NBA: How DeMarcus Cousins’ injury will affect a chaotic free agency period

Golden State Warriors DeMarcus Cousins (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Golden State Warriors DeMarcus Cousins (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

With DeMarcus Cousin lost for the season with another injury, the first big domino of NBA Free Agency may have already fallen

You’ve heard the NBA Free Agency rumors all season, some for even longer. Kawhi Leonard is going to the Los Angeles Clippers, Kevin Durant is heading to the New York Knicks and may be bringing Kyrie with him.

Then, there’s the small matter of deciding where Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, and oh yeah —  that guy with the unibrow? — all end up.

We’ve seen some colossal shifts over the last decade (LeBron James twice and Durant once) which ended up resulting in five of the last eight championships, likely soon to be six, since South Beach imported those infamous talents in 2010.

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Then, of course, there’s the destinations set to make a splash, with teams clearing out enough space to add one or even two bonafide stars ranging from the Knicks and Clippers to the Sacramento Kings, Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks, and Atlanta Hawks.

Reading the tea leaves of what will quite possibly be the largest power shift in NBA history is no easy feat, but the conventional wisdom says look to the free agents with a good chance of re-signing with their incumbent teams first.

Once Philly makes their offers to one or both of Butler and Tobias Harris, Charlotte to Kemba Walker, or Golden State to Thompson, it should dictate the market – both financially and physically. At least until now.

What if DeMarcus Cousins is blitzed with an offer from a team like the Hawks or Orlando Magic? The Hawks could stash him while he recovers and their young players develop a little more, maybe even ending up with a final lottery pick before they are truly a contender, as they should have cap space next summer as well.

The Magic, on the other hand, may well lose out on Nikola Vucevic to a team like Dallas or Brooklyn, and missing Cousins at the start of the year could give Mo Bamba or Jonathan Isaac the space to make the jump to starting caliber player.

What if Cousins is offered a lowball contract from a major contender like Boston, similar to how he signed with Golden State last year? Al Horford’s not getting any younger, and with stars in their second and third years in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown; what’s the rush?

What if Cousins is brought on as a third banana in a new powerhouse, like the Knicks, Clippers, or Mavericks? He wouldn’t be able to make the money he feels he’s worth, but maybe a few days of a silent phone will spook him into a drastic decision like it did last summer. But wait, if Cousins DOES end up taking another one-year, discount deal, then…

What if Cousins decides to stay for another year in Golden State, and ends up getting a second ring (assuming he gets his first this year) for the $6.4 million they can pay him? With all that money they’re going to have on the books if they end up paying Thompson and Draymond Green, having a steal of that magnitude could prove to be the key to keeping the dynasty rolling for a potential fourth consecutive title.

For him, it offers a comfortable environment to work himself back into shape, more so than any other team certainly, but also allows him to avoid the mental burden of having to relearn a fourth system in three years. For once, it seemed Boogie was actually happy where he was – maybe I’m just rooting for that to continue.

No matter what happens, expect Cousins to take the biggest offer thrown at him, as the quad injury shouldn’t prove to be as challenging a rehab as the Achilles, and with such a shallow pool of available centers in this years free agency, he may well end up as the best player for the team that signs him.

But as any fool can gather by now, free agency begins far before July 1; the best players have each other’s phone numbers, and any super team worth its salt is built by players, not GMs. Perhaps Cousins losing some luster could have larger effects than we ever come to know, if players decide not to sign for certain teams that don’t sport enough top level talent, talent Cousins could have provided.

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It will be some time before we ultimately know where and when the NBA’s tectonic plates shift, but with DeMarcus Cousins’ stock dropping fast, we can see the stakes rising just that much for the teams that need to pull this summer off.