver lining, though, is that his absence could give the Lakers another tool for building their roster. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Lakers have applied for a Disabled Player Exception based on Cousins' injury. The exception is based on the ruling of a league-appointed physician. If that doctor believes that a player is likelier to be out through June 15 than not, the team is granted an exception worth half of that player's salary (up to the mid-level exception plus $100,000) to be used in free agency or trades between the moment it is granted and the end of the season. 

Cousins will make $3.5 million this season. The exception, therefore, would be $1.75 million if it is granted to the Lakers. From a practical standpoint, that makes the exception worthless on the trade market. That figure is less than the minimum, and trade exceptions cannot be aggregated with other salaries. The Lakers can still trade Cousins as of Dec. 15, but in all likelihood, they would use this exception in free agency.

Fortunately for them, it would have quite a bit of value on that market. Most salary cap exceptions, including every variety of the mid-level exception, the bi-annual exception and the minimum player salary exception, prorate throughout the season. If a player signs for one of those figures halfway through the season, they would earn only half of the money. 

Disabled player exceptions, however, do not prorate. Right now, $1.75 million is not much money. Most free agents currently on the market could get that for the minimum. But since that money does not prorate, $1.75 million becomes substantially more valuable in February's buyout market. 

The minimum salary for a 10-year veteran, which many of the best buyout players are, is $2,564,753. But let's say, hypothetically, they are deciding what team to play for with three-quarters of the season in the books. Their minimum salary would prorate to $641,188.25. As most teams have spent their salary exceptions, that is all they could offer. But the Lakers could use this exception to offer $1.75 million, nearly three times as much. 

The Lakers already have their eye on one 10-year veteran: Andre Iguodala. The Memphis Grizzlies have shown no inclination toward buying him out before the season, and if the Lakers are indeed granted this exception, they would benefit from the Grizzlies waiting. The longer they were to wait, the bigger their financial advantage would be in pitching Iguodala. 

Even if Iguodala doesn't become available, there will surely be veteran free agents interested in joining the Lakers after the trade deadline. This exception would position them as the favored destination for practically any bought-out player. The Lakers already have the Los Angeles market and championship contention to offer. If the league approves their exception, they will have the most money to offer as well. 

Sam Quinn joined CBS sports as a basketball writer in 2019. Prior to that, he wrote for 247Sports and Bleacher Report. He is a New York native and NYU graduate who also has roots in Florida and California. Full Bio

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