Why the Bucks will waive DeMarcus Cousins and open up a roster spot
DeMarcus Cousins scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Milwaukee Bucks' 117-111 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. Shortly afterward, he found out he would be cut from the team.
Milwaukee general manager Jon Horst told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that the Bucks will waive Cousins before his contract becomes guaranteed. Cousins joined the team on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum on Nov. 30.
Horst told ESPN: "We wouldn't have been able to get through this difficult stretch of the season as successfully as we did without DeMarcus. At the end of the day, we made a strategic decision to have an open roster spot, but there's nothing that would prevent us from partnering with DeMarcus again down the road. He was so good for us, and hopefully we helped him, too."
All non-guaranteed contracts will become guaranteed on Monday, Jan. 10. For players on such deals to clear waivers before then, teams must cut them before 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 7. Bucks wing Wesley Matthews, who signed a non-guaranteed deal on Dec. 3, is expected to remain on the roster past the deadline.
In 17 games with Milwaukee, Cousins averaged 9.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 16.9 minutes per game. The 31-year-old only shot 13-for-48 (27.1 percent) from 3-point range and averaged 5.8 fouls per 36 minutes, but he shot a career-high 60 percent inside the arc and helped the Bucks on the glass.
It is possible that Cousins' replacement is already on the roster. Luke Kornet signed a 10-day contract on Monday. It is unlikely, however, that the Bucks will simply fill their vacant roster spot in the immediate future. Keeping it open gives the front office more flexibility in between now and the Feb. 10 trade deadline.
Recent history suggests the defending champions will make at least one win-now move at the trade deadline or in the buyout market. Last season, they traded for P.J. Tucker and signed Jeff Teague off the scrap heap. In 2020, they signed Marvin Williams, the belle of the buyout ball. In 2019, they traded for Nikola Mirotic before their ill-timed Pau Gasol signing.
Brook Lopez, Milwaukee's starting center, had back surgery in December. In his absence, Bobby Portis has thrived in a starting role and Giannis Antetokounmpo has played much more center than ever before. Cousins' departure suggests that Kornet will get a chance and that Antetokounmpo could spent even more time at that spot.