Three Reasons Why DeMarcus Cousins' Return Is Exactly What Warriors Need

At the halfway point of the 2018-19 season, the Warriors were on pace for a 58-24 record. Most NBA franchises would be popping champagne over 58 wins — this isn't a "most franchises" situation.

That would be the worst mark for the Warriors since Steve Kerr became the head coach in 2014, and it indicates what a strange year it's been in the Bay Area. Golden State will once again contend for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, but injuries, clashes over playing style, an infamous on-court altercation and an uncertain offseason on the horizon have left the team with plenty of uncomfortable questions.

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Oh wait, did you forget? There is help on the way. DeMarcus Cousins, who has been recovering from a torn Achilles, is set to hit the floor for his season debut against the Clippers on Friday. Cousins made a shrewd move last summer by signing a one-year deal with the Warriors, giving him the ability to properly heal and still demonstrate his value over the course of a deep playoff run. However, the Warriors may now need Cousins to inject life into the locker room just as much as Cousins needs them to help boost his free-agency prospects.

Here's why the return of the four-time All-Star couldn't have come at a better time.

DeMarcus Cousins fills the void at the center position.

With starter Damian Jones out for the season (torn pectoral), the Warriors are primarily relying on Kevon Looney at center. After a solid rookie year, Jordan Bell hasn't been nearly as effective. Clint Capela (29 points, 21 rebounds) and Jusuf Nurkic (27 points, 12 rebounds) dominated the paint in recent wins for the Rockets and Trail Blazers, pointing directly to the giant hole in Golden State's lineup.

The vaunted "Hamptons Five" (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green) can still do damage with small ball, but the lack of a true big man has been glaring in specific matchups. Cousins won't be the same player after such a brutal injury, but even 75 to 80 percent of Cousins is an upgrade at the position.

Cousins is a terrific scorer at multiple levels (25.2 points per game in 2017-18), strong rebounder (12.9 rebounds), willing passer (career-high 5.4 assists) and decent defender (1.6 steals, 1.6 blocks) when fully engaged. If nothing else, he could physically challenge centers like Nurkic, Capela, Nikola Jokic and Steven Adams in a playoff series. 

However, it will be difficult for Cousins to stay on the floor if teams spread it out and force him to defend along the perimeter. This was an issue against the Rockets last season with James Harden often using Capela in screening actions, leaving Cousins frozen in no-man's land.

He won't log 32 minutes per game like he has throughout his career, but 20 to 25 minutes from Cousins at center is huge for this team — especially one of his struggling teammates.

Draymond Green could use some help in the frontcourt.

Let's be clear here. Green has not become a minus player. Golden State's defensive rating is still elite with him on the floor, and he is second in the NBA in Real Defensive Plus-Minus.

With that said, Green is just not the same guy. His shooting has cratered (41.9 percent from the field, 27.0 percent from 3-point range), allowing opposing defenses to completely abandon him. He hasn't attacked the basket with the same aggression, whether to score at the rim or create for others.

Insert Cousins, who is comfortable operating in the same areas as Green. Cousins can catch the ball at the top of the key, draw help on a drive and hit an open shooter in rhythm. 

On post-up opportunities, his size allows him to scan the entire floor for cutters.

Unlike Green, Cousins is capable of sealing and finishing with ease in the paint. Green establishes position to facilitate — Cousins establishes position to annihilate.

On the defensive end, Cousins (6-11, 270 pounds) should save Green (6-7, 230 pounds) from some of the wear and tear of banging with bigger bodies on a nightly basis. Green has been forced to eat up center minutes out of necessity, as Kerr noted in December, but Cousins should be able to ease the frontcourt burden in the second half of the season.

The Warriors need DeMarcus Cousins to bring a new kind of energy.

No one will cry for Golden State, but the weight of championship expectations and the grind of 82 regular-season games plus four rounds of playoff basketball ... that's a lot to handle. There's a serious physical, mental and emotional toll.

The highly publicized quarrel between Green and Durant stood out, but it's the little things that add up — that extra pass didn't come, that last jumper was forced, that dude is too close to my locker. This could be the final season NBA fans watch this version of the Warriors, and the coaching staff and players might be feeling it, too.

Cousins can be a rallying point for this team. The Warriors experience is new for him. His teammates can feed him the ball, cheer for him and praise him to the media. That's all positive energy, a break from the daily repetition of film sessions, practices and games.

"Boogie" won't be the best or most important player on the Warriors. He knew that when he signed on as a one-year rental. But he could be the player who comes along at the perfect time to keep a dynasty on the right path.

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