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 is already among the NBA’s best, however, can be a bigger challenge. Of course, the best offense is a good defense and when Golden State secures a block or steal, their historically talented scorers are off to the races.
No team has scored more points per possession when in transition than the Warriors have so far this season. And, if Cousins is closer to 100 percent healthy in the postseason, their fastbreaks should only get tougher to stop. After all, he’s been terrific when going coast-to-coast this year.
Khadrice Rollins wrote about this exact phenomenon when the four-time All-Star made his debut for Golden State 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, it is exciting to watch because it is so different from the usual way the Warriors typically 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.
That mark ranks in the 93rd percentile among all players this season, according to Synergy Sports. 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, 4.5 percent of his total scoring possessions have come from when he is the ballhandler in transition. New Orleans also unleashed Cousins as an option going coast-to-coast last year but prior to that, that rate had never eclipsed 3.7 percent in a season.
The increased frequency shows how much Golden State has trusted him these situations, and he’s rewarded them by producing at a phenomenal rate when taking the ball coast-to-coast.
As a one-man fast break, he is at his most electrifying, looking like an angry bull driving with extreme force to the basket.
With that said, Cousins has done more than just connect on layups when taking the ball the length of the court. He has been able to draw contact and fouls on these possessions 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 drastically better than his previous best on this play type too. And these moments have been highlighted by some particularly crafty dimes.
Overall, the Warriors have averaged 21.0 points per game on fastbreak plays since Cousins returned. That now ranks ahead of the Sacramento Kings (19.5) and 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 fastbreaks before that date.
Cousins, alone, has scored 1.8 points per game from fastbreaks, which ranks No. 5 overall among centers, per NBA.com. Perhaps the wildest part? This is something fans can expect to improve as he continues his recovery process.