The Houston Rockets and center DeMarcus Cousins are planning to part ways in coming days, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Houston wants to go smaller, younger in frontcourt when Christian Wood returns and this allows Cousins to find an opportunity elsewhere.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 20, 2021
The Rockets signed Cousins and traded for John Wall in an effort to keep James Harden in Houston. Harden continued to force his way out and was eventually traded to the Brooklyn Nets. This forced Houston into an immediate rebuild, currently led by Christian Wood. Wood is continuing to improve after breaking out for the Detroit Pistons last season. He is currently sitting out with an ankle injury but shows massive potential. He’s averaging 22 points, 10 rebounds, and one assist per game to start the season.
Since he arrived, Cousins has functioned as a locker room leader alongside Wall, but the returns on the court may not be worth it. Cousins’ has never been an impactful defender, and with the Rockets scoring 4.4 points less per 100 possessions with Boogie on the court, there isn’t much value in playing him. Letting go of Cousins would allow Houston to play smaller and provide more room for Wood to grow.
There is still an opportunity for Cousins in this league. He brings shooting, interior scoring, and good passing for his position, all skills that made him an All-Star for the Sacramento Kings. Cousins will be a hot commodity in the free-agent market, and multiple teams should be looking to add him for reinforcement.
Potential Landing Spots for DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins Heads North
The Toronto Raptors are starting to roll again after a rough start to the season. The Kyle Lowry trade rumors have simmered and Pascal Siakam is approaching All-Star level play. Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka leaving in free agency left a hole at the center position. The Raptors attempted to fill this hole with Aron Baynes, but he’s been an extreme disappointment, shooting a paltry 21 percent from beyond the arc while being poor on defense. Cousins would be an undeniable improvement but does he replace what they’re missing from Gasol and Ibaka? Probably not. Toronto has reportedly been eyeing Andre Drummond, but Cousins may be a consolation prize if they were to miss out.
New York Knicks
Mitchell Robinson is out for the foreseeable future after getting surgery due to a broken hand. Taj Gibson suddenly appeared to help fill the role and Nerlens Noel has been solid in spurts, but Cousins may be able to add another level to this team offensively. Julius Randle and RJ Barrett both excel at attacking the rim. Robinson, Noel, and Gibson are all non-shooters that can stifle those attacks. Cousins’ ability to spread the floor may be able to help the New York Knicks improve their offense. He also may be able to fill Randle’s role when he’s on the bench and be another dynamic frontcourt option. The Knicks are also moving in on a playoff berth, and Cousins may be able to improve their chances. However, Thibodeau has established a defensive culture in New York, and Cousins will have to be willing to prioritize protecting the rim if he were to join.
Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard has had to deal with a lot of injuries to his teammates this season. Jusuf Nurkic, CJ McCollum, Zach Collins, and Harry Giles have all been out with injuries, and the Portland Trail Blazers‘ frontcourt desperately needs some reinforcements. Cousins would not only fill an injury gap but could remain as a backup long term. Portland has shown interest in Cousins in the past, and similar to Carmelo Anthony, may be willing to pick him up after the rest of the league has lost interest.
The Washington Wizards are starting to roll and are currently on a four-game winning streak. Thomas Bryant is out for the year and replacements Alex Len, Robin Lopez, and Mo Wagner are all subpar. With players such as Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal on the roster, there is no incentive to tank. Cousins’ grit would fit well with Westbrook, and he could help Bryant expand his game once he does return.
DeMarcus Cousins in Los Angeles
If Cousins was looking to contend, the Los Angeles Lakers are the obvious choice. Cousins would slide in perfectly with the Lakers’ slower, more deliberate style of basketball. Cousin’s has already attempted to play for the Lakers, and after proving that he is back for good in Houston, the Lakers should be willing to give it another go. Cousins also has a relationship with Anthony Davis, and bringing in a friend would be a gesture that would tie Davis to the organization even further.
However, it would be difficult to fit Harrell into the rotation. Montrezl Harrell has been producing well, and Gasol deserves his minutes as well. Cousins also wouldn’t play well with Gasol or Harrell, as he doesn’t cover any of their shortcomings. Head Coach Frank Vogel would have to work some magic to keep all three happy with their playing time, especially in the playoffs, where Davis will be playing more time at center.
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