The Golden State Warriors’ latest offseason addition will finally join the team this month. Center DeMarcus Cousins will return to the court in less than two weeks, after recovering from achilles surgery last year.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr confirmed that the center would make his debut “somewhere in the neighborhood” of the team’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 18, according to ESPN. If inserted into the starting lineup, the Warriors would have five all-stars on the floor at once. Does Cousins’ return mean the Warriors three-peat is certain? Here is a look back on his career so far, and what to expect this season.
Sacramento Years, Pelicans Trade
Drafted by the Sacramento Kings with the fifth pick in the 2010 draft, Cousins quickly grew into one of the most dominant young players in the NBA. While the Kings were abysmal for all of his tenure there, Cousins would soon average roughly 25 points and 10 rebounds during his later years with the team.
The one-year Kentucky player was now a dominant NBA big man and the face of the Kings franchise. But despite his skills on the court, Cousins gained a poor reputation which included multiple suspensions by both the team and the league. In addition, Cousins became known as a “coach killer,” as the Kings cycled through six different head coaches between 2010 and 2016.
In February of 2017, the Kings traded the frustrated Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for draft picks, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and Buddy Hield. Hield has proven himself to be a great asset for the rebuilding Kings, averaging 20 points and five rebounds per game so far this year.
The trade to the Pelicans paired Cousins with superstar center Anthony Davis, leading many to wonder what the two big men could accomplish together. Joined by guards Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans became a very interesting basketball team overnight.
The Pelicans missed the playoffs the year Cousins arrived, but he still put up huge numbers, growing the hype for the 2017-2018 season.
Unfortunately for the Pelicans, Cousins’ time with the team can largely be summed up as a “what if?” situation. Cousins tore his Achilles on Jan. 26 against the Houston Rockets, a game in which he had a triple-double. Requiring surgery, the injury would keep Cousins sidelined for almost a full year.
The Pelicans managed to make the playoffs as the sixth seed despite the huge blow, and swept the Portland Trail Blazers in an upset series. The team had the bad luck of facing the Golden State Warriors in the second round, losing a five-game series to the defending champions. Had Cousins not gotten injured, and perhaps chosen to resign with New Orleans in free agency, who knows what the Pelicans could have accomplished.
Moving Back West
Much to the ire of all NBA fans not living in the Bay Area, Cousins signed a one year, $5 million contract with the Warriors last summer. After continuing to rehab, and being assigned to the team’s G League affiliate, Cousins, a four-time all-star, is ready to get back on the court.
Joining the already stacked Warriors team may seem like a cop-out, but it’s a decision that makes sense for Cousins. When he returns, he can take his time getting back to his full potential, as we see with Gordon Hayward on the Celtics currently. Coming back from an injury of that caliber takes time. Luckily for him, he has Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green to pick up his slack.
Even without Cousins, the Warriors are easily still the favorites to win the title again this year. While there has been some controversy and internal issues, a team with this much talent doesn’t just fall off. They may not have the best record in the league right now, but having a superstar on your team is a huge difference-maker come playoff time. It’s why the Cavs were able to make it to the NBA Finals last year. However, in the case of the Warriors, there are at least two superstars.
While there are plenty of good teams in the west, none of them have the firepower needed to match up with Golden State. James Harden led the Rockets past them in overtime last week, but can he do that four times out of seven? The Nuggets are good, but far too young, and the Lakers still need a proven co-star to play alongside LeBron.
Toronto and Boston are the favorites in the East. However, the offensive weapons will be too much for either, despite both being strong defensive teams.
Look for the Warriors to three-peat as NBA champions this year, as Cousins continues to get his game back while surrounded by talent and an excellent coach. While in a lesser role among his new teammates, look for averages of about 12-15 points about 10 rebounds for him by the end of the regular season.
The remainder of this season is essentially an opportunity for Cousins to prove he is healthy and productive again. If he can do that, Cousins will likely get a big contract this summer. Given the right situation, he can potentially be the second best player on a championship team. Injuries are always unfortunate, but Cousins made a smart decision by choosing Golden State to get back on his feet with.