Not many NBA teams currently project to have maximum-salary cap room this offseason, but for those teams with space, DeMarcus Cousins figures to be a top target. Appearing on Nate Duncan’s Dunc’d On Podcast this week, Marc Stein of The New York Times identified the Mavericks and Lakers as two teams expected to push the Pelicans for Cousins, though he cautioned that New Orleans still looks like the frontrunner.
“I think most teams around the league believe that the Pelicans will re-sign Cousins unless he doesn’t want to stay there,” Stein said, according to RealGM. “I think the Pelicans are the clear favorites. Now, I would say there’s an expectation – and maybe it’s even speculation on the part of rival teams – but I’ve heard Dallas and the Lakers mentioned most frequently. Those are teams that are expected, whatever ‘expected’ means, to make a run at him.”
The Lakers figure to have enough room for at least one max player, if not two, but as Stein acknowledges, LeBron James and/or Paul George may rank higher than Cousins on L.A.’s list of potential targets. As for the Mavs, options for Wesley Matthews and Dirk Nowitzki would cut into their space significantly, but the team may still have enough flexibility to put a max offer on the table. Noting that there has been Cousins-related chatter for a while in Dallas, Stein suggests that a pursuit of the big man “would be a very Mark Cuban move.”
While it’s worth surveying the potential free agency landscape for Cousins, it’s probably still too early to get a real sense of which teams will pursue him most aggressively and where he could realistically land. The Pelicans’ success – or lack thereof – during the rest of the 2017/18 season figures to play a major part in the 27-year-old’s summer decision. New Orleans will also be able to offer more years and more money than any other team.
Cousins is currently in the midst of perhaps his best all-around season, averaging an impressive 25.5 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.6 BPG, and 1.5 SPG to go along with a .474/.356/.749 shooting line.