Lakers' DeMarcus Cousins Could Return This Season, But Should He?

The Los Angeles Lakers announced on Sunday that center DeMarcus Cousins could return this season, but with JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard playing well should either party even risk it?

DeMarcus Cousins has had a difficult couple of years.

The former NBA All-Star center has had not one, but three debilitating injuries the last two years and has seen significantly more time off the court, than on it.

Cousins ruptured his left Achilles tendon while playing with the New Orleans Pelicans on January 26, 2018. He missed over a year of action before taking the court again with the Golden State Warriors at the end of the 2018-19 season.

Cousins appeared to be fully healthy when the Warriors began their title defense with a whopping five All-Stars in the starting lineup in April. However, Cousins only lasted one game, as he tore his left quadriceps muscle in the opening round against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Miraculously, Cousins played on the injured quad in the NBA Finals, and helped the depleted Warriors the best he could before the three-time Champions ultimately fell to the Toronto Raptors in six games.

His gritty performance during the Finals and flashes of the old Cousins was enough for the Lakers to sign him to a one-year, $3.5 million deal in the offseason. Cousins appeared to have lost significant weight while training over the summer, and the Lakers were hoping he could be the third superstar they coveted after losing out on the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes.


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However, the injury-prone center couldn't even make it into the preseason before suffering his third devastating leg injury in less than 18 months. Cousins bumped knees while training on his own in Las Vegas and tore his left ACL. The same leg he tore his achilles and quad.

After the injury, the Lakers believed Cousins season was over, and therefore signed former Laker, Dwight Howard, to replace him on the roster. In a small sample size, Howard has proven he can not only be a role player off the bench, but make a significant contribution on both ends of the floor as he did on Sunday night in the team's 120-101 victory over the Charlotte Hornets. 

Howard had 16 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks in 22 minutes of action in the thrilling win over his former team, and played six more minutes than starting center JaVale McGee did.

In September, the Lakers applied for a disabled player exception for Cousins and it was granted by the league, allowing the Lakers to receive an extra $1.75 million towards the salary cap in order to sign another player (like Howard).

For those that are not well versed in the NBA's CBA agreement, the disabled player exception allows a team which is currently over the salary cap to be able to replace an injured player who is expected to miss the remainder of that season with the additional $1.75 million, in order to acquire another player via free agency, a trade, or waiver claim to replace the injured player.

Cousins is indeed expected to miss the entirety of the 2019-2020 regular season, but Lakers head coach Frank Vogel held out hope that Cousins could return for the playoffs—should the Lakers be fortunate enough to make it that far.

Vogel told reporters before the Lakers game against the Hornets on Sunday that the team "has not closed the door," on Cousins returning to the court this season. He wouldn't elaborate further, and of course, that stance could quickly change at any point this season.

Vogel's comments are encouraging to Lakers fans, but let's be frank for a second. Cousins tore his ACL in August and that type of injury typically comes with a 9-12 month timetable for recovery. Cousins' teammate, Klay Thompson, tore his ACL during Game 6 of the NBA Finals in June, and is unlikely to play this season according to Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr.

The fact that Thompson will have two months more recovery time than Cousins and is still not expected to return this season is telling. Not only has Thompson never had any serious injuries prior to his ACL tear over the course of his career, but he's also just 29 years old.

Considering the fact that Cousins is coming off of three serious injuries to his left leg in the last two years, I highly doubt that Cousins will return at any point this season. Vogel's announcement on Sunday is likely coming from Cousins himself who has probably told teammates and staff that he wants to return this season.

Secondly, even if Cousins is able to return from his ACL injury after just eight months, why would you want to add him to the roster during the most crucial time of the season? Especially if he hasn't had any prior on-court experience in which to get back into game shape. Even if Cousins was cleared to return for the postseason, how much could he realistically contribute?

Thirdly, and probably most importantly, if Howard, McGee, and Davis continue to play at the level they've been playing throughout the entirety of the season, and are healthy heading into the playoffs, then do the Lakers even need Cousins?

The answer to all of those questions points to Cousins likely not returning this season, playoffs or otherwise. In my opinion, Boogie should take a step back and realize its in his best interest to sit out this year, and get his body right for next season.

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