Heading into the 2019-20 NBA season, there was great optimism for the Los Angeles Lakers, especially with DeMarcus Cousins signing a one-year, $3.5 million deal.
Unfortunately, Cousins suffered a torn ACL injury during a workout and the Mobile Police Department issued an arrest warrant on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge.
As the Lakers signed Dwight Howard to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal as Cousins’ replacement, they recently applied for a $1.75 million disabled player exception.
With Cousins expected to miss the entire season, the NBA has granted the Lakers the disabled player exception, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic:
The Lakers have been granted a disabled player exception worth $1.75M from the NBA for the expected season-ending ACL injury to DeMarcus Cousins, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. It expires on March 10, 2020.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 19, 2019
Due to Cousins’ salary, there are limitations to what the Lakers can do, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:
The Lakers can use the disabled player exception to sign a free agent or claim a player off waivers with a salary up to $1.75 million or in trade up to $1.85 million. But it contains a crucial limitation: The player cannot be under contract beyond the 2019-20 season.
While the Lakers can waive Cousins now, they would lose the disabled player exception under two scenarios:
As long as the disabled player exception is awarded first, the team can still waive Cousins without losing it. If L.A. trades him, or he returns to play, the exception will evaporate immediately. The bigger question is: Who can the Lakers acquire with such a small exception?
At $1.75 million, the team’s options are limited as a player with more than five years of NBA experience would receive more than that on a minimum salary ($1.88 million).
As general manager Rob Pelinka and company made the right decision, all of the attention is on Cousins’ future in Los Angeles. While there were high expectations for Cousins, the circumstances have significantly changed.
Although the Lakers have a championship-contending roster, they could use another small forward to back up LeBron James. While Andre Iguodala would be ideal, the Memphis Grizzlies have not changed their stance yet.
With more opportunities to improve their 2020 NBA Finals odds, the Lakers have an interesting situation ahead with no roster spots remaining following the Howard signing.