DeMarcus Cousins secured himself one of the few reliable things in this world on Monday night — a Golden State Warriors championship. He made the move that was the best for him, that would make him happy, and one that he deserved.
The Warriors already had the NBA world in “simulate the season to the end” more. They’ve won two championships since adding Kevin Durant in 2016, and by adding Cousins, they could have (probably) ordered their championship rings yesterday while the rest of the league got an early start on with 2019 free agency.
Mentions of Cousins being a “ring chaser” and “taking the easy way out” were anywhere you might have been looking to talk about basketball. But if you look at the signing through a sympathetic lens, it’s hard to blame Cousins for making the move based on the experience of the first eight years of his NBA career.
Boogie’s situation in Sacramento was not entirely his fault
Cousins went through hell in Sacramento, and he was often the target of blame, as our Tom Ziller noted throughout Boogie’s career in a Kings jersey:
It’s easy to blame Cousins for the Kings’ woes, because he has been literally the only constant over the past six years and change. Ownership has changed, the front office has changed twice, the coach has been replaced five times. The roster has been a constant churn.
But those Kings’ woes extend to a time before Boogie, and have a helluva lot to do with the fact that every Kings general manager of the past 10 years has struggled mightily to put talent around Cousins.
In his six full seasons with the Kings, the team’s best record was 33-49. In no other season did they win 30 games, and they won fewer than 25 twice. In that span, Cousins averaged 20.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game. That’s a whole lot of good in exchange for a whole lot of bad, much of which was out of his hands.
The Kings had 10 straight lottery picks dating back to 2007. DeMarcus Cousins was the only one that has proven to be worth the pick. Tyreke Evans and Jason Thompson weren’t terrible, but the Kings weren’t able to make anything out of them. Their best pick outside of Cousins was Isaiah Thomas, who was picked last in the draft. After a breakout 2013-14 season when Thomas had 20.3 points and 6.3 assists a game, the Kings let him walk away in free agency, getting nothing in return. Even when the Kings (accidentally, mind you) made good on a draft pick, they goofed that too.
All of the bad moves made by the Kings led to them to make another one with Cousins. They traded him for “the best offer,” which included Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans (again), and Langston Galloway, along with first and second round picks.
The only positive to come from that trade: Cousins was free. He thrived in his 17 games after the trade, averaging 24.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 3.9 assists. He wasn’t going to fix the Pelicans immediately, but putting him next to Anthony Davis was a twin tower experiment like we had never seen. Things were looking up.
Cousins was absolutely thriving in New Orleans before his injury
During his first full season in New Orleans, Cousins was one pace to experience his first playoff game, with the Pelicans at the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference standings. Then, he tore his Achilles in January going for a loose ball.
The injury was devastating. He and Anthony Davis finally had help in each other, along with Jrue Holiday. Instead, the Pelicans had to go on without him, ultimately losing to the Warriors in the second round of the postseason after dominating the Blazers.
After the season’s conclusion and set to be a free agent, Cousins didn’t get the offers he expected for a player of his talent. In fact, he told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears that he hadn’t gotten any offers at all. Assuming that’s true, Cousins’ freeze-out can likely be attributed to his injury. NBA players have historically not recovered well from achilles injuries, and with his large 6’11, 270-pound frame, Cousins puts a lot of weight on his joints.
Understandably displeased, Cousins called his agent. And after narrowing his choices to the Warriors and Celtics, Cousins opted to make the super team the mega-super team, or whatever you’d like to name this new iteration of Golden State basketball. Cousins isn’t going to be the main guy on the Warriors like he would be on most other NBA teams. The move allows him to not only take time to recover, but he and the Warriors should also be winning plenty of games when he gets back.
In January, Ziller wrote after Cousins’ injury that throughout human history, what happens to people rarely has anything to do with what they “deserve.” That may be true, but in this instance, Cousins had that rare opportunity to get what he deserved — an easy situation, finally — so he took it.
And yeah, this isn’t going to be a ton of fun for NBA fans next season. It’s no fun feeling like we know the ending to the next season before we’re a month into the offseason. But if there’s a single thread of something positive for everyone tired of the Warriors destroying everyone else, it’s that Boogie is finally in a good place, throwing up figurative middle fingers to everyone who passed on him.
And if you still can’t stand the Warriors enough to be happy for Cousins, well, you can at least take comfort in the fact that he will probably be gone after this season, and assuming all goes well, he’ll get a max contract elsewhere. The only way he stays is if Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant leave in free agency, or the Warriors trade Draymond Green. Those options seem less likely, as the Warriors are a vehicle for Cousin’s resurgence as opposed to a long-term staple. That works for everybody.
For now, Boogie gets to rehab with no pressure to return early, he get to finally win a championship, and in the process make every team that had the capacity to offer him regret not doing so. He couldn’t, and wouldn’t, ask for more than that.