The New Orleans Pelicans swept the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the postseason even without star player DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins, who will be a free agent this offseason, could face a strange summer due to the excellent play of the Pelicans.
They have looked sharp without him, as we have written, and may be able to continue to succeed without a huge contract offered to him. Zach Lowe wrote about what the market might look like for the big man this offseason (via ESPN):
“The Pelicans have broached internally the idea of offering Cousins a two- or three-year deal at less than the max, per sources familiar with the discussions … Only a half-dozen or so teams have max-level space this season, and most won’t pursue Cousins at that level, sources say. He doesn’t make sense for rebuilding teams. Even bad teams hungry for a big jump in wins next season — say, the Suns — can’t be confident Cousins will be ready to produce at his usual All-Star level until 2019-20, anyway.”
Lowe described the market as “tepid” and while Cousins might not be very enthusiastic about a two-year deal or three-year deal for less than the max, the Pelicans have won without him during the postseason.
The only teams with cap space who could be interested in the star are the Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks.
The front office for Los Angeles may not even have significant desire to add a big contract if they miss on LeBron James and Paul George. They may prefer to wait for the 2019 offseason when both Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson will become free agents.
Dallas could be hesitant to pursue Cousins considering they’ve seen the perils of an Achilles injury with their own player Wesley Matthews. They could also target a big man in the draft and have him on a rookie deal or even sign other free agents available like Julius Randle or Aaron Gordon.
Lowe speculated that a three-year deal could be the most likely deal for Cousins, though it depends on who’s bidding.
While another team could swoop in with a four-year or five-year deal, the average annual value would likely fall between $20 million and $25 million. Before he returns from his injury, it will be impossible to fully understand his value. As such, a shorter deal may make the most sense for Cousins moving forward.