According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the LA Clippers are expected to sign free agent big man DeMarcus Cousins to a 10-day contract later this week. And while the former All-Star isn't quite what he used to be, there's reason to believe he can still be a productive contributor on a championship-caliber team.
Throughout his 10-year NBA career, Cousins has established himself as a dominant scorer who gets to the line with ease and punishes teams on the glass. Injuries have severely limited his potential over the last handful of seasons, hindering his explosiveness and mobility to the point where he can no longer do some of the things he was capable of just a few years ago.
However, Cousins remains a fierce competitor, strong defensive rebounder and solid passer at his position — all of which are things the Clippers could use right now, especially in the absence of Serge Ibaka.
With Ivica Zubac filling the starting role for the foreseeable future, Cousins would act as the primary backup big and replace Patrick Patterson in the rotation. Looking at the situation solely as it pertains to that role, it's not hard to see why the Clippers would want to bring in another big man. Patterson isn't much of a rebounding big, and when he's not hitting from beyond the arc, he's essentially a non-factor.
Cousins is an upgrade in terms of size and physicality, and his three-point shot is respectable enough that opposing teams will have to close out on him when he pulls up from deep. Most importantly, he'd provide the second unit with some much-needed help on the glass.
He won't put up numbers this large in LA, but his 28-point, 17-rebound performance from earlier in the season is a nice display of what he could do in limited minutes with the Clippers.
Patterson should still get the nod against teams who run more uptempo small-ball lineups off the bench, as Cousins struggles to get up and down the floor at times. Having the option to switch between the two depending on the matchup should come in handy as LA finishes the regular season.
Of course, Cousins' role will change significantly once Ibaka is able to return. Whether Zubac remains a starter or returns to the bench, the Clippers will have two starting-caliber centers in the rotation and won't necessarily need Cousins to come off the bench (or Patterson, for that matter). Think back to Joakim Noah's role with LA last season — once he's out of the lineup, Cousins will be relied on for insurance purposes and for his veteran presence.
At the end of the day, it makes sense for the Clippers to pursue Cousins. The team has needed to shore up its frontcourt depth for a while now, and he won't be asked to do much more than what he's best at. It'll be interesting to see how he performs in a low-usage role, and perhaps he'll do well enough for the Clippers to sign him for the remainder of the season.