I’ve said to fellow basketball fans that nothing in this season matters until Boogie Cousins comes back from his injury. Everything before that time is just warmups, a long uninspiring lay-up drill.
The Extended Preseason
To me the Warriors’ goals for the first half of the year were 1) to make sure none of the core got injured, and 2) develop the young guys, especially the trio of bigs: Damian Jones, Kevon Looney, and Jordan Bell.
Well, re: the former, both Stephen Curry and Draymond Green got hurt and were out for stretches but now they’re back. Steph has returned to being his normal otherworldly self and Draymond is slowly but surely getting there. If we take a hint from last season, with more injuries and greater wear and tear on his body, he’ll likely pace a little more and turn it on in the playoffs.
In terms of the bigs, Jones got some run then got hurt again. I for one liked what he was showing despite all of his flaws. Local Bay Area press seemed pretty down on him, but I thought he was showing signs.
Looney is one of my favorite Warriors right now. He’s just so damn solid and dependable. Plus, every now and then he’ll surprise you with a jumper.
Bell. He’s out of the rotation and doesn’t look to be as high-flying as he was last year pre-ankle injuries. He’ll probably crack the rotation at some point because someone will get hurt, or Boogie will need rest, or there will be a favorable matchup, but at least we know what we have in him. (Hopefully it’s not another Patrick McCaw RFA situation brewing.)
For the other bench guys, Alfonso McKinnie was a nice find. He’s limited but he’s good at what he does (rebounding, hitting occasional 3s, bringing energy) and can still get better. And Jacob Evans III should probably get way more time in the G-League over the regular season’s final 30+ games.
And, yes, McCaw is now in Toronto learning how to be even more confounding from the expert, Kawhi Leonard.
The Regular Regular Season
The above is all fine and dandy.
However, now that Boogie is back and showing he can contribute, the rest of the league should take notice. The Warriors are in first place, and while I don’t imagine an historic run coming up to close the season, I do expect them to round into a uniquely dominating form just in time for the playoffs.
Cousins all of the sudden gives the Warriors depth and a potential second unit that will always have two All-Stars on it — at least. If he remains healthy, a center depth chart of Cousins, Looney, Green, Jonas Jerebko, and (if needed) Bell, can get through most if not all NBA frontcourts.
I’d been bored by the first part of the season because it felt like old hat. Other teams bring their best shot, the Warriors may or may not respond, and the beat writers look for something to write about. Everyone looked bored.
But now I’m 100% all in. I don’t care what Bill Simmons thinks, if Boogie is close to approximating his old self, this Warriors starting five would be the greatest of all-time. (On an episode of The Ringer podcast last fall, Simmons claimed the 1986 Celtics starting lineup was the better.)
Two former MVPs, all multiple-time All-Stars, all Team USA members, a DPOY, the most transformative player of this generation, one of the greatest pure scorers in league history, the greatest shooter ever, and possibly the second greatest shooter ever.
AND they’re all in their peak prime years.
This is where the intrigue starts for me because this is a once in a lifetime lineup that is guaranteed to be temporary. We already know (barring something catastrophic in his comeback) that Boogie is a half season rental, KD and Klay are hitting free agency, and Draymond has been grumbling about what he wants in his next contract.
I’ll be starting to watch games very closely again as things are just starting to get interesting. And I refuse to take this moment for granted.
The NBA season started late this year, and I’ve missed it so very much.