Golden State Warriors: Why would DeMarcus Cousins re-sign?

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images /

The Golden State Warriors might stun the NBA again and re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer. But why would the superstar center stay put?

The Golden State Warriors stunned everyone by signing All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins last summer. Fresh off their second consecutive title after adding Kevin Durant to the winningest team in NBA history, the rich seemingly got richer when the Dubs landed the premier big man.

Coming off a season-ending Achilles injury, Cousins didn’t have many suitors and he certainly wasn’t going to earn the maximum deal that he was hoping for pre-injury, so the union sort of made sense.

The Warriors didn’t need Cousins, per se, so they presented him with a unique situation. He could take as much time as he needed in order to rehab and get his body right without the pressure of a struggling team awaiting his return. It was understood that it was a one-year rental, a mutually beneficial relationship that gave the Warriors another weapon and offered Cousins an opportunity to go chase the money in the summer of 2019.

Despite that, the New York Times‘ Marc Stein recently wrote that he’s heard rumblings Cousins might spend another year in the Bay Area. As our own Gil Alcaraz IV notes, since the Warriors don’t own the center’s full Bird Rights, they can’t go over the cap to keep him, thus limiting their options to a $6.4 million offer next year.

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While the Warriors would be ecstatic to keep a talent like that on board at a small price for another season–presumably a full one this time–it still seems surprising. Even more so when Golden State head coach Steve Kerr admitted that there’s an understanding that “we’d like to help him get a great contract next year, somewhere else” (via NBC Sports’ Marcus White).

Why would Cousins stay? For the chance at a championship? For the opportunity to play in San Francisco for a season?

While those may be a factor, Cousins is likely still–and rightfully so–prioritizing his money. If he doesn’t return to form with enough games to show teams that he’s worthy of a max deal, then perhaps he sticks around in the best possible situation to do that next year.

Cousins has recently started participating in full practice with the rest of the team, and is inching closer to his debut. While it’s possible that he plays in January, it seems that the likelier scenario has him suiting up for his first game in February. But that doesn’t mean he’d be close to being who he was before the injury.

Practice and games are different. Even intense practices can’t match the speed of a live NBA game and there will be an adjustment period for him and his team as they try to figure out how to incorporate a fifth All-Star into the mix. They might not figure it out at all.

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Kerr has struggled to find the right rotations this season. With injuries, a thinner bench, and Klay Thompson‘s and Draymond Green‘s slumps, the coaching staff continues to experiment with lineups. The Warriors haven’t found what they’re looking for in terms of sets and units, beating teams based on talent and looking far more vulnerable than they ever have in the Durant era.

A February return doesn’t give Cousins a lot of time to showcase his abilities and it might not be enough to incorporate him into the team’s chemistry. So staying with Golden State after getting healthy could give him a chance at a ring and a full season to try out for teams with enough money to sign him.

But is Golden State’s star-studded roster really the best place for Cousins to do that? With Stephen Curry, Durant, Thompson, and Green, there isn’t a lot of room for the big man to be featured in the offense. He can help run second units with just one other star, but even then, he might be the team’s third option, at best, most nights.

Unless one or more of the stars won’t be there and he can rise up the food chain. If, say, Durant was to leave, that would open up a lot of shots and touches for Cousins. Perhaps the rumblings arise from an even stronger feeling within the organization and around the league that the two-time Finals MVP is on his way out the door.

Green’s reported outburst following the Warriors’ loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last November shows that there are those that feel the superstar forward has a wandering eye. Perhaps Durant is already envisioning himself next to LeBron James or Kristaps Porzingis.

Though his current contract situation is the same as it was the last two seasons, this year feels different. The threat of Durant’s departure seems real and, more importantly, imminent.

Now, it’s entirely possible that Cousins can dominate from February until June, field max offers, and still take a pay cut to stay with the Warriors, who end up retaining Durant as well. However, that just doesn’t seem likely.

Cousins won’t take less than what he’s worth and he probably doesn’t want to sign up for a season as a team’s third or fourth option, even if it does give him the best chance at winning. And he’s going to take some time to be the league’s most talented and overpowering center again.

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But even if Kevin Durant were to truly leave, re-signing  a hungry Cousins wouldn’t be the worst consolation prize.