The offseason has quieted down, but the regular season is slowly approaching. This past week, Mike Gallagher and Jared Johnson analyzed the newly-released Yahoo! draft rankings, looking at places where value can be had. They also discussed some injury news, which is what I will dive into right now.
News started to trickle out about DeMarcus Cousins bumping knees during a workout in Las Vegas, but later we learned that it was a lot more serious. After being evaluated by the Lakers' medical staff, it was announced that Cousins tore the ACL in his left knee and will likely miss the entire 2019-20 season.
Cousins inked a one-year deal with the Lakers in early-July, just a couple months after suffering a torn quad muscle in the first round of the playoffs. The four-time All-Star has now suffered three serious injuries in the last two years. Unlucky injuries have robbed him of the opportunity to cash in on the free agent market, where he was expected to have numerous suitors across the league.
Cousins only played 30 games with the Warriors, but he still posted top-35 value on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues last season, per Basketball Monster. That production at center will be hard for the Lakers to replace, especially since Anthony Davis has made it known that he wants to play power forward.
Davis logged just 51 minutes as the lone power forward or center last year, and has long preferred to play power forward. The Lakers don’t want Davis to clock heavy minutes at center, which opens up some minutes for JaVale McGee.
McGee, the only “true” center left on the roster, averaged 20 or more minutes for just the third time in his 11-year career last season. He blocked 2.0 shots per game, something only five other players matched or beat. McGee will be a viable option in the middle rounds once again.
With no Cousins in the rotation, Kyle Kuzma should also see a boost in minutes at power forward. Kuzma’s outlook was previously murky due to the questionable fit with Cousins, Davis, and LeBron James. Kuzma profiles much better in points leagues, though he’ll still be worth a look in the later rounds of standard leagues.
So, where do the Lakers go next? The popular speculation right now is a reunion with Dwight Howard, who is currently a member of the Grizzlies. Sports Illustrated’s Rohan Nadkarni was the first to report of the interest between the two sides, something Shams Charania of The Athletic later confirmed. Charania also reported that the Grizzlies have given the Lakers permission to speak with Howard about a possible move to Los Angeles.
In July, Howard was interviewed by the LA Times and stated his desire to play in the city again. "I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I do love L.A.," Howard said. "Staples Center is going to be rocking this season. When I played there it was rocking every night. The atmosphere is crazy, not just for the Lakers but the Clippers too."
While the memes have been out in force, Howard does present an interesting option as a rim-protector and pick-and-roll big man for the Lakers. He averaged 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds for the Wizards last season, but he was limited to just nine games due to injury. If he's able to stay healthy, which is a massive if, Howard could find himself as a late-round value in deeper leagues.
Charania also mentioned veteran Joakim Noah as a possible option, outside of Howard. After those two, guys like Kenneth Faried, Nene Hilario, Amir Johnson, Salah Mejri, Marcin Gortat, Marreese Speights and Zaza Pachulia are the names that make some sense. From a fantasy perspective, Howard, Noah and Faried are the most interesting targets.
All in all, Cousins’ misfortune will allow for Davis to have another monster season. McGee and Kuzma will see an unexpected boost in minutes and opportunity. Howard, or another free agent center, will be brought in to absorb time at the five and supplement Davis and McGee at the position. Many eyes will be on the Lakers frontcourt as the season approaches.
De’Aaron Fox and P.J. Tucker (ankle) were the latest to withdraw from Team USA, leaving the roster at 13 players. Kyle Lowry (thumb) wanted to play, but isn’t fully healed from offseason surgery. Marcus Smart (calf) is expected to be 100 percent healthy and return to action for the National Team in short order. The lack of point guard options make it likely that one of the big men will be the final cut from coach Gregg Popovich’s side.
Kelly Olynyk (Canada) and Nicolo Melli (Italy), both withdrew from their National Teams due to injury. Jonah Bolden (Australia) is out due to personal reasons and Moritz Wagner (Germany) didn’t make the cut.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s (20 points) Greece faced off against Bogdan Bogdanovic’s Serbia on Sunday, with Bogdan’s 28-point outburst giving his team the win. Nikola Jokic got the day off and Nemanja Bjelica (18 points, 14 rebounds) stepped up in his absence. Thanasis Antetokounmpo knocked down five triples, including one to force OT, and finished with 17 points. Team USA will face stiff competition from Greece and Serbia in September’s FIBA World Cup in China.