Wob, Moore and Phan: What the DeMarcus Cousins Injury Means for the Warriors
Photo credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: DeMarcus Cousins
- On Tuesday afternoon, the Warriors confirmed that DeMarcus Cousins suffered a season-ending quad tear.
- A few of our NBA experts -- Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob), Matt Moore and Justin Phan -- gathered to hash out the impact his absence will have on the Warriors moving forward.
121-104 … and it wasn’t even really all that close, if we’re being completely honest. That was the score the Warriors defeated the Clippers by in Game 1 of their playoff series a mere 2.5 days ago — but now, it feels like an eternity.
Cruising once again to an emasculating laugh-out-loud victory in Game 2, the tides turned on Golden State as quick as when Draymond Green got his Game 5 suspension and all the momentum the Warriors dynasty built throughout their 73-win 2016 campaign went out to sea.
DeMarcus Cousins, the franchise’s prized free agent acquisition from this summer, went down with a significant non-contact injury. The Warriors took a comfortable 23-point lead to the locker room, but the dark cloud of his resurgence coming to a devastating, screeching halt hovered above the team and clearly had real estate in the team’s minds in the second half — as noted by Steve Kerr during his scheduled interview at the end of the third quarter. What transpired there was historic — both literally and figuratively — as the Clippers completed the largest comeback in NBA playoff history: 31 points.
The joke was supposed to be dead. I mean buried in a coffin, funeral, tombstone and everything. The Warriors took the “they blew a 3-1 lead,” poured some baby powder in their hands and open-hand slapped the Cavs with 3-1 Larry O’Brien trophies. The ONLY thing that could resurrect insecurities of 2016 was if the stars aligned to form an eclipse of the biggest lead blown ever and it landing EXACTLY on 31.
DeMarcus Cousins is out for an indefinite period of time…
The series is tied at 1-1, and the Clippers now have home-court advantage in the same arena that Kevin Durant and Draymond Green declared war on each other just six months ago.
Until Game 3 tips off, the once invincible Warriors will be perceived as anything but as they drown in memes, jokes and blue-flame hot takes across multiple media platforms. So where do we actually stand? Do the Clippers actually have a chance here or is this just a one-night-stand with hope who’s going to call an Uber for us before we even wake up?
Let’s get some things straight right now (with help from my colleagues Justin Phan and Matt Moore)…
1) Kevon Looney and Andrew Bogut can seamlessly replace DeMarcus Cousins
…on paper, that is.
When you look at the regular season on/off Net Ratings for the main rotation Warriors centers, they are even more eye-popping than you might think:
- Looney: +10.1 on-court, +4.8 off-court
- Cousins: +4.6 on-court, +7.0 off-court
Looney may have the verticality of a walrus flopping on the sand, but he has proven to be without a doubt the most efficient big man on the roster.
Why? — World Wide Wob
Justin Phan: This isn’t as much about Cousins as it is about what the likes of Andre Iguodala, Looney and Andrew Bogut offer. Cousins is a gifted scorer in his own right and one of the best passers in the league at his position. Context matters, though, and Cousins’ scoring ability matters less for a team that’s led the league in offensive efficiency for four years running. What elevates the Warriors from title favorites to historically great is their defense.
When Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green were on the floor together during the regular season, they’ve fared well whether it’s been with Looney, Cousins or Bogut.
- With Looney: +17.1 Net Rating
- With Cousins: +15.0 Net Rating
- With Bogut: +11.5 Net Rating
The five-man unit with Cousins hasn’t fared well at all in the playoffs (-14.8). In fact, it’s the only one of their five most-used lineups that’s had a negative Net Rating. That has a lot to do with how coach Doc Rivers specifically schemed against Cousins (more on that later).
Matt Moore: Look, the requirements for “insert Warriors center here” are really low. They didn’t need a talent as great as DeMarcus Cousins, just like they didn’t need a talent as great as Kevin Durant. They just need a dude who can finish plays. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a supremely-skilled big man to do this:
Looney’s got good touch around the rim, and because of his familiarity with the offense, he knows the mechanisms the team needs. He can also jump, which DeMarcus Cousins cannot, so he can execute this very basic sequence that is a huge part of the Warriors offense:
Let me put it this way: Looney has 25 points on 15 shots through two games. That’s in the 100th percentile, the very top of all players in the playoffs on points per possession. Looney’s not special. The Warriors have enough special. They’re fine with him.