DeMarcus Cousins is expected to return to the hardwood this week for the first time since tearing his achilles last January, this time as a member of the Golden State Warriors. He’s likely to start against the Clippers this Friday, but while it’s good news to most, it doesn’t solve all their problems.
Given the Warriors recent history of centers (Biedrins, Bogut, Pachulia), the promise of Boogie joining Golden State is definitely enticing. He brings a presence inside that the Splash Brothers haven’t been privy to, and that’s a scary thought. It’s not the only role that Steve Kerr has planned for Cousins though, given his newfound propensity to shoot from deep.
In his last two seasons, Cousins has averaged over five three-point attempts a game at a 36 percent clip. That spacing is an aspect of his game that the Warriors will feel immediately with Draymond Green’s defenders having abandoned him from deep. If an opposing center guards Draymond instead of Cousins, Green’s screening then become far more valuable, and similarly, Cousins will have a mismatch too.
Recently, Kerr told 95.7 The Game “We're not gonna slow down just for DeMarcus. So you can probably envision a fast break with us and DeMarcus trailing the play ... the ball comes back out, he's a guy who can spot up and knock down that 3-point shot." That game plan is far different from the one he had in mind when they first signed him. Bob Myers recounts Kerr saying, “I want [DeMarcus] on the block, we haven’t had that threat, we can give him the ball, we can play off of him.”
Kerr’s change in mindset is indicative of the mismanagement that he’s guilty of, but his change of heart in regards to Cousins coincides with how the team has played as of late. Kerr mentioned that Boogie will start upon his return. “After that, everything's on the table. We have to figure out what the rotations will look like, how many minutes he can play. We'll have to play around with the minutes, the combinations, the sets.”
Immediately inserting Cousins into the starting lineup may seem obvious, but it’s important to note that Kerr didn’t say he would finish games. Part of that is due to the quality production from Kevon Looney. Looney has been on the court at the end of most every game this season, despite Damian Jones starting until his season ending injury on December 1st. He’s the Dubs’ most solid role player, and like a metronome, he can keep his tempo steady no matter the rhythm of the game.
While Cousins is an upgrade over Looney, there is concern of how his ability to switch on defense will affect how the Dubs scheme their coverages. It’s possible Looney could continue closing games while Cousins returns from injury and gets use to the Warriors’ pace of play after almost a year off. There’s a chance he will also prioritize his energy on offense rather than defense; Boogie will return to the free agent market this summer and his numbers will mean something in that regard.
Perhaps they’ll just go small to close out games with Draymond at center. He’s by far their best defensive big, but going small means having Iguodala on the court as well, who like Green has struggled offensively. At least with Looney on the court, there’s a fourth scoring option, without sacrificing too much on defense. Perhaps Kerr will let the game become a shootout, and trust that the five All-Stars will work cohesively on the court.
The good thing is they’ll have three months to figure things out before the playoffs. Boogie’s return will be a breath of fresh air for the entire organization; like the gift that you know your parents got you, but you couldn’t open until Christmas.
Well, Christmas just came a little late in the Bay.