For six months, Steve Kerr urged caution. Yes, DeMarcus Cousins joining the Warriors was a ridiculous coup, but Boogie’s recovery from an Achilles tendon tear was going to take time. Sure, the four-time all-star’s arrival in Oakland on a one-year rental represented yet another instance of Golden State clowning the rest of the NBA, comparable to upgrading to Kevin Durant from Harrison Barnes, but no big man has ever rebounded from such a severe injury and played at an elite level. Yeah, Boogie was practicing hard two months before even seeing the court, though, as Kerr said, practice is very different than game action.
Cousins is now five games into his Warriors tenure, and he’s surpassed all expectations. He has already built on the encouraging debut he made against the Clippers last week, and showed himself to the best center in the Warriors cupboard by a considerable margin (not a hard feat when your competition is Damian Jones and Kevon Looney). He’s still clearly working his way back into game shape, and he has yet to log more than 25 minutes, but his per-36 numbers are where they were last year, only with fewer turnovers, better shooting rates, and, hilariously, almost twice as many personal fouls. Golden State is 7.8 points per 100 possessions better with Boogie on the floor, and the new starting lineup he anchors is an ungodly +35.7 per 100 in 42 minutes so far.
His foreboding statistical output isn’t even the most compelling reason to fear the newly revamped Warriors juggernaut. That fear should come from how seamlessly he’s fit in with and subsequently amplified the Warriors’ playing style. It would be one thing if he just smashed and grabbed and dunked a bunch on the way to putting up numbers, but he’s shown himself to be an ideal fit in a system that prioritizes moving the ball, preferably to the Warriors’ arsenal of shooters.
Last night against the Pacers, Boogie went for 22 points in 25 minutes, helping his team to an easy 132-100 win. Cousins has always been a gifted passer, particularly from the top of the key and in the post. Looney and Jones could hit the open man, but their primary role in the offense is to clean up around the post and finish when they get the rock. Boogie’s three-point range keeps defenses from sagging all the way off him, thus opening more space for his teammates to get easy buckets at the rim and lanes to get open on the perimeter.
As Draymond Green’s three-point shooting has withered and finally died this season, teams are sagging all the way off him to cover actually dangerous shooters. Cousins won’t let them, which just makes everyone’s job easier. In this play, Myles Turner either stays home and lets Jordan Bell get to the rim, or he gives up an open three. If the ball goes to Draymond, it’s an easy decision. With Boogie in the game, Turner can’t win.
(Jared Dubin ate a full serving of tape and has a much more extensive breakdown on Boogie’s fit with Golden State.)
As Boogie’s bloated foul rate would indicate, he’s still not all the way up to game speed. He doesn’t quite roll as hard as he did last season, and he isn’t attacking off the bounce with full vigor. It’s a useless exercise to speculate on how fully he will or will not recover, though it’s obvious that he will continue to get better, since his team will afford him the space to do his thing free of the extra defensive pressure he saw in Sacramento. Boogie is going to get paid this summer, thank God, and the Warriors are going to win the championship. The season’s over, but at least watching Cousins will be fun.