DeMarcus Cousins has lost his share of dollar bills through the course of the past two years — life-changing amounts of money for an NBA player that was looking to cash in on his first time as a free agent.
His initial torn Achilles injury, which took place on Jan. 26, 2018 as he suited up for the New Orleans Pelicans was the first and most important step of this equation, as it derailed the prospect of him getting a max contract with the team, as the Pels reportedly considered a two-to-three-year deal to keep him in The Big Easy following his major injury, per ESPN’s Zach Lowe.
Scenario 1: Facts
This is the most factual of the three scenarios, which includes the reported two-year, $40 million offer former general manager Dell Demps doled out in private, one that Cousins scoffed at, knowing he’ll be looking to land a much heftier deal in free agency.
Before a cruel twist in fate, Boogie was reportedly looking to get a max contract on his upcoming summer, and he was well en-route to earn it with career-best averages of 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.6 blocks through 48 games. Cousins was peaking at the right time and the dollar signs across his eyes were very much real, yet that torn Achilles tendon changed it all, given the risk it involves.
Cousins turned down Demps’ offer and was consequently left waiting in free agency, failing to receive a call during the first two days of July before he took it upon himself to call Golden State Warriors president Bob Myers, who soon would hammer out a one-year, $5.3 million agreement for the mid-level extension.
After 30 regular season games and eight in the postseason, the Warriors could do little to keep Cousins, already locked into the hard cap. Cousins would’ve had to have a 20% raise, which would have taken all of their remaining space at the time, with roster spots still left to fill.
Cousins would later agree to a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, which renders his earnings to a mere $8.8 million since suffering his first of three major injuries.
Total earned: $8.8 million in two years
Earning potential: $40 million in two years
Difference: -$31.2 million
Scenario 2: New Orleans re-signs him to 3-to-4-year deal
The Pelicans knew that signing Cousins would be their likely ticket to keeping Anthony Davis home, but if the 6-foot-11 big man had never gotten hurt, that would have still kept him short of a max contract.
New Orleans was eligible to sign him to a five-year, $177.3 million contract extension, $28 million short of the supermax extension the Sacramento Kings could have offered before they infamously traded him after the All-Star Game in 2017. But the Pels couldn’t mortgage that big of a salary on a player that would only complement Davis in the frontcourt, still forced to save money for their talisman player and potentially important cogs like Jrue Holiday.
A three- or four-year offer was something they have had in mind as his free agency approached, and that would have fallen with the range of a three-year, $100 million offer (similar to LeBron James’ deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016) or $137 million over four years ($34.5 million per season).
Using James’ deal as a base comparison, Cousins could have earned $64.2 million in his first two years over a three-year contract. Using Paul George’s deal as a comparison, Cousins would have made $63.6 million over the first two seasons of a four-year deal.
Realistically speaking, as much as Cousins was eligible to sign a potential five-year, $177.3 million extension, the Pelicans could not have offered that and signed Anthony Davis to a supermax contract without cleaning house for borderline players.
Total earned: $8.8 million.
Earning potential: $64.2 million over two years/$100 million over three — $63.6 million over two years/$137 million over four.
Short-term difference: -$55.4 million (first two years of three-year deal) or -$54.8 million (first two years of four-year deal).
Lifetime difference: -$91.2 million or -$128.1 million.
Scenario 3: Another team signs him to a four-year max deal
This is a potential scenario that could have played out if Cousins didn’t suffer that crushing initial Achilles injury. Leaving The Big Easy for another team could net him as much as $131.4 million over four years, according to the NBA’s salary cap for the 2018-19 season.
That would have Cousins make $62.6 million over his first two years, getting 5% annual raises starting from his first year under contract.
It’s unclear as to what team would have been willing to offer this type of contract, as Cousins did suffer the injury and his panorama greatly changed because of it. Big men in general have a poor record of coming back from these types of injuries and Cousins was surely a victim of that stigma.
Total earned: $8.8 million.
Earning potential: $62.6 million over two years/$131.4 million over four.
Short-term difference: -$53.8 million.
Lifetime difference: -$122.6 million.
. . .
While we can sit here and say that Boogie Cousins could have lost nearly $170 million over the course of five years, that scenario is too fantastical to be true. “Eligible” doesn’t mean likely, it only means a player is capable of making that money, but Cousins wasn’t under the right set of circumstances to demand it.
In Cousins’ case, his injuries have caused him to lose potentially over $100 million, and likely many more to come as his road back from three major injuries could greatly change his impact on the floor and his value as an NBA player.