The Los Angeles Lakers suffered a devastating blow when it was announced DeMarcus Cousins had sustained a torn ACL in his left knee, which could cause him to miss the entire 2019-20 NBA season.
For a Lakers team that just completed an injury-plagued 2018-19 season and now has hopes of winning an NBA championship, this was crushing news.
Of course, the injury had to be even more demoralizing for Cousins himself, who has dealt with a torn Achilles, quad, and now ACL in just 18 months. Formerly seen as one of the very best big men in the game, Cousins must now once again rebuild himself in the hope of resuming his NBA career.
That said, the season is quickly approaching and the Lakers will now need to find a replacement for Cousins. We waded through what’s left in free agency to come up with a handful of players that the Lakers could consider:
Kenneth Faried: At one point, Faried was one of the most intriguing young big men in the league thanks to his high motor and endless energy. However, as the league pushed towards versatile players who could stretch the floor, he found himself left behind.
After the Denver Nuggets dumped his salary on the Brooklyn Nets last summer and subsequently waived by the Nets in January, Faried popped back up with the Houston Rockets where he just may have saved his NBA career by taking 0.8 threes and hitting 35% of them — both career-highs. While the sample size is tiny (25 regular season games for the Rockets), if his ability to occasionally splash in a three-pointer is real, then he might be worth a look for the Lakers — whose floor spacing took a hit with Cousins out.
At 6’8”, Faried is a bit undersized, but he proved in Houston that he can still be effective on the boards, averaging 14.8 points and 9.3 rebounds in 26.6 minutes as the team’s starting center while Clint Capela was sidelined due to injury. If they can find a deal, Faried could provide the mix of athleticism and grittiness the Lakers could use.
Joakim Noah: A two-time All-Star player and the 2014 NBA Defensive Player Of The Year with the Chicago Bulls, Noah’s game dropped off a cliff after signing a massive deal with the New York Knicks. Injuries plagued him until the Knicks ultimately waived him, but he appeared to be somewhat revitalized after joining the Memphis Grizzlies last December.
Coming off the bench for the Grizzlies, Noah made a positive impact defensively (70th percentile per Synergy) and on the boards, which was an impressive feat for a player who many thought didn’t have anything left in the tank. He only averaged 16.5 minutes per game but that may be all that the Lakers need backing up JaVale McGee and Anthony Davis. Noah doesn’t provide the floor spacing that they need and at 34 years old and with a long injury history, he may not always be available, but the Lakers could do worse than Noah.
We should also note that Noah and LeBron James have had a — shall we say — frosty relationship over the years, but if James and Lance Stephenson can co-exist, then perhaps they can bury the hatchet as well.
Speaking of uncomfortable pasts…
Dwight Howard: Before you grab your torches and pitchforks, remember the Lakers are in a really tough spot. As disastrous as Howard’s lone season was back in 2012-13 and as reviled as he was for skipping town and heading to the Rockets in free agency, the Lakers can’t afford to completely close the door on a reunion.
For all of the headaches that come with Howard, he can still produce when he’s able to stay on the floor. A back issue only allowed him to play in nine games last season with the Wizards, but he averaged an impressive 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game for the Charlotte Hornets the season before that and perhaps most importantly, he played in all but one game.
If the Lakers have reason to believe that he is back to full health (and that’s a massive, massive IF), then perhaps Howard is worth another look once he eventually gets bought out by the Grizzlies.
Honorable mentions: Ryan Anderson, Salah Mejri, and Marcin Gortat.