Could DeMarcus Cousins be the Heat’s Next Reclamation Project?

Jacari McRae | July 4th, 2019

Last summer, DeMarcus Cousins gambled on himself by accepting the Golden State Warriors’ $5.3 million mid-level exception in hopes of receiving a big payday this summer. After missing most of this past regular season recovering from his Achilles injury, Cousins returned and played in 30 regular season games. While clearly not in all-star form, Cousins was serviceable as the fourth option on a star-studded Warriors team. During the regular season, he averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in 25.7 minutes per game.

But he suffered another setback. In his second career playoff game, Cousins suffered a torn quad, forcing him to sit out another two months. He later returned in the NBA Finals and flashed some signs of his former self, but struggled to get up and down the court.

Fast forward to now, on the fifth day of NBA Free Agency, he’s still a free agent. As of Wednesday morning, Cousins hasn’t had any luck in finding a deal. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, there is currently “no market” for the free agent center.

“There’s not a market for [DeMarcus Cousins],” Wojnarowski said on ESPN on Tuesday morning.  “I think he hoped that some big market teams would strike out, they’d have cap space and he could get a one-year, $12M, $15M, $18M, $20 million deal. That’s not happening. The mid-level exception he got in Golden State last year? I don’t think that’s there.”

 

If no team is offering the mid-level exception, I could see the Miami Heat taking a chance on him. Since acquiring Jimmy Butler in a sign and trade, the Heat have been aggressively trying to pair him up with another star. The Heat are reportedly pursuing Washington Wizards star guard Bradley Beal to pair alongside Butler, but that still remains a longshot. Earlier this off-season, the Wizards reassured Beal that he would not be traded and they would offer him an extension. Unless they change their minds, Beal will likely suit up for the Wizards next season.

Miami is probably going to have to find another way to add another difference maker. And this is where Cousins comes in. Signing Cousins on a one-year veterans minimum deal would be a low risk, high reward move for the Heat. He could be the difference maker they need to pair with Butler.

The Heat loves reclamation projects. They believe they can get more out of a player than any other team in the league. One example is Hassan Whiteside, who was just recently traded. Back in the 2014-15 season, the Heat brought him up from the D-League and helped him evolve into one of the better shot blockers and rim protectors in the league. While he’s often criticized for being overpaid, his development with the Heat allowed him the chance of being offered a max contract.

Cousins could be next in line. If he buys into the Heat culture, he’ll be in terrific shape and his stock will improve for free agency next summer. If he doesn’t, then he’ll be in the same position he’s in now. But the Heat’s track record of extracting more from players has been good, which is a promising sign for both Cousins and the Heat.

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