We’re continuing our 213Hoops Exit Interview series, where we go player-by-player through the Clippers’ roster and break down how each player on the team performed relative to their pre-season expectations, and ponder their future with the team. Today, we’re taking a look at Clippers’ deep rotation big man DeMarcus Cousins.
Weight: 270 pounds
Years in NBA: 9
Key Stats: DeMarcus Cousins played in 41 2020/21 regular-season games between Houston and Los Angeles, including 16 with the Clippers. In those 16 games, Cousins averaged 7.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in 12.9 minutes with shooting splits of 53.7/42.1/68.2. During his seven playoff appearances with the team, Cousins logged 8.3 minutes per game and averaged 7.6 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 0.7 assists while shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from beyond the arc.
Contract Status: Cousins has just finished the year on a rest of the season deal after two previous 10-day contracts. He is not under contract for the 2021/22 season and will now enter free agency.
Cousins initially inked a 10-day contract with the Clippers at the beginning of April, months after being cut from the Houston Rockets, where he played 25 regular-season games. His time in Houston was forgetful as his mobility on the defensive end of the court was poor, and his efficiency on offense proved equally as concerning. Still, Cousins signed with the Clippers as Serge Ibaka spent much of the post-all-star break on the sidelines with a bad back, which had left Ivica Zubac as the team’s only playable big for about a month or so. Boogie would become the temporary backup big responsible for soaking up some regular-season minutes as the squad awaited the return of healthy bodies.
The signing came with a surplus of concerns, though. Never mind the dropoff in on-court production over the years as Boogie battled severe injuries to his Achillies, quad, and ACL — in that order. Cousins’ biggest issue through his nine years of service had been his character. You can find many researchable things on the internet regarding his issues with the media, teammates, and officials before his worst and most recent verbal incident with a former spouse of his. So it was fair for skeptics to expect those faults, or similar ones, to follow him to Los Angeles and into the Clippers’ organization.
While the Cousins signing figured initially to be a temporary stint as Serge Ibaka rehabbed his back (hence the 10-day contract), Ibaka wound up missing the remainder of the season essentially, and Cousins turned into the full-time backup big by the season’s end. To be sure, Ibaka’s injury wasn’t the only reason that Boogie made it past the 10-day contracts.
After Boogie’s first few games getting acclimated with the team, he saw his minutes consistently in the mid-to-low teens, only reaching the twenties once. The minutes were a career-low but were best suited to his current-day skill-set, as he was able to hold solid enough on offense for only a few minutes each half before becoming a net-minus in the latter minutes of his shifts. What he brought in those minutes to the second unit was the ability to command the ball inside and overpower opposing backup bigs in the post. When double-teams came, he often made the right reads and found the open player in scoring position. Cousins was pretty much a trainwreck defensively as his slow feet were exposed in the pick-and-roll and isolation against perimeter players. He lacked the vertical explosion to offer any rim protection, so he often opted for charges, which was the only thing to work in his favor on the defensive side.
The postseason rolled around, and DeMarcus’ minutes further decreased at the risk of being even more exploitable in a seven-game series. He saw no action in the Mavs series but played in Games 1 and 2 against Utah, in which he had some nice moments on offense, but his poor defense likely cost the Clippers a chance at stealing a game. The story was mostly the same in the semis against the Suns but he was then forced into a more prominent role after Ivica Zubac sprained his MCL and missed the final two contests. To his credit, Cousins had a great Game 5 in which his production certainly contributed to one of the best wins in the Clippers’ history. However, it all came crashing down in Game 6 as his immobility and defensive ineptitude opened the doors for Chris Paul to run through and finish off L.A.’s season.
Be that as it may, when you look back at what the job initially called for vs. what it ended up becoming, my honest opinion is that DeMarcus Cousins was a plus signing for the Clippers. He played incredibly hard when his number was called upon and gave the Clippers more than what they’d likely hoped for. Not only that, but Cousins answered all of the questions regarding potential concerns. From my lens, he appeared to be a great teammate — engaging and looking cheerful from the bench alongside his teammates while also speaking fondly of his teammates and the organization when given a chance.
Future with Clippers
Whether or not DeMarcus Cousins is on the Clippers next season is hard to predict. Ibaka and Zubac should return to consume the lump sum of the minutes at center, making a path to any significant playing time unlikely for Boogie. The Clippers could throw a vet-min contract Cousins’ way should he want to be an end-of-the-bench insurance policy in a way Patrick Patterson was this past season — which is my bet for what will happen. Should that happen, I think it would be a fine outcome for both parties, with the Clippers bringing back a serviceable “break glass in case of emergency” big while Boogie secures a roster spot towards the back end of his NBA career.