The long wait is over and DeMarcus Cousins is finally making his debut with the Golden State Warriors. As is the case when players return from Achilles injuries, there are several big questions floating in advance of his return to the court. Is his fully healthy? Will he be the same? How can he fit with the Warriors? On the latest episode of the Open Floor podcast, Andrew Sharp and The Washington Post’s Ben Golliver consider that and much more on the latest episode.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Ben Golliver: This DeMarcus Cousins return is right on the horizon and we're going to need to sift through that probably for the next three or four weeks at least. But their win against the Nuggets did put a lot of pressure on Cousins, didn't it? Could they be looking any better than they have here over the last week? They're putting up 140-plus in back-to-back games, just killing the Pelicans, killing the Nuggets.
To me that game said more about Denver and the state of things and the caution that we were projecting on them. Remember a week or two ago we were saying, 'Look, they've not won a playoff game, we don't need to try to elevate them to this true contender status. They're playing amazing, they're having basically the best version of their season, but we don't need to get carried away, and I think that game against Golden State was the bucket of cold water getting dumped on their head. It was like, 'OK, we're really good, but we're not thatgood.' And I think they've got some fundamental matchup issues with Golden State they're just not going to be able to solve.
I look at that, and I think I was texting you this after the game: Who are the teams you think could push Golden State past four or five games in the NBA? I could make a list of teams that could push it to six games, but it's a very short list. And if they're clicking like they were against that Denver team, 16-0, 16-1, 16-2 going through the playoffs is absolutely possible.
Andrew Sharp: Not only is it a short list, but I think that all of the teams that actually have a shot at pushing them are in the East. Look, Paul George is having a great year. I still don't totally buy him averaging 30 or 35 per game in a playoff series and being able to really push the Warriors. And then beyond the Thunder, everybody else looks weaker than they did a year ago.
Golliver: But still better than the Eastern Conference teams. I think you could make an Eastern Conference dream team, take everybody from the Eastern Conference and they'd still probably lose in six to Golden State.
Sharp: An Eastern Conference dream team? What do you mean?
Golliver: I'll give you Kyrie, Kawhi, Giannis, Embiid and they're still going down in six.
Sharp: That is just a reckless claim. I've resolved to not curse on this podcast anymore, but boy, oh boy, I do not buy that.
Golliver: Chemistry and role definition matters, Andrew.
Sharp: I agree with that, but an East dream team could easily push the Warriors to seven. The Warriors might still win because they're just that ridiculous, but, yeah, I think you haven't given Milwaukee quite enough credit and Giannis has always given them credit.
Golliver: OK, Milwaukee is the best team in the East right now. Playoff Brook Lopez against Golden State, how is that going to go for them?
Sharp: But they've got D.J. Wilson. Talk to Bucks fans, the first guy they want to talk about is D.J. Wilson.
Golliver: Well, they can talk about him after they lose in five games.
Sharp: Here's the deal. To answer the initial question, I think the real reminder is that when Steph Curry is healthy everything works in Golden State and they're completely untouchable—because that's what's changed. If we want to compare where the Warriors are now to where they were a month ago, Steph is healthy and everything is going through him again and they are the best team in the league.
And honestly, you could make a good argument for him as MVP if this continues for the rest of the season, because you're going to be able to look back at Golden State and say, Alright, they were incredible for the first month and then they were incredible for the final four or five months, and the month that they kind of fell off and everybody wondered what was wrong with the Warriors was the month where Steph was out and then kind of struggling to find his way back in. But when Steph is healthy, there's just nothing you can do, and that's the real kind of takeaway from the last 10 games of Warriors blowouts.