The debut of DeMarcus Cousins in the Golden State Warriors’ lineup was supposed to essentially break the game of basketball. Five All-NBA players on the floor together for the same team, one of 30 in the league, really isn’t supposed to be possible, but the Warriors found themselves in a unique position three different times over the last several years to make it so.
Steph Curry’s ankles pushed him toward an extension that paid him $11 million a year for four years, two of which saw him bring home league MVP trophies. The cap spike of 2016 opened up enough space on the Warriors’ books for Kevin Durant, then (and now) one of the three-best players in the world. And Cousins, a two-time All-NBA center, decided to join the team last summer while on his way back from a torn Achilles tendon. Cousins signing with Golden State wasn’t the same as Durant, but it was met with a lot of the same reaction: “Really? Again?”
Now more than a month into Cousins’ tenure with the Warriors, there are more questions than answers about how the best on-paper five-man lineup in the league is operating together. He’s clearly still working his way back from the Achilles tear and looks more than half-step slow in most facets of the game. His individual skills are there, to go with the numbers, but the teamwide offense and defense have taken a hit since he was cleared to play in late January. Given the timing of his return coinciding (or correlating, depending on whom you ask) with the Warriors perhaps looking somewhat human, the question is there to be asked: Is Cousins making his team worse? And a follow-up: Does that matter?