Have you taken a look at the Golden State Warriors’ depth chart lately? The rotation behind the greatest point guard alive, Stephen Curry, is a clear work in progress.
Curry’s injury history and the grind of the season puts a particular weight on his backup’s shoulders. In order for the Warriors to remain operational when “Unanimous” is off of the court, the reserve guard has to be able to approximate Curry’s role in protecting the ball and spacing the floor.
Over the last two seasons the Warriors put that responsibility on Quinn Cook’s shoulders. The former Duke guard fought his way up from the G-League and into the Warriors rotation by proving he could manage those tasks. During the 2019 season, Cook held up the team’s standard for being Curry’s reserve.
The Warriors ain’t the Warriors without the threat of hellfire being rained from beyond the arc. Cook had no problem taking and making deep bombs, shooting 40% (81-for-200) on shots beyond the arc.
The Warriors bench finished next-to-last in three-point attempts per game (8.0), which wasn’t a problem with Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant were on the court hurling daggers. But when those three suffered injuries in the playoffs, defenses began sagging off defenders to clog driving lanes.
During the postseason, Cook’s three-point shooting percentages dipped, as he went 11-for-34 (32%). Yet, there were moments in the fiery crucible of the postseason that Cook took advantage of that space and shot with confidence, keeping Golden State’s long-range capabilities weaponized.
Cook bought time on the floor by proving he wasn’t a turnover machine. His assist-to-turnover ratio was on par with star floor generals like Lou Williams, Victor Oladipo, and Malcolm Brogdon.
He was an eager distributor who sometimes would pass up an open shot in the hopes of a teammate getting a better look. Curry was vehemently encouraging of Cook to open up his offensive game to keep the bench units from stagnating from indecision. When the two-time MVP discussed when Cook was at his best, Curry didn’t mince words:
“Be aggressive. Be a scorer. Be a playmaker. Do what we brought him here for,” Curry said. “He can be proud of himself and what he’s about. I try to encourage that mindset as much as I can. At the end of the day, he’s been playing amazing.”
Mark Medina, Mercury News
Cook’s aggression and confidence proved beneficial in the postseason on this particular play, when he shook the entire city of Portland with this nasty hesitation dribble move.
Quinn Cook hit 'em with the hesi and the bench is loving it pic.twitter.com/atqz6M8M9o— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 19, 2019
Remember when he baffled his teammates and coaches with this fake timeout?
This is wild. As my guy @GrantLiffmann pointed out, Steve Kerr wanted Quinn Cook to dribble down the floor and call timeout. But Cook pulled a “fake spike” and took matters into his own hands (watch the look Curry gives the bench at the end...) pic.twitter.com/Vg4sF4QIwg— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) June 11, 2019
Cook pulled that off with the Warriors on the road, down 3-1, in the Finals! Talk about confidence.
At 6-foot-2, 179 pounds, Cook was at a major size disadvantage when it comes to locking up most NBA players. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr spoke about Cook’s physical limitations being a handicap within the Warriors defensive switching scheme.
Steve Kerr not revealing who will start for Draymond Green, but he's already been outed on Quinn Cook. Here he is on Cook's strengths/defense. pic.twitter.com/K5QCL19z2k— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 6, 2017
When Cook found a matchup he was comfortable with, his competitive spirit rose to the fore. We saw this in the Western Conference Finals when he chased Portland’s small guards around the perimeter.
Quinn Cook pressuring Seth Curry is how he should play defense all the time. Be a pest.— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) May 21, 2019
The Warriors are known for having a tight knit locker room and in recent years Cook was a major contributor to the team’s camaraderie.
His friendship with Kevin Durant appeared instrumental in keeping the mercurial assassin tethered to the team during last year’s stressful regular season. Per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:
Kevin Durant… he just stopped talking. He didn’t talk much to his teammates. He was really on an island and didn’t have somebody that he was close with on that team. The only person was Quinn Cook — they’re from the same area.
Cook led the bench mob in celebrations as well, more than happy to play cheerleader when his teammates made huge plays. He carried the joy that made the Warriors so much fun to root for.
When them Tax Returns come in and you got a whole lot extra (Quinn Cook Dance) pic.twitter.com/4JfEJJ50q7— Obi-Wan Watson (@ObiWanWatson) February 23, 2019
Unfortunately, as Golden State’s injuries mounted, Cook’s playmaking ability was pushed beyond its limits. He didn’t have the athleticism to consistently navigate through the defense and finish in traffic when the Warriors needed it most in the Finals, and he wasn’t enough of a dead-eye shooter to destroy “gimmick defenses” like the Raptors Box-and-One zone.
The Warriors did not retain Cook’s services in the offseason during the great Post-KD purge. He joins a Los Angeles Lakers team that has eyes on championship contention, but he is still beloved by Dub Nation and his former teammates.
Klay and Quinn Cook show some love for each other on Instagram...— LetsGoWarriors (@LetsGoWarriors) July 7, 2019
Klay: “Gonna miss going to battle with u bro one of the best teammates and highest character guys I ever been around...”
Quinn: “MY BROTHER FOREVER!!!...”
( : https://t.co/Osv68FwG4m) pic.twitter.com/vu3syvNwLv
Now the Warriors look to an assortment of younger, unproven players such as Jacob Evans III and Jordan Poole to fill Cook’s shoes. It’s not easy backing up Curry on a franchise with dynastic expectations, but somebody’s gotta do it. If the new kids can follow Cook’s blueprint and build on it, the Warriors will be in good hands.
How would you grade Cook’s final season with the Warriors?
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