- DeMarcus Cousins’ decision to sign with the Golden State Warriors took a perfect storm of events.
- Cousins’ injury, combined with his shaky reputation and a shallow free agent market, meant his options would be limited and it would be hard to find a perfect deal for Cousins and a team.
- The Warriors can afford to take risks more than any other team and rolled the dice when a top player became available.
- There are a variety of possible outcomes for Cousins and the Warriors, and the best possible version will benefit both sides immensely.
DeMarcus Cousins’ decision to sign with the Golden State Warriors in free agency stunned the NBA world on Monday as it saw one of the best free agents and best centres in all of the NBA joining the two-time defending champions – on a discount.
For such a signing to happen, it took a strange set of circumstances, some of which are why some members of the NBA world aren’t too worried about the Warriors adding another All-Star.
As ESPN’s Zach Lowe broke down, Cousins market shook out in an unusual way. According to Lowe, some teams already had a “No Cousins” policy – and that was before Cousins tore his Achilles tendon in January, ending his season with the New Orleans Pelicans.
That Cousins, a player with an already shaky reputation, would suffer an historically debilitating injury in an offseason with limited cap space and a somewhat muted free agency, caused the perfect storm.
The Pelicans may not have wanted to keep Cousins in the first place
According to Lowe, the Pelicans had considered offering Cousins a two-year deal worth much less than the max. As Lowe noted, the Pelicans never held a meeting with Cousins in free agency, and it’s possible that they already didn’t have much interest in re-signing him once his injury occurred.
Players recovering from torn Achilles do not have a great track record of returning to their normal selves. Cousins’ injury forced the Pelicans to experiment with playing Anthony Davis at center more, and they acquired stretch forward Nikola Mirotic, who proved to be an excellent front-court partner with Davis.
The Pelicans’ run to the second round of the playoffs after sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers in the first may have eventually caused them to pivot away from Cousins. When Julius Randle became available on Monday, they did just that, signing the versatile big man to a two-year deal.
The nature of Cousins and his injury didn’t help Cousins’ cause once he became available. It’s unclear what was offered to him. Cousins told Marc Spears of The Undefeated that he didn’t receive any offers. According to Lowe, once the Pelicans signed Randle, Cousins told his agent to begin calling teams, including the Warriors.
The Warriors were one of the few teams that could roll the dice
What deals would have worked out for Cousins and potential suitors? How many teams would take a chance on Cousins on a one-year deal, using up valuable money, knowing he might not play this season or be himself this season if he does?
Lowe reported that some teams may have offered two-year deals around $US9 million, knowing it would reward Cousins and give them some security, keeping Cousins next season at a cheap rate if he returns to full health and effectiveness. But that’s an unsavoury option for Cousins, who, in his prime, wants to prove himself worthy of a max contract for next season.
Enter the Warriors, a team who can afford to take a risk. The Warriors have won three championships in four years with a rotating cast of centres, from Andrew Bogut to Festus Ezeli, Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, and Kevon Looney. They’re at their best when the 6-foot-6 Draymond Green is playing center, anyway. They have four All-Stars in their prime and the widest margin for error in the NBA.
One of the Warriors few weaknesses was the center spot, so they rolled the dice on the highest-upside center available, knowing that player might not contribute anything this season.
It’s a one-year deal that works for both sides. If Cousins returns, plays well, and helps win a championship, he’ll hit the open market next season a winner looking for a max. The signing, meanwhile, would obviously become a win for the Warriors if that happens, even if it’s a one-year rental. If Cousins never returns to himself on the floor – well, the Warriors cut their losses after one season.
As Lowe also noted, the cap spike of 2016 and the free agency madness that followed contributed to this. The cap spike allowed the Warriors the cap space to sign Kevin Durant that summer. The signings that followed the cap spike around the NBA clogged teams’ payrolls this season, meaning few teams wanted to dip their toes in the water this summer. The Warriors pounced when a top player became available.
Now begins one of the most fascinating experiments in the NBA. Cousins’ style of play doesn’t fit the Warriors very well. He likes to control the ball, he rarely runs back on offence or defence, and he’s been criticised for having a negative effect on locker rooms throughout his career. Cousins is also a gifted passer, a true low-post threat, a good shooter, and a capable defender when engaged. How many of those things the Warriors will get on a consistent basis, without the aforementioned negatives, is unclear.
It’s a signing that has a variety of outcomes. Cousins might not return or be effective at all. He might be 50% of himself, contribute in some ways, but ultimately not be a missing piece for a Warriors team going for a three-peat.
Or he could return, prove himself one of the NBA’s best big men and help the Warriors win a third straight title, making all parties happy when July 1 hits next year.
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