March was the first month people started openly wondering if the Golden State Warriors were going to have enough to win the 2017-2018 championship.
After winning their first three games to start the month, the champs would stumble, losing seven out of their next eleven games before April started.
The slide started after greatest point guard alive — Stephen Curry, the anointed Emperor of Splash — was waylaid by painful ankle and knee injuries. The Warriors began to sputter as a rash of injuries suddenly penetrated the rest of the Golden Empire, rendering them newly vulnerable to attack from the league’s assortment of rabid riff-raff.
When word spread that “Chef Curry” wouldn’t be back until MAYBE the second round of the playoffs, a shadow of fear began to creep across the Bay. With the departure of combo guard Ian Clark to New Orleans and the advancing age of veteran guard Shaun Livingston, who could head coach Steve Kerr trust to log heavy minutes in Curry’s stead? In an NBA era defined by historically dominant point guards (just not as dominant as Curry), the Warriors would need a man to step up and maintain the “Chef’s” position.
On March 17th, 2018, that man’s identity was revealed in a 28-point, 4 rebound, 4 assist performance on the road on the second night of a back-to-back in Phoenix. This fellow finished his hot evening with 11-of-17 shots made from the field, 5-of-7 from three-point distance.
In hindsight, perhaps it was all too obvious that the man to substitute for the Chef would be a Cook.
Quinn Cook, to be precise.
Would you believe that this man had been cut by three other NBA teams, before bouncing between the G-League and the Warriors’ roster throughout the season? Cook went from the fringes of the league to the feel-good story of a World Champion’s title run. And what makes this story even better is that he’s not taking any of that for granted — Cook can still be found grinding this summer during workouts in Las Vegas even when he probably doesn’t have to.
Quinn Cook has made the most out of every opportunity he has been given in the NBA and isn’t stopping now.
The 24-year-old, former Duke standout found himself with the Warriors on a two-way contract to start the season, meaning the Warriors could periodically pull him to the big leagues in between stints in the G-League’s proving grounds. He excelled, even being selected as an All-Star in the developmental league.
Per the SF Chronicle: “In 29 games with the Warriors’ G League affiliate in Santa Cruz, Cook averaged a team-high 25.3 points on 52.4 percent shooting from the field, 43.7 percent from three-point range and 95 percent from the foul line to become the first player in the 17-year history of the G League (formerly the Development League) to join the 50-40-90 club.”
When Curry’s body broke down during the stretch run of the regular season, Cook was given an opportunity to get heavy minutes. In 16 games as a starter post-All Star break, Cook averaged 15.8 points on 50% shooting from the field (47% from beyond the arc). He nearly had a 4:1 assist/turnover ratio and played over 34 minutes per game.
Cook’s aforementioned scintillating performance against the Suns’ scrubs was on the second straight night of back-to-back games in which he played 40 minutes. The game prior against the Kings, he went off and scoring 25 points on 13 shots. Following the Suns game, the young assassin scored 20 against the Spurs, giving him three straight games of at least 20 points scored.
Cook’s shotmaking was giving the Warriors the spacing they sorely missed without Curry, much to the delight of a relieved Dub Nation. He moved with the smooth polish of a man with a fancy Duke basketball pedigree. He didn’t let his relatively short 6’2 stature prevent him from sticking his nose into the fray defensively either. His blood-thirsty flair for drilling deep bombs at a high clip quickly turned him into a fan favorite.
As the Warriors battened down the hatches to go into to the postseason, there was a question of whether not they would keep the upstart young guard on the playoff roster, as Mark Medina of the San Jose Mercury News.
“I sit here and watch and wonder how is Quinn Cook a two-way player?” Green asked rhetorically. “Then you got guys in the league that can’t dribble with their left hand, can’t go left or can’t go right. Then you have guys like that [with Cook] as a two-way player. I’m happy for him and happy he’s ready to show the world. I’m happy that he gets rewarded and gets what he deserves.”
That begged the obvious follow-up question: has Cook proved worthy of being on the Warriors’ playoff roster?
“I think he is,” Green said. “To have a guy like that, Quinn is a change-of-pace guy. He’s a guy that will pick up 94 feet. All that stuff makes a difference. I think he’s definitely forcing a hand. It’s great what he’s doing. All you can do is put yourself in a position for someone to make a decision. If you can give yourself that shot, you live with the result.”
Green was announcing what Dub Nation was learning: Cook deserved a shot in this league.
The Warriors signed Cook to a multi-year deal on the eve of the playoffs, rewarding the youngster for his potential and grit. His role diminished in the playoffs as head Coach Kerr leaned on his veterans and Curry returned, healed from cryogenic freeze. The Warriors overcame the adversity and won the West. Then, they personally hand delivered a broom made of dynamite to Cleveland and crushed their rival for a third time in four straight Finals.
Cook may very have been the most awestruck Warrior during their immediate celebration in the aftermath of what was probably LeBron James’ last L in a Cavs uniform.
Cook sat in a champagne sprayed locker room, unable to hold back the emotional downpour from his journey. He had endured swallowing his pride after being cut by non-contending franchises like New Orleans, Dallas, and Atlanta. He had grinded through the competition of the developmental league. He was called to temporarily fill in the shoes of a living legend at his point guard position, under the rumbling pressure of dynasty being born.
And he got the job done. All hail, the young prince, Quinn Cook.
How would you grade Quinn Cook’s 2017-18 NBA season?
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