Press Box: The Warriors should remain title favorites following Cousins’ injury

Illustration by Steck Von

Ryan Grube, Contributing Writer

Normal, fair-weather, bandwagon or otherwise, the Golden State Warriors’ fan base was shocked when starting center DeMarcus Cousins went down clutching his left quad in Game 2 of Golden State’s opening round matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers.

As Cousins suffered in pain just four minutes into the contest, panic-stricken fans started denouncing the Warriors’ title chances.

It’s a common practice for NBA fans every year — they give up on their team’s chances following a devastating injury to a key player like Cousins.

But in Golden State’s unique case, the odds shouldn’t change. They are still the undisputed favorites to capture their third consecutive NBA Finals championship.

The Warriors maintain an all-star-oriented lineup — consisting of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green — who collectively average 82.2 points.

Along with those four all-stars, coach Steve Kerr has two capable backup centers Andrew Bogut and Kevon Looney.

Bogut offers the Warriors experience and adept passing in the front court. The former No. 1 overall pick previously spent four seasons — 2012-2016 — with Golden State and knows the system well.

“I knew I was coming in as an insurance policy, to an extent,” Bogut said after Game 2. “I definitely didn’t anticipate starting in the playoffs, but unfortunately with the freak injury to DeMarcus [Cousins], that’s what the circumstances are.”

Meanwhile, Looney provides youth and a scoring spark off the bench. In his reserved role, the 2015 First Round pick has quietly averaged career-high points and rebounds in 2019 with 6.3 and 5.2, respectively.

While neither Bogut nor Looney possess Cousins’ well-known stature, their scoring and passing production effectively fills the void. The two-man tandem of Bogut and Looney have combined to average 15.4 points and 11.7 rebounds in the team’s first three postseason games.  

The Warriors aren’t going to dominate teams in the paint — instead, they’ll overwhelm their opponents with consistent outside shooting.

Cousins’ arrival didn’t change Golden State’s offensive style of play. The team still managed to finish the regular season with a franchise-best 1,087 3-pointers.

Rather than relying on their centers for steady scoring, the Warriors utilize their big men as passing options for open shooters on the perimeter.

Cousins has been a proven scorer throughout his career, and his average of 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds were certainly beneficial, but it isn’t necessary for Golden State’s success.

The skillful outside shooting from Curry, Thompson and Durant will continue pacing the Warriors in their playoff run.

Though Cousins’ injury is unfortunate, it shouldn’t alter Golden State’s playoff outlook. The Warriors are still well on their way to a three-peat of the NBA Finals in 2019.

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