DeMarcus Cousins, formerly of the New Orleans Pelicans, signed $5.3 million 1 year deal with the Golden State Warriors.
The All-Star center is currently recovering from a left achilles injury. Cousins is not expected to play until January, but there is no rush for him to return to court. He will be joining an All-Star lineup, with 2 former MVPs, a Defensive Player of the Year, and an All-NBA third-teamer. They have managed well without a 5th All-Star for the past 4 years, having won 3 championships.
Cousins, having just averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 5.4 assists, allegedly received no offers, even from his own Pelicans. The Warriors were glad to take him on on a mid-level deal.
The Warriors core has remained intact. The Hamptons 5, consisting of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green, are all locked in for the next season. Valuable backup point guard Shaun Livingston is under contract as well.
The frontcourt has changed. Bigs Zaza Pachulia and JaVale Mcgee have departed in free agency. They were relics of the past, slower back to the basket bigs. However they did provide veteran leadership and composure on the court. Another valuable rotation big, David West, is questionable. He has stated that he is considering retirement.
Obviously, Cousins, when healthy, will be coming in to fill this void. Any team could use his impressive scoring ability. However, that is not what will be valued in Golden State. His averages of 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 35% from beyond the 3 point line will be very useful to coach Steve Kerr’s offense.
Last year, the Warriors were 3rd in post touches. And they are very efficient when it comes to creating easy buckets from these post ups. Second Spectrum points out that they led the league percentage of post-ups that led to shots for players one pass away. The addition of Cousins to their lineup further enforces the Golden State philosophy of always finding a better shot. The big man’s low post scoring presence demands double team. This gravity effect would force perimeter defenders to either help on Cousins, opening up a pass to Golden State’s freed up shooters, or leave the sole defender guarding the big to pray for mercy.
The Warriors offense has changed since their championship failure in the 2016 postseason. They obviously added former MVP Kevin Durant, but also lost key center, Andrew Bogut. They ran a unique offense with Bogut, another great passer, setting high screens and creating from the top of the key. They could implement a similar system.
Cousins setting high screens for ball handlers would merit many different options. It could free up a lane for the ball handler to either take to the hole or kick it out to a shooter. But, they will also have the option bounce it in to a rolling Cousins to finish at the basket it or pass out, like the ball handlers, or pass it to a popping Cousins, a real threat from the 3 point line.
There is another play involving the newly acquired big very reminiscent of the 2016 season. Like they did with Bogut, the Warriors could feed the ball to Cousins at the top of the key. The big man guarding him will have to choose between letting Cousins take an open 3, something he has proven he can be very good at, or leave the heavily guarded paint to contest the center at the key. This will open up the paint for cutters, allow the Warriors to take advantage of his elite playmaking skills, and create general chaos for the opposing defense.
On the defensive end, Cousins will make a serious impact as well. He is a ferocious rebounding would definitely help the Warriors on the boards, something they struggle with. On the block, he is an immovable force. Although he lacks the verticality of rim protectors, Cousins is going to get his fair share of blocks. Perhaps most importantly, DeMarcus Cousins creates steals. Last season, he finished 10th in deflections. These valuable deflections in the coming season will be key in sparking the Warriors transition offense, their most feared weapon.
His numbers will obviously take a take a hit. Even at his best, Cousins would have most likely been the Warriors’ 3rd option And even if he does have huge upside in the Warriors half court offense, Boogie will struggle with the Warriors fast pace. Cousins has, like his new teammates, garnered a bad reputation with the referees. The last season, the Warriors were no stranger to technical fouls. The defending champs led the league in both techs and ejections. He will have to tone down the on-court antics. However there has been no internal opposition to Cousins joining the Warriors. Everyone is on board, and everyone is confident that the championship philosophy that the Warriors live by will have a great impact on Cousins. If the Warriors can tame JaVale Mcgee, the Shaqtin-a-Fool MVP, they will have no problem with an All-NBA talent.
All of this speculation based on the assumption that Boogie Cousins is able to recover from this achilles tear. Very few have had successful comebacks from an injury such as this. The only name that comes to mind is Dominique Wilkins. The all time great Kobe Bryant, who was 5 inches shorter and 60 pounds lighter, was never the same after his own achilles tear.
If Cousins is unable to come back as an effective piece, he may never get the contract he deserves. If he doesn’t come back, it will not mean much for the rest of the NBA. The Warriors will still be the heavy favorites. However if the All-NBA, All-Star center manages to get back on the court, this Warriors squad may become unbeatable. To add Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins to a 73-9 team will spell disaster for any team who stand on the court opposite of them. They will become the 1st team in the history of the NBA to boast an All-Star, All-NBA starting lineup. This superpower in the Western Conference may spur serious change in the league, whether it regards the playoffs structure or even free agency.
With all that said, this upside is most likely going to be short term. Golden State can offer Cousins next year, after his 1 year contract expires, 120% of his current salary, only $6.4 million. If he proves his worth this upcoming season, he will likely land in a different city. But if he recovers and stays in the Bay, the NBA better watch out.