There is no knowing for at least another few months if the union between DeMarcus Cousins and the Warriors will be peaceful and prosperous. They reached the top of the NBA without him and he’s in the midst of rehabbing a potentially career-altering injury.
Still, there is no reason to believe the Warriors will have been better off if instead of signing Cousins they had added a healthy Dwight Howard.
There is no reason to doubt Howard’s assertion, as reported by NBC Sports Washington, that when he became a free agent the Warriors reached out to him. They have previously been interested in Howard, are hyper-aggressive browsers, and truly believe in the concept of exploring all options.
The Warriors were shopping the market for an affordable veteran big man, and Howard fits that description. So does Kyle O’Quinn, who eventually landed in Indiana. The question with Cousins was whether he was “affordable.”
If all three players were willing to come to the Warriors for a contract with $5.3 million, the team would have ranked them in this order: Cousins, O’Quinn, Howard.
It’s not that they wouldn’t have gotten serious about Howard. It’s that it’s inconceivable they would have followed through with a signing.
The Warriors had no idea Cousins would be in their price range until he reached out to Warriors president/general manager Bob Myers on the morning of July 2. Once he did, Myers immediately conducted a poll.
The GM contacted the team’s most influential players and received unanimous approval. They all embraced the notion of Cousins as a Warrior. They’ve admired his work from afar, and despite some contentious moments have spoken in glowing terms of his skills.
Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson got to know Cousins better during their time as member of Team USA in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Green and Cousins were dominoes teammates during down time.
Howard was not a member of Team USA. His last appearance representing the country came 10 years ago, during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Moreover, I have no memory of the Warriors expressing admiration of Howard’s game. If anything, there seems to be an unspoken curiosity about his inner drive and basketball IQ. Any poll of Warriors regarding acquiring Howard would not have met with consensus approval and more likely would have been summarily rejected.
Howard’s NBA career peaked in Orlando, where he was an incredible athlete and probably the league’s best rebounder. It’s also where it became apparent, during the 2011-12 season, that he was willing to undermine coach Stan Van Gundy.
Both Howard (traded) and Van Gundy (fired) were gone after that season. Neither has fully recovered. Howard went to the Lakers, where his lack of intensity disgusted Kobe Bryant. Howard then went to Houston, where he spent three years exasperating James Harden and two different head coaches.
Upon becoming a free agent in 2016, Howard signed a three-year $70 million deal with the Hawks. He was going home to Atlanta, where he grew up. He lasted one year before being shipped to Charlotte last summer in what amounts to a salary dump. The Hornets traded him to Brooklyn, where he was bought out and waived.
And now he’s a member of the Washington Wizards, conceivably the most underachieving bunch in the NBA
In Howard’s mind, he chose the Wizards over the Warriors. In reality, the Warriors never were going to choose him.
The Warriors did what they always do when contemplating roster changes. They create a board listing players, by position -- but also noting other factors -- and then work their way through the list. Howard would have been on the list.
But they wound up with Cousins, whose future may be cloudy, but a choice they’d make 100 times out of 100.