Is there still a place for Demarcus Cousins in today’s NBA?

Photo by: David Zalubowski/AP

Veterans minimum, 10-day contract, non-guaranteed contract, NBA jargon that you wouldn’t have associated with Demarcus Cousins as recently as 2018. Everything changed when he tore his left Achilles in a January 2018 game against the Rockets where he still pulled off a triple double performance scoring 15 points, with 13 boards and 11 assists.

About to cash in on his biggest contract yet the following off-season, Cousins found himself with no takers because of his injury, The Golden State Warriors signed him with their midlevel exception knowing he will miss most, if not all, the 2018-19 season.

He did return and looked like he was on his way to becoming the player he once was until a series of lower body freak injuries sidelined him for most of the 2019 playoffs (he returned and did an adequate job in the NBA finals in a losing effort against the Raptors) and the entire 2019-20 season as he tore his ACL in the offseason playing pickup shortly after signing with the Lakers.

There’s no denying “Boogie” is no longer the franchise talent he once was in his early years with the Kings and Pelicans, but the lack of interest he’s garnering right now is surprising.

Yes, it’s understandable that most teams are standing pat until the KD drama is partially or fully resolved, as they should. At the same time, when you got guys like Javale McGee (who’s still a good rim protector), DeAndre Jordan, and Andre Drummond (defensive centers that are no longer good on defense) get signed early in free agency to modest contracts, it’s justified to think that Boogie is overlooked by most, if not all NBA teams.

Even with the Nuggets passing him over for DeAndre Jordan, Demarcus Cousins will be in an NBA roster soon. The NBA Champion Warriors seem interested in a reunion and he will be a good fit there if it ends up happening. But here are three teams that should strongly consider signing him:

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder has stockpiled a lot of young, talented and impressionable players since they traded away Westbrook and PG a couple of years back. This year, they seem poised to continue their “learning ways” even if they might have enough talent to push for the last play in spot.

It’s unlikely, but if they bring Cousins on board, he can be an excellent mentor to seven-foot unicorns Aleksej Pokusevski and this year’s 2nd overall pick Chet Holmgren. Boogie was once a young do it all big that teams run things through and that is what the Thunder want both these kids to develop into. Poku and Chet have the length (not necessarily the lateral foot speed) to defend 4’s in spots to allow Boogie to play alongside them and wreak havoc offensively.

Big perimeter players like Dort, SGA, Giddey, plus forwards like Dort and Bazley are good enough defensively to compensate for what Boogie lacks on the defensive end.

 

  1. New York Knicks

Just like the OKC situation, there won’t be a lot of winning here most likely, but outside of often injured Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein, there aren’t any viable options at the five. Boogie might not help the Knicks stay atop the best defensive teams in the league, but he opens up the floor and can score against second units much like he did with the Nuggets last season. His playing style also complements Randle’s pretty well by spreading the floor and giving Julius the space he needs to operate down-low.

 

  1. New Orleans Pelicans

I’m not sure if the Pelicans are going to be open to a reunion, but a frontcourt that features Zion, BI and Boogie would be a nightmare to defend, even the 2022 version of Boogie. There are a lot of defensive limitations, but New Orleans has the personnel to ease his defensive deficiencies. He can also play alongside Jaxon Hayes because of his ability to shoot and create off the mid-post.

Demarcus Cousins
Boogie was a Pelican the last time he was considered a star.  Photo by: Isaiah J. Downing – USA Today Sports

Early in his career, Cousins was as enigmatic as he was talented. But his injuries gave him a much better perspective in life, which allowed him to display self-awareness that is rare for NBA players. He’s still paying for his reputation in his early years, unfortunately. Officials rarely give him the benefit of the doubt. Resulting in early foul trouble that limits his minutes even more and technical fouls for merely reacting.

Despite that, he still averaged 9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, and 1.5 apg, even if he was on the floor only slightly a quarter of the game at 15 minutes per game. A far cry from where he used to be, but is definitely still a rotation player that can help a team.

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