DeMarcus Cousins can play hardball all he wants.
If the Pelicans are smart, they’ll call his bluff.
The free-agent center who missed the end of the season and the playoffs with a ruptured Achilles unfollowed the Pelicans on Instagram.
Boogie was asked why he unfollowed the Pelicans on Instagram. This was his response. 👀👀 pic.twitter.com/ryjeroh1MM
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) May 16, 2018
Before his injury, Cousins seemed destined for a max contract this summer.
But the Pelicans played their best basketball of the season after Cousins went down and the team traded for Nikola Mirotic. And only one player in NBA history has returned from a ruptured Achilles without a steep drop in production.
Which is why New Orleans is wisely considering offering Cousins a two- or three-year deal worth less than the annual max.
That news might even be what inspired the reshuffling of Cousins’ Instagram feed.
If the Pelicans don’t budge, the worst-case scenario is that a player who hurt their defense and is likely headed for a decline walks. They’d then have just enough cap flexibility, thanks to various exceptions, to add sorely needed wings in a free-agent market that will favor teams over players.
The best-case scenario, even better than Cousins’ returning on a discount, is that the Lakers hope to add him and want so badly to dump the awful contract of Luol Deng that they agree to a sign-and-trade.
The two years and $37 million remaining on Deng’s deal would be a tough pill to swallow. But New Orleans could then demand a talented wing — a position at which the Pelicans are sorely lacking in depth — on a rookie contract.
Brandon Ingram and Deng combined should still make less than Boogie alone next season. But the Lakers would most likely resist sending out the No. 2 overall pick of the 2016 draft. Should LA exclude Ingram and offer something along the lines of Deng, Josh Hart, young big man Ivica Zubac, and perhaps a draft asset or two, with no indication they’d offer anything more, the Pelicans would be wise to eventually accept those terms barring a better offer from elsewhere.
Hell, the Pelicans are so shallow at small forward that Deng might even play for them.