DeMarcus Cousins Will Start in Warriors Debut, Return from Achilles Injury

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2019

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) stands on the sideline with DeMarcus Cousins during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

The Golden State Warriors are close to having one of the most ridiculous starting lineups in basketball history. 

Head coach Steve Kerr confirmed to reporters on Thursday that center DeMarcus Cousins would start in his return from injury—expected to be on or near the team's Jan. 18 matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers—per Mark Medina the Mercury News:

"Yeah, I'll start him," Kerr said of Cousins. "After that, everything's on the table. We have to figure out what the rotations will look like, how many minutes he can play. We'll have to play around with it—the minutes, the combinations, the sets. We haven't had a player like him here before..."

Cousins told reporters how it was a struggle between himself and the coaching staff to finally reach this point:

The starting lineup of Cousins, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green has a combined three MVP awards, 25 All-Star selections and 19 All-NBA honors. It's an absurd grouping of talent. 

"It's exciting," Thompson told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. "I know our fan base is excited. The NBA is excited. I can't wait to integrate him with our team. He adds a whole new dimension. Especially on the block, he's such a handful down there, his ability to play make. So I'm excited to get DeMarcus back."

It will be fascinating to see how the Warriors integrate Cousins, however. The team has never had a center that was as talented a low-post scorer, or one accustomed to a higher usage rate. The team has generally preferred defensive-minded rebounders or rim-runners in their perimeter-focused offense predicated on spacing and motion. 

But Cousins is an solid perimeter shooter, hitting on 35.4 percent of his three-pointers in the 2017-18 campaign before he ruptured his Achilles. And imagining him as a pick-and-pop option in the team's offense is exciting. 

And even if there are some on-court chemistry issues, Golden State could choose to stagger minutes, ensuring that at least two or three of their stars are on the court at all times while mixing and maxing the optimal pairings. 

But Cousins' athleticism and shooting means the team shouldn't have to adjust its base offense to an extreme. The burden will largely be on Cousins—currently on a one-year contract—to adjust to a system that has helped produce three of the past four NBA titles. Even if he fails to fully integrate and plays a secondary role, the Warriors have the talent in place to win a third straight championship.

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