The Return of DeMarcus Cousins
Yes, it actually happened, DeMarcus Cousins is really playing for the Golden State Warriors. If you, like me, were thinking that these last five months were some kind of insane fever dream, then you are mistaken. The endtime is here for 29 NBA teams, and for Warriors fans like me, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the ride.
On January 26, 2018, DeMarcus Cousins was playing for the New Orleans Pelicans and suffered a career-threatening injury against the Houston Rockets. He tore his achilles tendon, ending his season and his chances at securing a max-contract in the upcoming offseason. He was in the midst of the best year of his career, averaging 25.2 ppg, 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.6 blocks.
When the offseason rolled around, DeMarcus Cousins generated little interest and received no contract offers before he elected to use his nuclear option to do as much damage as he could to the NBA that appeared to have turned their back on the superstar.
He signed with the defending two-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors. It really happened.
Now, arguments were made at the time by very reputable people in the media about how this would actually negatively affect the team or that he wouldn’t even play this season or he would be a non-factor at best for the Warriors. Those opinions were the minority though, the general consensus was that the rich got richer, the gap widened, and the 2018-19 NBA Championship was all but guaranteed to wind up in the Bay Area.
The season for the Warriors wasn’t running as smoothly as others have in recent years, there was drama, injuries, and it looked like the dynasty was on the brink of collapse, or at least that’s what the majority of NBA fans would lead you to believe. The Warriors went from being “unfair” and an “all-star team” to being “washed” and “beatable” over the course of 30 games, and then when DeMarcus Cousin made his return to the court on January 18.
Those narratives quickly reversed once the final buzzer sounded during DeMarcus’ first game with the team.
Boogie returned to the court, and while he didn’t look exactly like his dominant self that we were used to, he did enough to strike fear into the hearts of NBA fans and bring them back to the days of a very depressing July 2, when DeMarcus Cousins signed in Golden State.
Do the Warriors even need Boogie to be his former self to win the championship? No. Do they need him to be an all-star? No. He’s a luxury for this team, he’s the next player moving through the revolving door of big men that this team has had since their first championship in 2015. All the days of Andrew Bogut, Mo Speights, Festus Ezeli, Zaza Pachulia, and David West all led to this. Boogie is the best player of all those previously listed, by a significant margin.
They don’t need him to have a career year, or lead the league in blocks per game, what they need him to be is a souped-up version of David West, Andrew Bogut, and Mo Speights. That is perfect, because he is all that and more. He has the screen-setting ability of Andrew Bogut, but since he is coming off a torn achilles, they won’t be moving screens Bogut was able to get away with. He has the passing ability, basketball I.Q. and toughness of David West, who the Warriors seemed to be missing the most this season from last year’s squad. Lastly, he has the shooting ability of Mo Speights. All of that rolled up into one player is Steve Kerr’s dream for a center in his system.
In his first game with the Warriors, he displayed all of that. He was able to make great passes to cutting players, run the floor, all while taking and making open shots. The following GIFs demonstrate all of that:
Now, it’s only been two games, so the same size is small here. So far with the Warriors, DeMarcus Cousins has averages 11 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game, and 4 assists per game. He has shot 35% from the floor and 50% from beyond the arc. His free throw percentage is 71.4% and his eFG% is 42.5%. Obviously you can’t take much away from that, and you can expect those numbers to be drastically different when the year ends.
You can expect his FG% and FG3% to flip, meaning he would shoot roughly 50% from the floor and roughly 35% from three. His rebounds and assists are likely to go up as he plays more minutes and shakes off the rust from his long recovery period. Those last two - rebounding and passing, are what the Golden State Warriors really need in order to maximize their offense.
In the two games he has played with the Warriors so far, he has looked gassed at times, rusty, but his impact on the floor is undeniable. Per Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports, when DeMarcus Cousins is in the lineup alongside the other four all-stars (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green) they have outscored their opponents 55-20 (+35). That group has been incredible, especially if you look at the numbers per 100 possessions, where their offensive rating is 131.0 and their defensive rating is 45.5, giving them a net rating of +85.5. That’s pretty good.
Actually, it’s not just pretty good, it would be the best in NBA history. The record for best offensive rating in NBA history is 117.1, and that belongs to this year’s Golden State Warriors. The best defensive rating in NBA history is 101.8 by the ‘96 Bulls, arguably the greatest team in the history of the league. Now, obviously those numbers are not sustainable (or the league should pray that they aren’t), but adding DeMarcus Cousins to this lineup has made them even more deadly than we thought possible.
The Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers are flawed teams, dealing with a variety of issues that would not only make them look helpless against the Warriors but also help to potentially inflate DeMarcus’ numbers. He plays his third game for the Warriors tonight, on January 24 against the Washington Wizards, and while they are another flawed team, it’s another chance for DeMarcus Cousins to showcase his incredible skills and shake off his rust while simultaneously sending the league and it’s fans into convulsions.
A lot can happen with Boogie during the rest of the year, he could end up being bad, he could look like an all-star again, no one is sure how it’ll all turn out. Only one thing is a certainty tough: it’s going to be one helluva ride.