DeMarcus Cousins is a free agent, but he isn’t drawing much interest on the market. This is a perfect opportunity for the Rockets to swoop in and take him.
DeMarcus Cousins is an unrestricted free agent, but a lot has happened since he was putting up big numbers for the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans a few seasons ago. As a result, Cousins isn’t commanding much attention from other teams, giving the Rockets a massive opportunity to snag him for less than he’s worth.
After tearing his Achilles tendon in January of 2018, Boogie missed out on what would’ve been a nine figure contract in free agency. He didn’t even get a lot of offers at below market value, but the Golden State Warriors, who were already loaded, took a chance and signed Cousins to a one-year deal using their mid-level exception.
Last season, Cousins made his debut on January 18, about a full year after his Achilles injury. Cousins played in 30 regular season games in total, all as a starter, averaging 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists in just 25.7 minutes of play. Those are stellar numbers for a player coming off such a difficult injury, especially since Cousins had to share the ball with Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, who typically leads Golden State in assists.
Unfortunately, Cousins suffered a partially torn quad in Game 2 of the opening round of the postseason, but was able to return in Game 1 of the NBA Finals a month and a half later. Like Kevin Durant, Cousins probably rushed back to return a bit too early, as he didn’t look like his regular season self against the Raptors.
With his poor performance in the NBA Finals and concerns about his injury history, teams are very weary of making an offer for Cousins. In fact, Cousins may not even get offered a mid-level exception deal like the one-year, $5.3 million MLE he got from Golden State last summer, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski
— Stanford Steve (@StanfordSteve82) July 2, 2019
This gives the Rockets a great opportunity to sign Cousins, an impact player when healthy, for cheap. Here are three reasons why the Houston Rockets should pursue DeMarcus Cousins this summer.
Next: No. 3
3. He gives the Rockets a good front court scoring option
Since the Rockets acquired Chris Paul and became among the league’s elite, the one thing they have lacked is a legitimate scoring option in the front court. Guys like Clint Capela and P.J. Tucker fit their roles well for Houston, but their ability to score is largely dependent upon James Harden and Chris Paul’s ability to create shots for them.
Cousins on the other hand, has been a go-to bucket getter over his entire career. Standing 6-feet-11 and weighing in at 270 pounds, few centers in the league and keep Boogie from scoring down low. However, Cousins has shot 34.4 percent from 3-point range over his last four seasons, so he can also act as a floor spacer.
Even at his size, Cousins also has the ability to put the ball on the floor and get past opposing centers on his way to the hoop. This sets up his face up game, and he’s more than capable of using a jab step to make a defender step back before knocking down a mid-range jumper.
Just two seasons ago, Cousins put up 25.2 points and 12.9 rebounds as a member of the Pelicans before his injury, when he was arguably the league’s best center. He might not ever regain that elite form, but if he can stay healthy, he has more than enough talent to put up numbers big enough to tip the scale in Houston’s favor.
Next: No. 2
2. Cousins can act as a third playmaker
When the Rockets added Chris Paul alongside James Harden back in 2017, they paired two of the best playmakers in the league. These are two guys capable of making almost any pass and are able to dish out 10 or more assists on any given night.
The problem is, however, is that most of Houston’s other players are either spot up shooters or lob threats. Eric Gordon can get to the rim off the dribble and create his own looks, but he doesn’t create opportunities for others at a high level. As a result, D’Antoni needs to keep either Paul or Harden on the floor at all times, and when one of those guys isn’t healthy, the Rockets’ offense sometimes struggles to create good looks consistently.
Cousins can help fix that problem. Even when he was with Golden State last season and surrounded by so much talent, the Warriors ran a lot of plays through him because of his ability to both score and act as a set up man. Over the last three seasons, Cousins has averaged 4.6 assists per game, an elite number for a center.
The Rockets could run their offense through Boogie and have guards cut off the ball to throw a little wrinkle in Houston’s iso and guard heavy offense. This is one of the biggest things that has been missing from Houston’s offense, particularly when they have faced Golden State in the past. It isn’t always easy to create good looks going one-on-one against elite perimeter defenders for 48 minutes, but when you have a big like Cousins that can command double-teams down low, the floor naturally opens up.
Next: No. 1
1. High upside, low downside
Obviously, signing Boogie Cousins doesn’t come without risks, which is why most teams aren’t taking a chance on him. The biggest concern of course is his health. Many players are never the same again after tearing their Achilles, and the same could be true for Cousins.
Cousins is also a poor perimeter defender, which means he could struggle in Houston’s switch everything defensive scheme. He’s also a player that struggles a lot with foul trouble and sometimes makes silly mistakes.
He isn’t a perfect player, but if the Rockets sign him with a portion of the mid-level or on a minimum deal, their risk is honestly pretty low. Last season, the Rockets took a chance on Carmelo Anthony, but he wasn’t a good fit and he and the team agreed to part ways after just 10 games. Eventually, the Rockets sent Anthony along with two fillers the team would never otherwise use to the Bulls, who eventually waived Anthony to make him a free agent. Houston didn’t really lose anything by taking a chance on Melo.
The Rockets could do the same thing with Cousins if he doesn’t pan out. But if Cousins gets healthy over the summer and is a good fit for Houston, the Rockets would possess two very skilled centers and would have Cousins for a mere fraction of the cost of what he would typically cost. This would be a high upside, low downside signing.