Warriors getting DeMarcus Cousins only makes Lakers, even with LeBron James, look more foolish
FYI: The Lakers paid nearly two times more for Rajon Rondo than the Warriors paid for Cousins
In a positively preposterous bombshell of an announcement, news came down Monday that DeMarcus Cousins has on a one-year, $5.3 million deal. Yes, that DeMarcus Cousins. Yes, those Warriors. Yes, for that chump change. It is just an absurd development for a team that already has people questioning whether it's ruined the NBA to add, potentially, yet another All-NBA player.
Honestly, to even write that feels like a joke.
If Cousins is even 70 percent of his former self as he comes off tearing his Achilles last season, this Warriors team is going to be laughably dominant. Like, there aren't even words for it. When healthy, Cousins is maybe the best center in the world, and that includes Joel Embiid. He is utterly unstoppable at what he does, one of just eight players in NBA history to average at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a single season -- which he accomplished last season through 48 games before he went down.
He also shot 47 percent from the field, and better than 35 percent from 3-point range, as a seven-footer. Seriously, I think people have kind of forgotten how incredibly dominant this guy is, or they're at least leaning a little too heavily on the idea that his injury is going to keep him from ever being that player again. No doubt, an Achilles tear is a big-time injury. Probably the worst one a basketball player can suffer. And it's only worse for a big man carrying around 270 pounds of listed weight.
But this is where smart teams weight the risk vs. reward, and right about now, the Warriors are looking a lot smarter than, well, just about everyone else. Again, the guy took a one-year deal on the mid-level exception for $5.3 million. Kevin Durant saved the Warriors pretty much that exact amount when he signed for $5.6 million less than he was eligible to make in the first year of his new two-year contract. In essence, the Warriors got Cousins for free.
It sure makes you wonder what the heck teams like the Lakers and Rockets are doing. Yes, the Lakers got LeBron James, but from pretty much the second that announcement was made they have been making one bumbling move after another -- signing Lance Stephenson for $4.5 million, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for $12 million and Rajon Rondo for $9 million, all while letting Julius Randle, easily the best player of those three, walk to the Pelicans for a very reasonable $18 million over two years. (Letting Randle walk is at least understandable. They want one-year deals so their books are as clean as possible in case they cannot trade for Kawhi Leonard and need room to sign him as a free agent next summer.)
Back to Cousins, who reportedly said he didn't receive even a single offer from another team. That may or may not be true. Perhaps he just didn't receive an offer to his liking. It's understandable that he would want max money, or something close to it, and it's equally understandable that no one would dream of giving him that with the uncertainty surrounding his injury. But clearly the guy was willing to talk, and ultimately take a small deal as an opportunity to prove himself, particularly with a team that could offer him the chance to play alongside superstar(s).
I'm not saying the Lakers should've signed Cousins, or even that they didn't, or weren't going to, try, or even that he would've been willing to go there for the same money the Warriors gave him. I'm just saying the Lakers pretty much closed that door before it ever had a chance to open when they gave Caldwell-Pope and Stephenson that combined $16.5 million in almost the immediate wake of getting the commitment from LeBron, which put them over the cap before they renounced Randle, which they were clearly planning on doing anyway.
Just for argument's sake, they could have simply left that cap space open, talked with Cousins, seen what, if anything, was there, and even if KCP and Stephenson were off the market by the time they got back around to them, there would have still been plenty of guys available -- guys better suited to play alongside LeBron, if we're being honest -- to sign. Even if they had to take minimum guys as a last resort for the chance to let better options (like Cousins) develop, its not like KCP and Stephenson make the Lakers anything close to a contender this year.
Seth Curry was out there. Jamal Crawford was, and still is, out there (at this rate, he'll probably find his way to the Warriors, too). Carmelo Anthony could well get bought out by OKC and would then be an option to fill a roster spot on a minimum deal for the Lakers. The point is: there were options. Good ones. Hell, J.J. Redick agreed to sign back on with the Sixers for basically the same money as the Lakers gave Caldwell-Pope.
And don't get me started on Rondo, whom the Lakers are reportedly considering starting at point guard over Lonzo Ball. Terrific. You draft a guy No. 2 overall, then the very next year you demote him behind a guy who can't shoot a lick so you can then play that guy alongside LeBron James, who thrives when surrounded by shooters, of which the Lakers have none. I can't even make that make sense when I write it.
Meanwhile, the Warriors get DeMarcus freaking Cousins for less than $1 million more than the Lakers paid the 29-percent 3-point-shooting Lance freaking Stephenson. Hilarious.
Elsewhere, Chris Paul demands full max money in Houston -- which, at least in part, prevents the Rockets from being able to re-sign Trevor Ariza -- while Durant takes a few million less in Golden State ... and what do you know ... here comes another superstar talent to join the Bay Area party with the reserve cash. If the Warriors are ruining the NBA, their main competitors aren't exactly making it tough on them.
In the end, the real winner here is Cousins, who can take his time getting back to full strength on a team that doesn't need him in any way. Seriously, they don't need him. Potentially one of the best players in the league is a luxury. And a very cheap one. If he makes it back to something near full strength, the Warriors are going to be the greatest basketball team ever assembled, bar none. Discussion over.
Imagine trying to keep your eye on the two greatest shooters in NBA history in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, quite possibly the greatest pure scorer in history in Durant, and even if you somehow manage to stop those three (which you won't), you now have to deal with a seven-footer who averaged 25 points and 13 boards last year. Then, even if you shut all four of those guys down, you have a borderline Hall of Famer in Andre Iguodala COMING OFF THE BENCH. Then, on the less than 1 percent chance all those guys are having an off night on the same night, the Warriors, behind one of the 10 best defenders ever in Draymond Green, have the best defense in the league, too. It's a joke.
All of this is going to let Cousins do nothing but shine if his Achilles is up to it. The guy is used to defenses swarming him. He won't believe the one-on-one matchups he'll get with defenses terrified of leaving those shooters open. He'll learn to play a more modern style with all the Warriors' ball and player movement, and he'll remind people that he's a good passer when given the opportunity. He'll probably win a championship for his trouble. And then he hits the open market in 2019 as an unrestricted free agent having proved to the league, in the most player-friendly environment imaginable, that he's sill a force. Then he gets paid. It's brilliant.
"This is my ace of spades," Cousins told ESPN on Monday. "This is my chess move."
Apparently, the rest of the NBA had better stop playing checkers.
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