For the last week, the Portland Trail Blazers have been playing Carmelo Anthony at backup center following injuries to Jusuf Nurkić (wrist) and Harry Giles (calf).
Clearly, this is a rotation decision made out of necessity and likely not an option for the long-term. But, perhaps Portland can add some quality center depth midseason without giving up any assets in a trade. At least, in the interim.
DeMarcus Cousins and the Houston Rockets mutually agreed to part ways, and the former All-Star cleared waivers making him eligible to sign with any NBA team.
He played in 25 games for Houston, including 11 starts, and averaged 9.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 20.2 minutes per game. He has shot a concerning 37.6% from the field, 44% from the restricted area and 47.8% on driving layups.
Should he join Portland, Cousins would likely be used as a backup center and get shots up out of the pick-and-roll, once in a while a shooting an open three-pointer. On the season, he's a 33.6% three-point shooter.
But is he worth signing for Portland? That question likely lies with the severity of Harry Giles' calf injury.
Giles suffered a left calf strain on February 14th during the fourth quarter against Dallas and has not played since. He had been giving serviceable backup minutes since Jusuf Nurkić's wrist surgery, but if the Blazers feel he can return shortly into the second half of the season, it may not be worth signing Boogie.
Portland has 14 players signed to guaranteed contracts with one open roster spot. The Blazers may be wanting to save that spot for a wing that gets bought out after the trade deadline who can fit into the playoff rotation rather than a third-string center, but Portland cannot afford to fall down the standings either. Falling below the 5th seed means a second-round matchup with one of the Los Angeles teams, something Portland wants to avoid until the Western Conference Finals if possible.
But, Olshey does have a tendency to seek players he once sought to bring to Portland with Hassan Whiteside, Enes Kanter, and Carmelo Anthony coming to mind recently.
Chris Haynes reported the Blazers and Pelicans were discussing a sign-and-trade where Cousins would land in Portland during the 2018 offseason, but nothing materialized. Instead, Cousins signed with Golden State and Olshey gave Nurkic an extension. Since then, Cousins has suffered multiple injuries such as a torn ACL which kept him out of the 2019-20 season entirely.
If the Blazers want to sign Boogie, they have the financial flexibility to offer more than a minimum contract with the bi-annual exception available to them, but Neil Olshey has stated he did not use it in the offseason to avoid the luxury tax this season.
“We don’t have the bi-annual,” Olshey explained prior to the 2020-21 season tipping off, “Unless we were willing to go into the luxury tax…”
The flexibility in using the BAE was essentially wiped away as an option when they traded for Enes Kanter, who makes roughly $3M more than Mario Hezonja was set to earn this season.
“It eliminated our bi-annual as a vehicle. Right now, we’re $600k below the tax and we plan to stay there because we were in the last two years and we don’t want to enter repeater zone. So, we’re going to stay where we are. A 15th guy would just be someone on the inactive list anyway. So, we’re comfortable with 14 players.”
Meanwhile, if Portland signs a veteran minimum contract, or a 10-day, it will not enter the tax which seems like the more likely option.
The only issue surrounding any potential signing of Cousins is how they envision him contributing once Giles and Nurkic return. And Cousins may desire to join a team he feels is more championship ready.
That may be the key reason why it still might not be in the cards for both the Blazers and for Cousins.