When news broke that DeMarcus Cousins was headed to the Bay Area to join forces with Kevin Durant and the Splash Brothers, the entire basketball world was in shock. How could the Warriors, winners of three of the past four NBA titles, now have another All-Star on their roster? If nobody could beat them before, how would they possibly even come close now?
But what can we really expect from Cousins, less than a year removed from tearing his Achilles? The injury that Cousins sustained should not be taken lightly. Different athletes can respond to the recovery process in different ways. Nobody really knows how well Cousins will play next season, and whether or not he will be able to regain his pre-injury form. Assuming he will come in and play a full complement of minutes is naive. In fact, the fact that Steve Kerr is coaching such a star-studded team, only further suggests that we will likely see Boogie Cousins limited dramatically in his first season with the Warriors.
There is no doubting what Cousins has been able to achieve to this point in his career. He has really elevated his game over the past four years or so. Last season, he played 48 games prior to his season-ending injury. During that stretch, Cousins averaged 25.2 points per game, 12.9 rebounds, and 5.4 assists. He also averaged more than two 3-pointers per game, shooting 35.4 percent from outside the arc. That’s why he couldn’t understand why he wasn’t getting any offers in free agency.
Realizing he was being cast out due to the severity of his injury, Cousins began to realize that he would need to settle for a short-term, prove it type of deal. And there’s no better place to do that than with the defending back-to-back champions. In Golden State, Cousins will be able to settle in to his role on the team. He will be eased back into the flow of the game, rather than being relied upon to carry a team on his shoulders. In all likelihood, the Warriors are not going to rush him back. Their utmost priority will be to make sure he is back to full health by the time the playoffs come around. And since they are a virtual certainty to make the postseason, Boogie benefits from being afforded a major luxury of time and patience.
Even when he finally gets back to the court, it would not be a surprise to see the Warriors limit his playing time. They could even potentially sit him out some games, particularly ones that are on the back end of a back-to-back (consecutive nights), just to make sure his leg gets a chance to rest. For these reasons, anyone expecting Cousins to play up to his 2017 form is likely to be disappointed.
For Cousins, the most important thing is to get back his explosiveness and full range of motion. He doesn’t need to worry about anything else like stats. If teams see that he is fully engaged come playoff time, he will probably get the contract he is seeking following the postseason. But if he rushes himself back too soon, or simply tries to do too much, he could potentially cause himself more harm than good. Cousins should know that. He must know that the only thing that matters right now is getting healthy and doing that in the best way possible.