A mere day after fully guaranteeing DeMarcus Cousins’ contract for the 2020-21 season, the Houston Rockets have signaled that they are looking to part ways with him. The organization will either trade or release him, depending on how the market reacts over the next few days.
Why guarantee the contract of someone you don’t want?
“The Rockets guaranteed his salary because management appreciates his professionalism, and how he went about his business,” Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston wrote. “The Rockets want to do right by free agents they sign.”
The main issue motivating this move is Houston’s desire to play in a way that doesn’t really have much use for Cousins. That is why they’re prioritizing helping him find a good new home above any potential returns they expect to get for him.
“Though Cousins has been productive, it has been a difficult fit with the Rockets wanting him to be a stretch five and play fast, styles that do not suit him well,” Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported.
“The defensive fit has also been poor, with Cousins needing to work in more traditional drop coverages, as opposed to the variety of switching or trapping defenses played with Wood or with the small lineups with P.J. Tucker or Jae’Sean Tate at center.
So who are the primary suitors for Cousins at this juncture? There are three: the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets.
“The Lakers will be among the teams to pursue DeMarcus Cousins,” Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reported. “The market will be limited for Cousins, sources say. He has struggled this year after returning from multiple major injuries. But for LA or any team in need of big man depth, few options bring higher upside.”
With Anthony Davis out for at least a month, the Lakers’ need for additional big man support is understandable. They have also been rumored to be one of two serious contenders for Andre Drummond and Mo Bamba, as well as one of two possible landing spots for Blake Griffin.
If not LA, the Heat are also a viable option.
“Asked a person with knowledge of situation if Heat would be a team that DeMarcus Cousins considers once he and Houston part way,” Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press tweeted, before confirming that there was interest.
— Game 7 (@game7__) February 21, 2021
Miami has been extremely disappointing thus far this season. After an incredible NBA Finals run last year, the team is struggling badly in the East and clearly needs to add some talent. There has been chatter of a potential deal involving Bradley Beal, as well as one involving Victor Oladipo. However, landing Cousins might be the most realistic option.
Finally, if not the Lakers or Heat – don’t sleep on Brooklyn. The team desperately needs to bolster up its frontcourt, and getting Cousins on the cheap would be a good way of doing that. The one lingering problem for the Nets is that Cousins absolutely hated James Harden when the two were teammates in Houston together, and it remains to be seen how welcome he’d be to a reunion.
One way or another, a final decision regarding Cousins’ future should come some time this week.