The Los Angeles Lakers may have to make an abrupt change in plans for the frontcourt, targeting one of the few available free agents to replace the now-injured DeMarcus Cousins.
The team fears that Cousins tore his ACL while going through offseason workouts in Las Vegas on Monday, ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski reported. While the diagnosis has yet to be confirmed with team physicians, a separate report from ESPN noted that the Lakers may already be working on contingency plans.
With Cousins’ season believed to be over as the rehab time for an ACL tear is typically nine months, the Lakers are likely weighing whether to spend a roster spot on Cousins, ESPN noted. The Lakers have 14 players under guaranteed contract and are likely planning to avoid guaranteeing a 15th player so they can wait on buyout candidates after the trade deadline, ESPN reported.
“If the Lakers want to stick to that plan, they’d need to waive Cousins to replace him with another center to complement JaVale McGee and Anthony Davis sliding over from power forward,” the report noted.
But the team’s tight financial situation would make it tricky to replace Cousins, ESPN added. With their options limited, the Lakers may look at former Houston Rockets big man Kenneth Faried as the best potential frontcourt replacement. There could be other veterans, including Joakim Noah, that the Lakers might consider.
There could be significant pressure on the Lakers to replace Cousins. After a thoroughly disappointing first year of the LeBron James era, the Lakers were busy in trying to rapidly rebuild into a title contender, trading for Anthony Davis and going all-in on Kawhi Leonard before losing out to the Los Angeles Clippers. Though it was not clear what role Cousins would be able to play on the Lakers and how well he could recover from a previous season largely lost to injury, his injury will leave a hole in the frontcourt for the Lakers that would appear to put the team behind an increasingly competitive Western Conference.
Wrote about how the Lakers might replace DeMarcus Cousins if a torn ACL is confirmed as well as the implications of the injury for him: https://t.co/fjSMePUkr3 (ESPN+)— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) August 15, 2019
The future for DeMarcus Cousins himself is even less clear. As the ESPN report noted, he was forced to take one-year deals in each of the last two seasons as he tried to prove that he can overcome a rash of injuries and return to his All-Star form. While his earning potential is likely stunted after the injuries, his very future in the NBA is in question as well. The report noted that there is no precedent of a player recovering from both an Achilles rupture and an ACL tear. The only two players who suffered both injuries never returned to the league, the report noted.