The Los Angeles Lakers’ title aspirations took a big hit on Thursday, when it was reported that All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins had suffered an ACL tear. While it was probably unrealistic to expect Cousins to return to his All-Star form next season, there was hope that he’d look more like his former self in his second year removed from an Achilles tear.
Now, it’s more than likely that the Lakers will be without any iteration of Cousins for all of next season. The question is: Where do they go from here?
The Lakers could just split time at center between Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee, but given Davis’ own injury history and his public proclamations that he prefers to play power forward, it would probably be wise of the team to look for options in free agency. Here are some names they should consider.
LeBron James might not be the biggest fan of Joakim Noah because of the battles they had in the Eastern Conference, but Noah arguably gives James the best chance to win this year.
Noah isn’t close to the shooter Cousins is, nor can he handle the ball the way Cousins can, but he can still be an effective player in the right role as evidenced by his comeback season with the Memphis Grizzlies last season. Even in spite of the clunky roster in Memphis, Noah was able to post a defensive box plus-minus of +3.5, his highest DBPM since the 2014-15 season. He also logged the highest defensive rebounding percentage of his career at 29.6 percent.
On the season, Noah averaged 7.1 points on 51.6 percent shooting from the field while averaging 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. The last time he was able to match those averages was the 2014-15 season.
Noah’s days as a defensive stalwart might be behind him, but he’d be a nice backup center to have alongside Kyle Kuzma or Jared Dudley in the second unit.
Kenneth Faried’s 31-game run with the Houston Rockets garnered mixed reviews.
While he was able to average a respectable 12.9 points and 8.2 rebounds in 24.4 minutes per game, his shortcomings on the defensive end made it hard for head coach Mike D’Antoni to keep him on the floor. To be more specific, Faried’s inability to switch made him a liability against teams like the Golden State Warriors. On a team that already severely lacks multi-positional defending like the Lakers, Faried could be an even bigger problem in Los Angeles.
That being said, the efficiency and energy Faried brings on offense is probably enough for him to get a training camp invite should the Lakers look in his direction.
In losing DeMarcus Cousins, the Lakers lost a player they were expecting to score at least 16 points per game. More importantly, they lost one of the only players on the roster who could create an opportunity for himself when the offense grew stagnant. Carmelo Anthony might not be at the top of anyone’s free agent wish list, but he makes some sense for the Lakers given the team’s unfortunate circumstances.
In Anthony’s lone season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, he converted an impressive 50 percent of his two-point field goal attempts when his defender was 0-2 feet away and 49.2 percent when his defender was 2-4 feet away, according to NBA.com. It’s hard to argue those are bad shots when they’re going in at the rate that he’s making them.
Additionally. Anthony made 41.9 percent of his wide-open three-point attempts while he was with the Thunder, which would have been the highest percentage on the Lakers last season. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made a team-high 38.8 percent of his wide-open three-point attempts.
Those numbers took a hit in his 10 games with the Rockets, but his careers splits suggest they would have evened out eventually. Unfortunately, his shooting alone likely won’t be enough to earn him a call from the Lakers.
For all the things Anthony can do offensively, he’s still a negative on the defensive end and, as a result, a below replacement level player. Plus he’s not a center, and in the event he came on board, it would assuredly mean Davis would need to play the 5 more. Unless Noah and Faried are unavailable, Anthony should be viewed as a distant Plan C.