“Demarcus Cousins Warriors” by Matthew Shau is licensed under Clutch Points
It was not supposed to be this easy. The Warriors dynasty has metamorphosed from underdog story to supervillain reign. A one-time ordeal has manifested into a habit. Like missing your astronomy lecture for the first time and now its been a week and the next thing you know it’s the mid-term. The prevailing and popular thought is that the Kevin Durant and Demarcus Cousins are mirror images. Kevin Durant succumbed to the bling of the evasive championship ring. This situation is a little more sticky.
On the other hand, Demarcus Cousins is going ring-hunting in the middle of his prime. Not to say Kevin Durant was not in his prime, but he pushed the needle further for a Golden State team who disintegrated after a 3-1 lead. Cousins is joining forces with a team who dominated the playoffs the past two seasons. This is more relatable to an unhealthy fusion of the David West and Kevin Durant situation.
West was ridiculed for leaving San Antonio, who had a decent shot at a championship, for Oakland. The former Hornet was heckled by NBA die-hards who could not understand the aspect of riding someone’s coattails to a championship. The West plot is predominantly felicitous to the plight of Cousins’ situation. After all, how can you question a player for doing what is best for his career?
Through the looking glass, the Pelicans were a top team in the West. They clawed their way to 6th in the West and swept the favorited Blazers. Cousins and Davis were a quirky fit from the beginning. Playing two centers at the same time is practically unthinkable in today’s NBA. It seems like any and every GM is keen on long 3-and-D threats. Despite going against the grain, Alvin Gentry was able to stagger the center’s minutes and run a high-low offense suitable to both player’s strengths. New Orleans went 26-22 before Cousins collapsed to the floor in achilles agony.
Even then, the team was vastly more functional with a more orthodox lineup. Playing Mirotic at the four was a more cohesive fit for their superstar, Anthony Davis. Mirotic was the cheese to Davis’ wine. He did what Cousins could not, stretching out the floor, giving Davis more room to operate at the elbow and block. After single-handedly rescuing the Bulls from the lottery, Mirotic was traded to New Orleans for the 22nd pick.
Once Mirotic replaced dinosaur Emeka Okafor in the starting lineup, the floor enlarged mightily. They shot 29.2 three’s per game and at a 36.3% rate in those games. That is not to say Cousins can not efficiently sink three’s. In New Orleans, Cousins shot just under league average on three-point shots, at 35.8% on 390 attempts. That holds weight in a three-point heavy league, but he was deficient in alternative categories.
The trade for Mirotic became a boon for New Orleans. The team was an exceptional +19.6 with Mirotic on the court. They were able to switch screens effectively, something they could not do with the plodding Cousins. Mirotic has quicker feet and looks the part of a small forward, even if he does not have groundbreaking foot speed.
“Nikola Mirotic” by Rich Pedroncelli is licensed under AP Photo
Monty Williams, the Pelicans defensive coordinator, utilized a free-rein defense that encouraged switching at every clear-cut opportunity. By using the defensive stopper, Jrue Holiday, as a perimeter defending menace, they trapped, hedged, and iced shy ball-handlers. They forced 17.2 turnovers when Mirotic started for them in the regular season. They also put Damian Lillard into a box. The outspoken star produced just 18.5 points on 35.2% shooting. Portland’s offense was built on a foundation of pick and rolls to create space for their two star guards, but New Orleans’ switching versatility threw a monkey wrench into their offense. Mirotic quick lateral movement allowed him to recover to his man in almost every opportunity.
The circumstances are too labyrinthine to simply say two superstars is one too many. Natheless, the New Orleans giants’ similar playing style trivialized both talents. They operate in the same room, contracting space on the floor with a few non-shooters already on the court (Rajon Rondo and Solomon Hill, namely). Anthony Davis entered the league as a lanky power forward but has since undergone a Captain America transformation, packing on 40 pounds and tremendously toning his biceps.
In the past, Demarcus Cousins drifted off into space like Sandra Bullock in Gravity. He strung to his teams, tethered to them unwillingly, mostly dreaming of greener pastures. And who could blame him? He witnessed Team USA’s quintessential harmony and togetherness. He saw the splash brothers click like no one he had played with since college.
At one point, Cousins was even recorded howling “third splash brother” before firing a deep three that clanked off the rim. Curry responded hilariously, “we’re still accepting applications.” Curry’s smile was wide and almost foreshadowing like he knew something we didn’t.
Cousins’ Kings tenure consisted of draft catastrophes and shaky relationships. His boss was comatose towards players needs and wants, drafting bad fits (see: Willie Cauley-Stein and Georgios Papagiannis). Clearly, there is a discernible problem when you call Buddy Hield the next Steph Curry. So once Cousins demanded a trade out of Sacramento, he was unreasonably referred to as a locker room cancer. Sure, Cousins had a foul and anger issue on the court, but there was no outstanding locker room issue accentuating Cousins as a headache in the locker room.
Nonetheless, that was an explicable reason Cousins never received an offer from 29 other teams. Per Woj, “there were teams with [salary cap] space that did not want [DeMarcus Cousins] in their locker room – did not want him in their organization. … This gives him a chance to prove those things to people in Golden State.”
Think of his next location as a stepping stone to a brighter (and more lucrative) future. He signed a mid-level exception worth $5.3 million for one year. Cousins will earn about the same as Nick Young next year.
In a warped dimension, Demarcus Cousins goes to Portland to form a dynamic trio with Lillard and McCollum. Feasibly, Cousins could have been Al Horford’s replacement and Danny Ainge’s delight. Who knows, Boogie could have been another hilarious locker room addition to Los Angeles. On the surface, those teams teams were labeled favorites in the pursuit of the oft-maligned big man.
Your typical NBA fan will argue that if Boogie joined a different team, the league’s balance would be restored. Gravitational forces would still pull towards the West, but still, it would have leaned closer towards the bottom. Last season, Portland won 48 games and needed a creative interior force to stabilize their lineup. Boston was on the cusp of championship contention had it not been for injuries to Hayward and Irving. Cousins would represent a step up from Horford. He would even replace Horford’s pinpoint passing and dribbling. In Los Angeles, his talent alone would be a godsend for a team that missed out on partygoer Paul George and denied entry by Popovich for Kawhi. They are infatuated by the possibility of a superstar making way Los Angeles after garnering Lebron and being starved from the playoffs for 6 years (which is eons in Laker playoff time, who have captured 16 championships).
When push comes to shove, Cousins may not even cut ice. After all, the Warriors won 78% of their total games the past two years, with their roster not reshaping anytime soon. In addition, Cousins is only expected to play about half the season, grueling achilles tendon tear. How big an impact can an offensive big man mean to a team that has ranked first in offensive rating the past three seasons?
And while many will argue that he is possibly inconsequential to the best dynasty in sports, Cousins remains an upgrade. Right off the bat, Cousins will be Golden State’s go-to option in the paint. The former Sacramento player replaces JaVale McGee, who packed his bags only to move next door. Surely, he will eat up Kevon Looney’s minutes, but not too many. Looney can switch on screens and is a more intimidating rim protector.
It will be interesting to see if the key fits in Oakland. However, there has never been this dominant interior force in the splash-brothers era. Last season, his 5.4 spot-ups, 3.9 post-ups and 2.4 put-backs would have lead the Warriors last season.
“Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Zaza Pachulia and Kevin Durant ” by Andrew D. Bernstein NBAE via Getty Images
There are hordes of NBA fans that have a distaste for Golden State adding more talent, but they are just doing what they can to put the best product on the floor night in and night out. Nevertheless, it is insane to see a guy like Demarcus Cousins join a team of this caliber. The NBA is entering an enthralling stage, with Lebron aging and joining a new team and players team-hopping more than ever.
We have seen super-teams formed before. Robert Parish joined the Celtics in the 1980’s. James Worthy joined the Lakers in the same time period. Lebron joined the Heatles in 2010. KD even joined the Golden State Warriors recently. Boogie’s move was unprecedented though. The best team of all-time adds it’s fifth all-star. The rich get richer.