Look to the past to see how the Warriors could use Cousins

The NBA world lost its mind when DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins announced he was signing  a one-year deal with the Golden State Warriors. Did the sharpshooting Warriors really need to add another element to their offense? The truth is, no but it certainly isn’t going to hurt. They haven’t had a true post presence since Andrew Bogut and it isn’t very clear whether one can refer to Bogut as a real post threat. However in Steve Kerr’s first season as coach, he used Bogut in the post in a variety of ways. Now with Cousins, it is as if the Warriors are just hitting the upgrade button.

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The Warriors are not a post-heavy team, but they do facilitate a lot off of the block. Almost every time the ball is thrown in the post, they run a series of off-ball screens and post splits that create scoring opportunities. In the past season, Durant led the team with post touches and was quite good with a points per possession (PPP) at 0.956 (according to synergysportstech.com). He was their only true post presence but it only accounted for 8.7% of his touches this past season.

Once Cousins returns from his Achilles injury (presuming he’s healthy), he will easily be the Warriors top post option. He can provide more than just facilitating the offense from the block but he can put serious pressure on defenses. Cousins is an absolute beast in the post, single covered (165 possessions) he had a PPP of 1.012 last season. He requires a double team and that may not be enough to stop him. More importantly, when he is on the court with the Warriors’ cadre of shooters, opposing coaches are going to go crazy deciding between sending the double-team and who to leave open or just let him eat one-on-one.

Back when Kerr had Bogut he ran several different sets to get him in the post. First using a flex action, after Andre Iguodala came off the flex screen set by Bogut, the ball was reversed to get him that post touch. Then he used a short action that was something the Phoenix Suns used to run, as Draymond Green set the ball screen, Bogut ducked-in to get a deep post catch. Kerr also reached back to his Chicago Bulls days by running a simple Triangle set that has several guys cutting once the ball is entered into the post. Finally, the Warriors ran a slice action that was designed to get Bogut a clean post up.

Cousins is a much better post player than Bogut, there is no debate. Cousins overall PPP in the post last season was 0.956, it is reasonable to expect that number go up when he gets post up opportunities with so many shooters on the court. Kerr has options in how and when to deploy Cousins in the post. Besides playing him with the starters Kerr can feature Cousins’ skills in the post with the second unit in games and have him quarterback the offense. He also can unleash a series of post sets on nights when the Warriors three balls are not falling.

A big skill that Bogut brought to the Warriors was his ability to pass; he averaged 2.7 and 2.3 assists on 23.6 and 20.7 minutes over his last two seasons with the Warriors. He was great at finding cutters, whether it was Green curling to the hoop, Iguodala slipping a screen, Klay Thompson back cutting, or Curry just floating around.

Cousins is just as good of a passer if not better, averaging a career-high 5.4 assists a night last season. Much like Bogut, he found guys playing off of him in the low post, the high post, and on the move. Similar to Green, Boogie can turn into point Boogie and run the fast break. Pairing up Cousins’ court vision and willingness to pass with the Warriors’ constant movement and cutting is simply a match made in heaven.

The biggest difference between Cousins and Bogut on the offensive end of the court is the ability to shoot. Almost every time Bogut caught the ball away from the basket, defenses played off of him daring him to shoot knowing full well that was the very last thing he, Kerr, and the entire Warriors fan base wanted him to do. In Cousins a career 33.8% three-point shooter, defenders cannot drop back like that. It is unlikely he’ll take anywhere near the 6.1 threes he attempted last season but his ability to shoot from three will open things up even more for an offense that doesn’t really need much more help.

In Cousins, the Warriors are adding an element to their offense they haven’t had since they had to clear space two summers ago (feels light years ago) to sign Durant. Kerr must be rejuvenated with the prospect of getting to tinker with a new toy in his offense. This can also be a trial run to see how a post player fits with this group if the Warriors were to try to make a run at Cousins’ former teammate, Anthony Davis.

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