Rumors about which players the Los Angeles Lakers will attempt to sign in free agency have run rampant this season, with LeBron James and Southern California native Paul George the two most oft-mentioned NBA free agent targets for L.A.
James has been connected to the Lakers to the point that nearly every word he utters and conversation he has is parsed for what it means in regards to their potential plans with free agents. Meanwhile, George’s interest in Los Angeles has been less subtle and is arguably more tangible.
But while those two have gotten all the headlines, during an appearance on the Dunc’d On Podcast with Nate Duncan, Marc Stein of the New York Times said the Lakers might have one other, less-talked-about target in mind in DeMarcus Cousins:
“I think most teams around the league believe that the Pelicans will re-sign Cousins unless he doesn’t want to stay there. I think the Pelicans are the clear favorite. 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 that those are teams that are expected, whatever expected means, to make a run at him.”
However, there is a reason Cousins has been less talked about, as the Lakers likely don’t have him as their top priority. Stein added the Mavericks’ and Lakers’ pitches would be affected by what the Pelicans were offering:
“Now for the Lakers obviously we know they have other targets. I would think Cousins is lower on their list than LeBron (James) or Paul George, but Dallas going after Cousins would be a very Mark Cuban move. … Can they convince him to leave New Orleans if the Pels put that max deal on the table? I know this isn’t the answer you want, but I’ve got to play the ‘too soon to know’ card here.'”
Stein is right that knowing any free agents desires at this point is basically impossible. Cousins still needs to see how the Lakers and Mavericks finish the season, how his own Pelicans do in their hunt for a playoff spot, and then whether or not they put a max contract on the table for him before he decides whether or not he’s interested in jumping ship.
Similarly, as laughable as it might sound for the Lakers to be turning down the chance to sign a max-contract star, the front office needs to see if George and James are interested in coming to Los Angeles before deciding whether or not to pursue Cousins, and how hard to do so.
The Lakers need talent and likely wouldn’t turn Cousins down unless they simply didn’t have room because of George and James. But they still have their priorities and will almost assuredly chase the other two players before flipping to Cousins if necessary.
All of that is still a long way off, however, and the Lakers can’t put the cart before the horse. If the team wants a chance with any top free agents, they’ll need their young core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma to continue to show free agents that they are a next generation of top talent worth teaming up with.
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