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Free Agency 2019

NBA Free Agency 2019: What is the best landing spot for DeMarcus Cousins?

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DeMarcus Cousins (NBA Getty Images)

DeMarcus Cousins will be an unrestricted free agent once again this summer.

After tearing his Achilles in the 2017-18 season, Cousins signed a one-year, $5.3 million contract with the Golden State Warriors last summer. He appeared in 30 regular season games with the Warriors, averaging 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 25.7 minutes per contest.

Cousins also made his postseason debut this season, though he played in only eight of Golden State's 22 games because of a torn left quadriceps muscle that he suffered in the opening round. He returned in time for the Finals and made an impact in both of the team's wins.

Despite an up and down season, Cousins is one of the best centres available this offseason. The high upside combined with questions about his health make him one of the most intriguing options in a loaded free agent class.

What is the most interesting landing spot for the six-time All-Star?

Golden State Warriors

It once seemed as though Cousins wouldn't be on the Warriors beyond this season, but a lot has changed since he signed with them last summer.

The two biggest: Cousins suffered another serious injury that was expected to be season-ending and the Warriors could be without Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant for most - if not all - of next season. (Assuming, of course, both of them return, which is far from guaranteed).

Cousins could therefore return to the Warriors on another prove-it deal, the biggest difference this time being that he'd have a much bigger role on the team. He'd likely be Golden State's second option on offence on opening night, giving him far more opportunities than he got this season playing behind Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Thompson and Durant.

If he returned to his All-Star form and managed to stay healthy, it could set Cousins up for a big payday in the summer of 2020, particularly if the Warriors are more competitive than they're currently expected to be.

There is, however, a cap on how much the Warriors can pay Cousins this summer - between $6.4 million and $9.2 million depending on a number of factors, including Durant's own free agency decision. It might ultimately come down to whether or not there's a team out there willing to offer Cousins much more.

- Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles)

I have no idea

Let's run through the options outside of a return to Golden State:

  • Lakers: they need either reliable depth or a reliable third star. Cousins has loads of potential but he's risky and the Lakers can't afford to swing and miss while filling out the roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis
  • Knicks: they have Mitchell Robinson. Maybe if they strike out on top targets, they'd consider rolling the dice on Boogie's upside. But again ... they have Robinson.
  • Nets: they have Jarrett Allen. See reasoning for Knicks.
  • Bulls: they have Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen. Yes, there is significant cap space, but do you really think Cousins fits not only with the team but with the temperament of head coach Jim Boylen?
  • Celtics: there's a gaping hole at centre if Al Horford does indeed leave, but would Boston gamble on Boogie after the experience they just had with Kyrie Irving?
  • Kings: they need a centre, but there's lots of bad blood. Had he never played there, he'd be an intriguing fit. But ... well ... he did.
  • Pelicans: adding a skilled centre to slot next to Zion Williamson is intriguing, but they've been there and done that with Cousins.
  • Magic: if Nikola Vucevic leaves, they could offer Cousins a lucrative long-term deal that might not be coming from anywhere else. He's a big name with high upside, the type of player that under normal circumstances they'd probably have no chance at. But would they really do it with Mo Bamba and Jonathan Isaac in the wings?
  • Pacers: another team with space, another team already set inside with Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis
  • Hawks: could they use a centre? Yes. Are there potential locker room concerns? Yes. Also, if you're signing Cousins, in theory you'd want to give him ample touches. Would they want to take away reps from John Collins and Trae Young?
  • Mavericks: Kristaps Porzingis has in the past shied away from playing the five. Mark Cuban is perhaps more willing than anyone to take a big risk. From a basketball standpoint, you could understand the temptation to add Boogie to the Porzingis-Doncic duo. That said, is he the stable vet best suited to guide the new Dallas duo?

That's 11 different teams, none of whom offer a situation without serious question marks. Which brings me to a 12th team that makes zero sense from a basketball standpoint, but would provide more entertainment value than any other situation.

The Washington Wizards.

I want a DeMarcus Cousins and Dwight Howard frontcourt. I want a reunion with Kentucky teammate John Wall. I want the can't-miss spectacle and never-ending drama. I want the NBA version of Big Brother. The Wizards are stuck anyways, so why not introduce the NBA's Wizard of Oz so we can all merrily skip down the yellow brick road together in 2019-20.

- Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13)

Indiana Pacers

I wanted to write that I'd like to see Cousins somehow on the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors, but the rest of the team voted against it. Apparently, it's not a realistic destination - especially now that Marc Gasol is returning.

Looking at the top five teams with cap space this offseason, you can find a reason why they won't sign Cousins. The Nets, Knicks, Kings, 76ers and Clippers are all going to find better ways at spending their money. The Mavericks are intriguing, seeing as Kristaps Porzingis prefers playing the four and Cousins could slot in at the five, but I'm going off the board to a team no one's talking about.

The Indiana Pacers.

The Pacers are coming off a season in which they finished with the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference despite Victor Oladipo playing in only 36 games. But even with Oladipo in the lineup, their roster is still missing something. That something could be 20 and 10 from a former All-Star.

Cousins could slip right into the starting lineup and man the frontcourt alongside Myles Turner. Turner proved last season he is an elite rim protector, which would help Cousins immensely. On offence, Cousins would have free reign over the paint with Turner, Oladipo and co. all comfortable on the outside, giving him space to operate down low.

It may be a long shot, but it could be the fresh start that DMC needs to get back to the All-Star level he was at prior to the injury.

- Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)

Houston Rockets

Bare with me on this one.

With rumours surfacing that the Rockets are aiming for a sign-and-trade with the Philadelphia 76ers for Jimmy Butler, their offer is said to include PJ Tucker, Eric Gordon and Clint Capela.

Trading their promising young centre leaves a vacancy at that position and limits the Rockets' frontcourt depth along with potentially moving Tucker. They still wouldn't have the cap space to sign Boogie because they'd be taking on a max contract with Butler, but that mid-level exception is still an option.

What type of offer Cousins will receive is still up in the air. Will a team roll the dice and throw big money at him? Will teams avoid spending high on the centre who hasn't been able to stay healthy, forcing him to sign another mid-level exception to try and prove himself again?

If the latter is the case, Cousins to Houston makes sense on paper. He fills their need at centre and gives them another star-calibre player alongside Chris Paul, James Harden and Butler to compete in the wide-open Western Conference.

Would that work with those four personalities in the locker room? We wouldn't know until all of those dominos fell into place.

But the Rockets are an intriguing and entertaining option for Cousins if he's willing to take that mid-level exception again, there's no arguing that.

- Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_)

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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