On Thursday, reports that Los Angeles Lakers center DeMarcus Cousins went down with an ACL injury during a workout session sent shockwaves through NBA fans all over the world. Aside from being one of the Lakers’ top free-agent acquisitions this offseason, the former All-NBA big man was also notable for his recent history with serious injuries, including a torn Achilles tendon suffered in January 2018 that took him out of action for almost one full year. While many reports have focused on the Lakers’ best immediate options as they try to replace Cousins, others have posited that it may be better if Los Angeles waits until December 15, which is the earliest date when new free-agent additions can be traded.
Although CBS Sports did mention a number of erstwhile free-agent big men whom the Lakers can sign immediately, including the likes of Kenneth Faried, Ryan Anderson and Dwight Howard, the outlet discussed several “upcoming” options if the team chooses to make a trade on December 15 or later. Due to Cousins’ injury, the Lakers have $3.5 million in “movable salary” for such transactions, but as further explained, that means the team might have to include the 29-year-old forward/center in any potential deals for a big man.
CBS Sports stressed that with the above arrangement, the Lakers still won’t have enough resources to acquire a star player. However, the publication listed five possible targets, including recent New York Knicks signee Taj Gibson. At the time of writing, the 34-year-old Gibson is expected to fight for minutes on a Knicks team that has been perceived as being overloaded at the power forward and center positions following their moves in the 2019 free agency period.
“Eventually, the New York Knicks are going to realize that they have too many big men,” wrote CBS Sports‘ Sam Quinn. “When that happens, Gibson becomes a very intriguing trade piece. The Lakers would need to fold a bit more salary into the deal (with Quinn Cook being the easiest solution), but Gibson is well worth the price.”
Lakers center DeMarcus Cousins has suffered a torn ACL in his left knee. https://t.co/eOO3SPo4US
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 15, 2019
Playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves last season, Gibson averaged 10.8 points and 6.5 rebounds and shot 56.6 percent from the field while starting 57 out of 70 games played, per Basketball-Reference. This could make him a good post-December 15 pickup if the hypothetical trade pushes forward, given how he is currently set to join a Knicks team that also added two younger, higher-upside free-agent big men in Julius Randle and Bobby Portis.
It wasn’t explicitly stated whether the Lakers would have to trade DeMarcus Cousins’ one-year contract in order to acquire Taj Gibson — the team, after all, did sign multiple free agents last month, all of whom would also be tradable by December 15. However, if Cousins does end up in New York in a trade for Gibson, he could become a low-risk, high-reward midseason acquisition for the Knicks if he re-signs with the team in 2020 and somehow comes close to recovering his old form.