Editor's note: Grant Liffmann and Drew Shiller are the co-hosts of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, they will drop their Outsider Observations on the state of the Dubs, and this time, it's Grant's turn.
The time finally has come. DeMarcus Cousins is set to return next week. And it's happening at the perfect moment.
The Warriors could use this injection of mystery and challenge as they enter the dog days of the NBA season. It's clear that the team has started to feel the effects of boredom and apathy, and its play has followed suit. With Boogie joining the lineup, the Warriors not only will feed off the excitement and energy of a new All-Star toy, but they also will experience the hardships and trials of creating a completely new offense (and defense).
Which makes me think it's as if the coaching staff and front office delayed Boogie's return as much as possible in order to break up the season a bit. Hmmmmmm, but I digress.
Cousins will impact all the players on the team, but for now, let's examine how it will affect Draymond Green's game.
The Warriors' coaching staff, as well as Draymond himself, never have been worried about the amount of points he scores. Incredible defense is his most valuable contribution to the team, but let's not forget his playmaking ability on offense, pushing the tempo and spreading the ball to all his teammates. When Boogie returns, Draymond's scoring will be needed even less, making me wonder how many shots per game he actually will attempt.
This season, Draymond is taking his fewest field goal attempts per game (seven) and scoring his fewest points per game (7.3) since his second season in the league, back in 2013-14. When Kevin Durant came on board, Draymond was one of the players who sacrificed the most for accommodating KD's scoring into the mix, and I expect the same to happen again with Cousins' addition.
Instead of shooting, expect Draymond to facilitate even more. Warriors coach Steve Kerr already has said the team will not slow down its pace of play with lumbering Cousins on the floor, and the biggest catalyst of their high pace is Draymond. When he collects a defensive rebound, he's the first to either dribble the ball full-speed up the court or send a rocket outlet pass in order to get the offense in transition and not allow the opponent to set up their defense. This style doesn't necessarily suit Boogie's game, so it'll be up to the big center to try to keep up as much as possible. It sounds like there will be many trailing 3-point shots available for Boogie when he finally does.
But what about Draymond's 3-pointers? Warriors coaches are finding creative ways to help the team's half-court sets run smoothly when Draymond is struggling with his shot, allowing a defender to completely sag off him and clog the paint, but the team could greatly benefit from simply mediocre long-range shooting. Over the last nine games, Draymond is 8 for 25 from deep, for 32 percent. By no means is that figure exciting, but it's definitely acceptable for a high-octane offense that doesn't rely on it.
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The point is keeping a defense honest, and to me, that percentage is the minimum to do so. With Cousins on the court, the Warriors finally will have their first true post scorer in the Kerr era, so the team would love to have the paint as open as possible. If Draymond can shoot like he is right now, or better, that will help considerably.
On defense, Draymond finally can go back to more of his normal and natural position. The Warriors' lack of big man depth has been well chronicled. Sure, Kevon Looney has stepped up and performed well after Damian Jones's season-ending injury, but I'd contend that Draymond has been the one to feel the effects the most. He's had to play a lot more minutes at center than Kerr wants, forcing him to match up with opposing bruisers and taking him away from what he does best: playing free safety. When Draymond doesn't have to be the sole defender down low, he's given the freedom to roam, spy, jump passing lanes, break up plays before they happen, bring double teams and provide phenomenal help-side defense.
So, expect to see more of that Draymond with Cousins on the floor. Also expect to see a much improved Warriors defense in the process.