The Warriors have won three of the last four NBA championships and feature four potential Hall of Famers, so they couldn’t possibly get any better, right? Well, about that…
Golden State pulled off the biggest shocker of the free-agency period by reportedly signing DeMarcus Cousins to a one-year, $5.3 million deal. The amount of talent on the roster is just silly with the Warriors now capable of starting five All-Star players: Cousins, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green.
So here’s the big question: How did the Warriors pull off this heist? Why would Cousins only take the taxpayer mid-level exception when he was one of the biggest prizes available?
There are a few factors involved, so let’s break down how Cousins landed in Oakland…
DeMarcus Cousins didn’t have many — well, any — offers.
It wasn’t long ago Cousins was considered a lock for a max contract with the Kings. But a brutal Achilles injury this past season and concerns about his attitude left Cousins with no legitimate offers. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday night on “SportsCenter” that there were teams with cap space who “did not want [Cousins] in the locker room.”
That’s right — not even the Pelicans came calling. (Well, according to Cousins, at least. His version might not be the full truth.)
Golden State Warriors newcomer DeMarcus Cousins told ESPN's The Undefeated that he had no significant contract offers when free agency arrived, but had already mentally prepared himself for possible disappointment due to his recovery from his Achilles' tendon injury. Cousins…
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) July 3, 2018
Rebuilding teams like the Hawks, Bulls and Kings had no interest in spending money on a recovering star who wouldn’t make them truly competitive. The Mavericks got their center early by signing DeAndre Jordan. The Lakers went all over the place after adding LeBron James.
A tight market limited Cousins’ options. No one was putting the max on the table. He could have targeted a team with the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($8.6 million), but he decided a relatively small difference in pay wasn’t worth passing on a chance to join the defending champs.
The Warriors present DeMarcus Cousins with an ideal situation.
With Cousins coming off that Achilles injury, he will likely be out until December or January, according to Wojnarowski. No need to worry — Curry, Thompson, Durant and Green are more than capable of taking these Warriors on another title run without Cousins ever touching the floor.
“Boogie” can focus on continuing the rehabilitation process and connecting with his new teammates and coaches. Whenever he’s ready to return, Cousins can work himself back into shape for the stretch run and make an appearance in the playoffs for the first time in his career. This is the only organization that can tell an All-Star to take his time, and that time will be extremely valuable.
Cousins, who averaged 25.2 points and 12.9 rebounds in 48 games last season with the Pelicans, can rebuild his value both in terms of on-court performance and off-court reputation. A productive year — and perhaps a title — would give Cousins a huge amount of momentum heading into another free-agency run in 2019 and prove to potential suitors he is worth the risk.
DeMarcus Cousins gives the Warriors something they don’t have.
Think about what Cousins does well. He’s a strong rebounder (11.0 per game for his career), post-up threat (80.5 percentile in 2016-17, per NBA.com), terrific passer (5.4 assists per game in 2017-18) and a respectable 3-point shooter (35.4 percent in 2017-18).
Warriors centers like Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell are useful in their roles, but they simply don’t have the same ability to impact the game like Cousins. He brings a completely new element to Golden State — the idea of Cousins posting up with Curry, Thompson and Durant around him on the perimeter is terrifying.
Obviously, Cousins will have to adjust. He won’t be able to log a usage percentage above 30 or dominate the ball for long stretches. He must also be willing to stay engaged defensively. He might sit key minutes in favor of the “Death Lineup” with Andre Iguodala.
But he had to know all of that before he chose the Warriors. Cousins is betting on himself, and the Warriors are betting they will get the most out of him as they attempt to take this dynasty to another level.