Even though DeMarcus Cousins has not always looked fantastic since returning from injury this season, there have been some blissful moments.
The Golden State Warriors have not struggled to score under head coach Steve Kerr. Finding new ways to create innovative looks when the team already is at the top of its class, however, can a bigger challenge. Of course, the best offense is a good defense and when Golden State secures a good block or steal, their historically talented scorers set to the races.
No team has scored more points per possession when in transition than the Warriors have so far this season. But they have shown glimpses of a higher new level to unlock if Cousins is closer to 100 percent healthy in the postseason.
Khadrice Rollins wrote about this exact phenomenon when the four-time All-Star made his Golden State debut in January (via Sports Illustrated):
“Each member of the Warriors’ starting five can now bring the ball up court. So an offense that was already prone to catching defenses off guard can now move even quicker after misses. Cousins running the break is scary. Especially when you consider it’s Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry filling the wings. As he gets in better shape and gains even more comfort with his teammates, this is the part of their game that can become the most dangerous. Knowing that Draymond Green and Durant are liable to rip the ball off the rim and jumpstart the transition offense is one thing. Having to account for Boogie as the ball handler in the open court is like a special cruel assignment the basketball gods created just to see who could fail the least.”
When this happens during a game, it is one of the more exciting observations because it is so different than the usual way Golden State typically can score.
Rather than Curry or Thompson splashing from outside or Durant dominating one-on-one against his helpless defender, these possessions allow the 6-foot-11 center to use his court vision and agility to create chances all for himself.
Cousins has averaged 1.25 points per possession as the ballhandler in a transition offense. It has been one of his most dominant ways to score since joining the Warriors.
According to Synergy Sports, that mark ranks in the 93rd percentile among all players this season. It is also a career-best for Cousins even though he is coming off a devastating Achilles injury that has hindered his mobility.
While still a small sample size, he has finished 4.5 percent of his offensive possessions possible to score as the ballhandler in transition. New Orleans also unleased Cousins as an option going coast-to-coast but before last year, that rate had never eclipsed 3.7 percent.
The greater opportunity and frequency has shown how much more Golden State has entrusted him in this offense. But he has done a phenomenal job when allowed to take the ball coast-to-coast from defense to offense.
As a one-man fast break, he is at his most electrifying looking like an angry bull driving with extreme force to the basket.
Cousins, however, has done more than just connect on layups when taking the ball across the floor and finishing possessions. He has been able to draw contact and fouls here as well. Half of these opportunities have ended in him at the free throw line, which is a higher rate than anyone else (minimum: 10 possessions) in the league.
When including passes, the big has averaged a career-best 1.58 PPP (90th percentile) overall in transition for the Warriors. More than half of these looks occurred when Cousins took the ball up the court by himself before finding one of his teammates for a bucket.
His assist-to-turnover ratio on the break (1.8) has also been significantly better than his overall (0.91) career rate thus far. The mark is significantly better than his previous best on this play type. These moments have been highlighted by some particularly crafty dimes, too.
Overall, the Warriors have averaged 21.0 points per game on fast break plays since Cousins returned from injury. That now ranks ahead of the Sacramento Kings (19.5) as well as the Los Angeles Lakers (19.5) for most in the league since January 18.
For comparison, Golden State averaged 18.8 points per game on all of their fast breaks before that date.
Cousins, alone, has scored 1.8 points per game from fast breaks. That ranks No. 5 overall among centers, per NBA.com. Perhaps the wildest part is that this is something that fans can expect to improve as he continues his recovery process.