San Antonio Spurs: Exploring the possibility of signing DeMarcus Cousins
By Dylan Carter
Adding a star-quality player like DeMarcus Cousins could elevate the San Antonio Spurs from a seventh seed to a true championship contender.
Watching star center DeMarcus Cousins battle through various injuries over the course of the last two seasons has been saddening for NBA fans. Regardless of which team he plays for, it’s evident that Boogie is one of the most self-contained superstars in the game with a classical bully-ball playstyle complimented by exemplary passing chops, jump shooting and ball handling for a man of his stature.
Toughness has always been an integral part of the San Antonio Spurs’ team construction, but times have changed, and the organization now lacks that added level of physicality. For as farfetched as it may seem, San Antonio could have an opportunity to pursue Cousins in free agency this Summer because of his injury history and contractual uncertainty.
With impending free agents Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant set to miss next season, the Golden State Warriors are anticipated to offer major contracts to their marquee players as they undergo rehabilitation from devastating injuries suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals. This will leave them with limited cap flexibility and a high payroll, so Cousins could find himself on the move again.
San Antonio could offer Cousins their mid-level exception of roughly $9 million to join the team next season, implementing a rehabilitation process to ensure that Boogie returns to top form similarly to his former teammate and current Spurs free agent Rudy Gay, who will likely be retained.
Boogie has a long history of being a hard-nosed individual who can butt heads with others at times, but he also showed the innate passion for the game that courses through his veins while with the Warriors. Not only did Boogie defer to head coach Steve Kerr, but he listened and appreciated his guidance throughout the year.
Cousins and Gregg Popovich could find middle ground through mutual respect and collaborative effort both on and off the court. There’s nothing that a dinner meeting and a glass of wine couldn’t help this duo of passionate basketball purists resolve.
Even though it’s not the most realistic of postseason scenarios, the Spurs would hugely benefit from adding a player of Cousins’ caliber to their starting five – crafting a dynamic big three around a core of rising stars and competent, battle tested role players.
Next: Gauging the market for Boogie
Gauging the market for Boogie
Now that Durant and Thompson are both slated to miss significant time next season, the free agent landscape has shifted tremendously. Teams may not be willing to drop the same amount of money at these two star’s doorsteps because of the uncertainty regarding their return and the severity of these injuries. This opens up a lane for a team like the New York Knicks or Los Angeles Lakers to offer a sizeable payday to Cousins as an unrestricted free agent.
With that in mind, it’s evident that Cousins still has a way to go before returning to his All-NBA status. The 28-year-old averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game on 48 percent shooting from the field. He shot his lowest three-point percentage since 2015, making only 27.4 percent of his triples last year. Three-point shooting isn’t what sets him apart from other players, but it’s an important asset to have in the modern game.
Cousins still showed his defensive effort with 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks in 25.7 minutes per night as a Warrior, proving to the league that his impactful play hasn’t vanished through injury.
General manager R.C. Buford could look at some cap saving moves like trading Patty Mills, Davis Bertans or Marco Belinelli to throw some extra money at Cousins. This could mean parting with their second-round pick or even the 29th selection in the 2019 NBA Draft, but it would help the team’s short-term efforts in getting Popovich his sixth ring before retirement. A $15 million offer for next season with a winning organization could waver his decision this Summer.
Although he hasn’t quite returned to form, DeMarcus Cousins still showcased his wide variation of post moves and an evolutionary skill set this season. Sleeper teams such as the Atlanta Hawks or Brooklyn Nets could swoop in with a lucrative offer to sway his decision, but none of those teams offer the same distinctive qualities as the Spurs.
Next: Fitting in with the Spurs
Fitting in with the Spurs
First and foremost, retaining Rudy Gay is a pivotal game changer for this team’s chances of signing Cousins in free agency. Not only is his presence proof that the Spurs can help a player to regain his confidence coming off of an Achilles injury, but he also can attest to the team culture.
Gay was integral in adjusting DeMar DeRozan to the Spurs’ way once he was traded from Toronto to the Alamo City and can serve as a guiding light for Cousins as well. He helped DeRozan to embrace the culture and championship mentality of the organization while operating as a secondary scorer alongside DeRozan and Aldridge.
The Spurs’ roster has noted on many occasions just how much they enjoy playing with and being around each other – a cultural difference maker that’s been consistent over the last 20 years of hoops in San Antonio. Joining a fun and collaborative group of competitors could entice Cousins.
Furthermore, the opportunity to study under Gregg Popovich would excite any player who hopes to win a ring. Cousins joined the Warriors thinking that he had the Golden Ticket to the Larry O’Brien trophy last season, so the ultimate end goal of a championship is clearly on his mind. Joining a franchise with five banners hanging over their heads at all times may be the push that Boogie needs to get a chip of his own.
Jakob Poeltl is the Spurs’ current starting center – a capable young player with a bright future. With that said, he’s not nearly the talent that Cousins is in terms of mobility, offensive versatility and sheer tenacity. If Buford is able to secure Cousins, Poeltl would certainly understand why he’s being moved to the bench and would serve as one of the best backup centers in the world.
The possibilities are endless for the Spurs’ core with Cousins at the five.
Next: How far could this team go?
How far could this team go?
A three-headed dragon of DeRozan, Aldridge and Cousins with Dejounte Murray at point guard sounds menacing to say the least. Combined with the depth provided by players like Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, Bryn Forbes and Rudy Gay has the potential to make a deep run in the Western Conference Playoffs, especially in a postseason landscape that’ll host a Durant-less Warriors team.
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Toronto’s championship this season proved that keen and cutthroat decision making, along with excellent player and staff development, can be the key to success in the modern NBA. Even if this doesn’t mean the beginning of another dynasty similar to the Big Three, a core that dominated the league for nearly two decades, a move like this would put the Spurs right back into title contention.
Cousins is a multidimensional player that can space the floor to complement the other two stars on the roster while zippy, young and athletic players surround them both on and off the bench.
That sounds like a recipe for success, similarly to the way that Toronto constructed their team. While this team wouldn’t boast the same caliber of individual star power that the Raptors had this season with Kawhi, it’d balance out three marquee players and a deep rotation mixed with talent to help reach that ultimate goal – a sixth banner.
Some will call Cousins a headcase or a lost cause, but I believe in his talent and dedication to the craft. If Boogie decided that he wanted a change of scenery, top-notch doctors and an organization with a pre-established culture of nurturing talent, then signing with the Spurs elongate his career and put him in position to finish as a Hall of Famer.