Report: Lakers passed on DeMarcus Cousins, who turned down $40M from Pelicans last season

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Much has been made of DeMarcus Cousins agreeing to a $5.3 million deal with the Golden State Warriors.

The four-time All-Star was thought to be a max-contract level player prior to an Achilles tendon injury suffered last season, and the fact that the Warriors got him on the cheap has raised a lot of questions.

An Achilles tear is generally considered one of the most serious and difficult for basketball players to recover from, which would partly explain the discount and reports of disinterest in Cousins from other teams.

Report: Lakers cleared Cousins’ path to Warriors

But a report from The New York Times’ Marc Stein on Tuesday sheds light on just how much teams were wary of Cousins and how much money he lost out on when he turned down an offer from the New Orleans Pelicans last season.

The Lakers reportedly turned down a chance to add DeMarcus Cousins alongside LeBron James on a cheap, one-year deal, clearing his path to Golden State. (AP)
The Lakers reportedly turned down a chance to add DeMarcus Cousins alongside LeBron James on a cheap, one-year deal, clearing his path to Golden State. (AP)

Lakers reportedly could have had Cousins for cheap

Stein reports that the Los Angeles Lakers declined a contract with Cousins on Monday after they agreed to sign Rajon Rondo and released big man Julius Randle, leaving a roster void that Cousins could fill. The Lakers had $5.6 million in cap space after the Rondo deal, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks, which is in the neighborhood of the one-year deal he agreed to with Golden State.

From Stein’s report:

Word also reached us Monday night that LeBron’s Lakers, after signing Rajon Rondo away from New Orleans and then losing Randle to the Pelicans, had an opportunity to sign Cousins at a one-year price point similar to the one that landed him in Golden State. But I’m told the Lakers passed, clearing the way for the Warriors to infuriate the basketball public yet again.

Cousins reportedly turned down $40 million from Pelicans during season

Stein also reports that Cousins turned down a two-year, $40 million extension from the Pelicans during the season after he suffered his injury. When he declined, New Orleans pulled the deal off the table, per the report.

Randle signed with the Pelicans shortly after being released from the Lakers, and Anthony Davis reportedly played a big role in recruiting him. At the time of the Randle agreement, Cousins had yet to agree with the Warriors. Stein’s report makes it clear that the Pelicans and Davis had long moved on from Cousins in a New Orleans uniform.

Warriors lucky and good

While Cousins turning down bigger money from New Orleans sounds like an unfortunate case of gambling on himself and losing in a tapped market, the news of the Lakers not willing to take such a cheap risk on one of the league’s best big men is a stunner.

When the Golden State news broke, the assumption was that the Warriors were once again the league’s smartest team and able to lure Cousins on the cheap because of how desirable their landing spot is.

Now it sounds like they got lucky in addition to realizing that a player of Cousins’ caliber, even with his injury, is certainly worth the risk of a cheap one-year contract.

What were the Lakers thinking?

The Lakers, meanwhile, apparently turned down a chance to put a bonafide All-Star next to LeBron James at a discount. They could have had Cousins in house, on the cheap and with time to evaluate his injury recovery before considering a long-term commitment. Barring more unknown information, that is a no-brainer.

Instead their champion conference rivals at worst get to keep Cousins from thriving on another team. If Cousins’ career truly ends up derailed by his injury, the Warriors have lost very little in the gamble.

If he recovers to All-Star form, the Lakers have missed out on a huge opportunity to build real talent around James.

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Jason Owens is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter.

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