Even during the summer and in the middle of free agency, when hope springs eternal for teams around the league, Golden State had to ruin the fun and remind everyone of their place atop the hierarchy. It wasn’t enough that they had two former MVPs and four All-Stars, they just had to go out and get a fifth to round out a lineup with seemingly no holes.
You can be mad at the Warriors, but you can’t blame them for improving their team. What were they supposed to do, turn down one of the best centres in the league on principle? Similarly for Cousins, you can give him the Kevin Durant treatment and call him a coward, but ultimately you can’t stop a player from signing where he wants. It’s called free agency for a reason.
So we have no choice but to accept the fact that Cousins is now a Warrior and a team that could have already been considered the best ever just got better.
How much better though? That’s where there may be a disconnect between the reaction the Cousins news drew and what the actual impact could be.
Let’s preface this by saying there is absolutely no downside for the Warriors in adding Cousins. It’s only a one-year deal – there’s almost no chance Cousins is still on the team next year due to Golden State’s cap situation, as well as his own earning potential after returning from an Achilles injury – at a low annual figure, which means even if Cousins become a locker-room problem, they can cut him at minimal cost.
The biggest question mark with Cousins revolves around his injury and whether or not he can return to being the player he was before tearing his Achilles. If he can’t, it’s not like the Warriors are leaning on him anyways.
If he can, or at least come close to having the same effectiveness, the fit on the court isn’t seamless. This isn’t a case of Golden State adding a player like Al Horford, who would amplify everything they already do well at a position that hasn’t had that type of impact for them.
Cousins is a plodding, high-usage big who commands the ball on post-ups and often lacks effort on defence. In many ways, his playing style is the antithesis of what the Warriors strive to do.
So while he’ll start, it’s unlikely Cousins will be in Golden State’s closing lineup, which should remain the Hamptons Five. That unit is what gives them their identity and what truly allows them to be an all-conquering death machine on both ends of the court.
The real benefit of Cousins will be in those second-unit lineups when he can pick on back-ups by doing what he does best. Those will be the minutes when the Warriors get their money’s worth and then some.
It makes Golden State even harder to beat, but there’s only so much better a team at their level can get. Eventually, you reach a tipping point where the collective level of talent on the floor doesn’t result in the kind of production you would get from that talent being in isolation elsewhere. It’s insane Golden State may be reaching that point, but it’s not out of the question.
Outside of Houston and Boston, no team was going to have a legitimate shot at beating the Warriors next season anyways. And you can make a case that the versatility and style the Rockets and Celtics employ could allow them to deal with Cousins better than anyone else.
The gap between the Warriors and the rest of the league has undoubtedly widened, but it’s been by inches, not feet.
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