It’s easy to be in awe while watching Stephen Curry, one of the greatest shooters the game has ever seen, lead the Warriors through battle in the NBA Finals. Despite his prowess, there’s no doubt he has plenty of help. Hitting the hardwood alongside all-stars like Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, some may consider it a foregone conclusion that a team like this makes it to The Finals with each passing season.
The Warriors have complemented Curry with a trio of fellow elite players, but that doesn’t make competing without their leader a walk in the park, either. The two-time NBA M.V.P. missed 31 games this past season, his most since the 2011-12 campaign. Because of the way Golden State is constructed, they’ve invested a lot of money in keeping the core intact, and in turn, don’t have as much flexibility to call upon reinforcements when and if they are needed.
When Curry was down for the count, this team needed to get creative and the way it stayed afloat is simply another reason why they are well known as a perennial championship contender.
With a full roster and no means of signing an attractive midseason free agent, Golden State called upon two-way signee Quinn Cook to help fill the backcourt void. The 25 year old appeared in 33 regular season contests, averaging 9.5 points with a 48/42/88 shooting clip. He even pitched in through two playoff series against the Spurs and Pelicans until Curry was at full strength once again.
The unveiling of two-way contracts allowed most developing and/or transitioning squads to roll the dice and take a peek at promising youngsters. Such prospects were relatively raw to the professional game and weren’t unexpected to be depended upon in high pressured moments. Cook was different. He averaged approximately 25 points and 8 assists for the Santa Cruz Warriors while he became accustomed the organization’s philosophies on and off the court. The organization even hired a two-way coach in Luke Loucks (the first of its kind) to monitor and nurture his progress. The 2016 G League Rookie of the Year was truly utilized as an extension of the Warriors roster and when his value to the team’s point guard depth became all the more imperative, he officially became one of the core fifteen in early April when the team signed him a two-year standard NBA contract.
As game one of the NBA Finals went on, the most action Cook saw was jumping up off the bench to high-five Curry during each timeout. He’s been very impressive over the course of three G League seasons as he banged on the NBA’s door and awaited his chance. Proving his worth on the floor for a championship contender, there’s little doubt Cook has demonstrated he belongs in The Association. His shot at earning more minutes may come next season, but for now, he’s showing humility as his teammates fight to win him a championship ring.
As fans watch Curry and Co. inch closer to another title, Cook may very well be an afterthought. But the G League product played quite a role in helping his team reach this point in the first place.