The Houston Rockets have reached an agreement with free-agent center DeMarcus Cousins. The move is a huge win for a team that wants to contend for the title.
The Houston Rockets are nearing an agreement with free-agent center DeMarcus Cousins on a one year deal. The former All-NBA center has only played 78 games over the previous three seasons due to a myriad of serious leg injuries.
Cousins is not expected to be ready for the beginning of the season but he gives the Rockets a dimension that they’ve lacked for years. It remains to be seen what he has left after an Achilles and an ACL tear cost him most of the past three seasons.
Standing 6’10 and weighing 270 pounds Cousins is a bruiser that will have no problem matching up against traditional centers or proving to be a nightmare for teams that try to play small. At his best, Cousins was a dominant low-post bully that lived at the free-throw line and who could stretch it out to the 3-point line.
If Cousins can regain his All-Star level, a big if after suffering two of the worst injuries imaginable, the Rockets will have gotten the steal of free agency. Even if Cousins is not the same player he once was he can still anchor a bench unit and be a spot starter if the match-up dictates it.
Last season the Rockets abandoned the center position all together but 2021 will see them feature a versatile and explosive frontcourt with DeMarcus Cousins and the newly signed Christian Wood. The Rockets won’t be featuring micro-lineups any time soon but Cousins has the offensive skill set to thrive in an offense that maintains the same spacing principals that small-ball is predicated on.
Another selling point is that DeMarcus Cousins’ offensive profile fits perfectly into the Rockets’ analytically oriented shot selection. Throughout his career, he has done most of his damage around the rim, at the line, and from 3-point range.
The development of Cousins’ 3-point shot allowed him to form a dominant frontcourt rotation with Anthony Davis in New Orleans. Over 65 games with the Pelicans, Cousins attempted six 3-pointers a game and hit them at a 35.9-percent rate. While this level of efficiency won’t have him confused with Stephen Curry, it does make him a credible enough threat that teams will have to blanket him behind the arc.
How the Rockets should use Cousins
The Rockets should get creative with Cousins’ usage on offense to get him favorable match-ups. While Cousins isn’t a like for like swap with PJ Tucker if he’s used similarly as a floor spacer he could create serious headaches for opposing coaches.
Having Cousins out on the perimeter will force teams into a no-win situation. Put a center on him on the perimeter and your team won’t have the speed to cover the rest of the Rockets’ rotation. Place a smaller player on him and watch as they’re bullied mercilessly by Cousins in the post.
After so much time off Cousins shouldn’t handle a large workload but if he can be deployed strategically throughout games to create favorable match-ups his value to the Rockets could be immense. On offense Cousins will almost certainly be a win but it’s on the defensive end where his upside will be determined.
Even in his physical prime Cousins was not a great interior defender and he has struggled to switch effectively onto smaller players on the perimeter. After two serious injuries, those concerns will not be alleviated.
The best way to utilize Cousins is to deploy him as the lynchpin for the Rockets’ second unit where his defensive flaws will be less of a concern. In games where he’s scoring at will, he should see time with the starters to try and supercharge the offense.
DeMarcus Cousins is a lottery pick worth buying. If he is a bust he’s on a one-year contract, but if he shows anything like the player he once was then the Rockets will have a dynamic front-court player.
The Rockets went from having no centers to potentially having one of the league’s better frontcourt rotations. Their offseason remodel has started out well and should be enough to convince their disgruntled superstars to run it back one more time.