Injuries have continued to plague DeMarcus Cousins, as the Lakers big man reportedly tore his ACL while working out in Las Vegas earlier this week and will likely miss all of 2019-20.
The four-time All-Star was out for a large chunk of 2018-19 while recovering from an Achilles injury he suffered the previous season and played in just 30 regular-season games for the Warriors on a one-year deal.
Although Cousins looked to gain steam in the postseason, he was hobbled by a torn quad in the first round of the playoffs.
Cousins signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with Los Angeles in July and his latest injury will impact a Lakers team that seemed poised for a big-time resurgence.
So, what does this mean for the Lakers?
Three questions the Lakers must answer:
1. What will the starting lineup look like?
Although Cousins provided a small sample size of his abilities last season, he entered the summer as the front-runner to claim Los Angeles’ starting center job. Unfortunately for the Lakers, they are exceedingly thin at that position.
The only other center on Los Angeles’ roster at the moment is JaVale McGee, who averaged 12.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in 75 appearances for the Lakers last year — starting in 62 of those games.
The Lakers did send a major haul to New Orleans to acquire Anthony Davis, so he’s still an option to start at center. But he’s explicitly said he doesn’t like playing center during his introductory press conference last month. It appears like he’s in for a rude awakening.
LeBron James may play some point guard and lead a starting unit consisting of Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma and Davis. But where Davis fits best remains to be seen.
2. How will this affect offensive versatility?
It’s unclear what kind of basketball head coach Frank Vogel will have the Lakers play, but they certainly can’t be as flexible as they could have been with Cousins.
Last year’s team emphasized positionless basketball, and having five starters who can score at all three levels, put the ball on the floor and go coast-to-coast certainly fits that system.
JaVale McGee is great rim protector and solid rim runner, but shot 8.3 percent from deep last season and rarely handles the ball.
Bigs who can shoot are valuable in today’s NBA, and only having one (Anthony Davis) will limit floor spacing.
3. Will team chemistry become an issue?
One thing that was great about Cousins is that he has proved to be a complementary piece alongside other members of the Lakers.
Alongside Davis, Cousins formed the most dynamic frontcourt in basketball with the Pelicans in the first half of 2017-18 when he averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists. Another former Kentucky Wildcat and current Laker, Rajon Rondo, was also a part of that squad and averaged 8.3 points and 8.2 assists.
Los Angeles has experienced significant roster turnover as of late, as Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart were shipped to New Orleans in a blockbuster deal for Davis. Having some sense of familiarity among new members was part of what made this summer a success for the Lakers.