The Golden State Warriors were already the greatest team ever assembled in NBA history. Oh wait, that was before they added DeMarcus Cousins. A team that already had four All-Stars in the form of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green will now add it’s 5th All-Star. No team has ever had a starting five made up of All-Stars since the Celtics in 1976. Golden State was already on a dynasty level dominance winning 3 of the past 4 championships. No defending champion has ever added a player that scored 20 points and 10 rebounds the year before. Cousins has now accomplished that feat 7 years running. We all thought Kevin Durant was the real dagger for this team? With Cousins now in the fold, are the Golden State Warriors now flat out unbeatable?
How Did This Happen?
The outraged fans will tell you that the NBA is unfair, that somehow the Warriors ruined the NBA. Those people are cry babies. NBA teams operate under the same rules. If you want to cry about how something is unfair, go look at baseball salaries. Team’s don’t even have equal money to spend. The Warriors really feel into some luck here by a perfect storm of events.
First, DeMarcus Cousins is coming off a major injury. Just ask Kobe Bryant how easy it is to come back from that injury. He was never the same. This is the same injury that ended Chauncey Billups career. The difference is those players were guards. This time we are talking about a 300 pound, 7-footer coming off a torn Achilles. Cousins may come back to his old self but that’s far from a sure thing.
Second, nobody has cap space. The only team who had reported interest in Cousins this offseason was the Mavericks. However, they had long been infatuated with DeAndre Jordan and opted to sign him instead. After that, Cousins went searching for offers. Better yet, let’s let him tell you what really happened.
Here’s a direct quote from Cousins via Marc Spears:
“I was f—ed up,” Cousins said. “I said to Jarinn, ‘Let’s make a call.’ He was shocked. It was very insulting to not receive an offer. But I understand. I prepared myself for this.”
Below is an excerpt from Marc Spears latest article:
“Keep in mind that before suffering a season-ending Achilles tear in January, the Mobile, Alabama, native was expected to be offered a five-year, $150 million contract extension from the Pelicans.
But months later, a recovering Cousins said Pelicans general manager Dell Demps told him he did not plan to re-sign him. Cousins said other possible teams told his agent that he was not the right fit or they were worried about his injury long term. The Pelicans committed to sign free-agent forward Julius Randle to a two-year, $18 million contract.”
It was a perfect storm of teams not having cap space, coming off a major injury, and his reputation for being a headcase on and off the court. It was later reported that the only other team that was in play for Cousins were the Celtics who could offer slightly more ($8.7 million compared to $5.3 that the Warriors could offer). Even some contenders had no interest such as the Rockets or Lakers never making him an offer. Just keep in mind when you cry over this, Cousins didn’t have many options. Can you really blame him for not choosing the Celtics instead? He’s not starting over Al Horford coming off that injury. Talk about a wake-up call.
What can we expect?
It’s tough to know if Cousins will return to his old form. The best case scenario is that he probably returns to 80 or 90 percent of the guy who averaged 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists a year ago. In reality, he’s replacing minutes that used to be had by JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia. Cousins will likely be out until January at the earliest. Golden State can turn to Kevon Loney and Jordan Bell to take the bulk of the minutes at the start of the season. The upside for the Warriors is a big one. Centers combined for a 7.4 Wins above replacement this past season. Cousins has proven to be an 8 or 9 win player by himself. Adding in a probable improvement from Jordan Bell and that number increases even more after Bell’s 1.8 Wins above replacement rookie season.
Now the usage rate will be the biggest factor when determining what kind of impact the Boogie man can really have. New Orleans ran plays for Cousins 32 percent of the time a year ago and has maintained 30 percent of the offense for five consecutive years during his Pelicans/Kings tenure. Last year when you compare that number to David West (22 percent), McGee (19 percent), and Pachulia (17 percent). There’s going to be a lot of possessions where Cousins doesn’t even see the ball. There may even be nights where he only takes 5 shots or so.
The Warriors offense is very up-tempo that features heavy ball movement. While Cousins has always been a brilliant passer, he will have to make a slight adjustment getting the ball out of his hands quicker. Out of all the centers for the Warriors, the highest mark in holding the ball on average was Jordan Bell. He held the ball for an average of 1.7 seconds per touch. Draymond Green’s mark was even only at 2.2 seconds. Cousins average touch a year ago was 2.6 seconds. Now obviously you can make the case that he was a bigger part of the offense so of course, he held it longer. I’m not sure this is much of a concern but it shows you how quickly the Warriors centers either put up shots or pass the ball to the open man. There will be some nights where Cousins has about 5 or so uncontested dunks.
The biggest addition Cousins will bring might be his rebounding. The Warriors were outrebounded in the NBA Finals by 26 total rebounds over 4 games. There were nights in the Western Conference Finals where 6-foot-5, P.J. Tucker was bullying them. If there was one weakness it was that the finesse Warriors didn’t have a bruiser outside of Draymond Green to really rebound the ball. Not counting Kevin Durant because he’s just tall and can rebound. Cousins has always been a fantastic rebounder averaging 13 a year ago and will be able to clean up his fair share of offensive ones as well.
Defensively, Cousins isn’t a world beater by any means. In fact, this may be his most difficult transition to Golden State. The Warriors are a switch-heavy team which is what makes them so deadly being one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Steph Curry is really the only below average defender and even he has had seasons where he led the NBA in steals causing havoc in the passing lanes. Cousins switched on just 27 screens the entire season! A whopping 2.7 percent of the time. Now maybe it’s an effort thing but it’s going to be a big adjustment, especially if he doesn’t have the foot speed he once had.
At the end of the day, if Cousins helps the Warriors win 3 playoff games then it will have been well worth the investment. In reality, it will likely be a one-year rental because the team does not own his bird rights for next summer. This season is largely an unknown considering that Houston took them to 7 games and may have won if Chris Paul never went down. The offseason is not over by any means and 5 teams have a legit chance to win the title this season (Warriors, Celtics, Rockets, Lakers, and 76ers). I have been on record for saying that the Celtics are essentially locked to win the title. Then again, If Cousins comes back to form and fits in like a glove with the Warriors, the season is probably over and they will have clinched their 4th straight title. Regardless, it’s going to be fun to watch Boogie and Draymond Green trying to one-up themselves on who can get more technicals. It’s going to be a fun NBA season!