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The Injured Warriors Are Lucky to Have Quinn Cook

In the absence of Golden State’s stars, the former Blue Devil has emerged as a reliable backcourt presence

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

March’s most surprising Cinderella has won an NCAA title before. Quinn Cook didn’t upset a 1-seed. But he is an undrafted, 6-foot-2 Warriors reserve, and for the past three years he has been on two G League rosters, signed three 10-day contracts, and been waived four times. Now, Cook is filling in for Steph Curry and spotting up like Klay Thompson.

On Sunday against the Spurs, in Cook’s eighth career start (and 36th career game), the two-way player made his case for a spot on Golden State’s playoff roster. San Antonio won, 89–75, but it’s hard to say that the Warriors failed, since their starting lineup was made up of Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Nick Young, Zaza Pachulia, and Cook. (And since Green ran the jewels to the locker room before the half and remained there for the rest of the game.)

It’s concerning that Golden State’s entire Death Lineup is in an ice bath, but the discovery of Cook’s marksmanship has been a silver lining for the Warriors. His last three performances, against San Antonio, Phoenix, and Sacramento, have all been breakout games™. He finished with a combined 53 points against the Suns and Kings, shooting 70 percent from the field, and was even more accurate from deep, hitting 10 3s on 14 attempts. Those defenses have all the stopping power of a six-year-old brake pad, sure, but what Cook showed was capability with and without the ball, and from the perimeter and the midrange. Plus — my soft spot and the no. 1 sign that a short guard will play above his height — he was willing to crash the boards, and wound up with at least four rebounds each game.

The previously overlooked 24-year-old is getting a chance that only a top-heavy, beat-up team can offer (or one with Gregg Popovich); the same stork delivered an opportunity to Tomas Satoransky when John Wall’s injury made Washington desperate for a backcourt stand-in. When Cook entered the 2015 draft, he had the makings of an NBA starlet — a product of DeMatha High, Oak Hill Academy, and, finally, Duke — but in person, seemed like an undersized, misleading Tinder date among Blue Devil studs Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, and Tyus Jones. (In Cook’s last three games, he’s outrebounded each, had more assists, more steals, more 3-pointers, more field goals, and has outscored all three, combined, by 19 points.)

Cook needed a chance from the Warriors, but they needed him just as much. Curry is targeting a Friday return, but would be coming off his fourth right-ankle sprain since December. Even if the team has a perfectly healthy ringleader, Cook is exactly the bench player the front office has been searching for: No second unit makes fewer 3-pointers than the Warriors, despite signing Nick Young (an inconsistent deep shooter) and Omri Casspi (a deep shooter signed to be a deep shooter who shies away from deep shooting) in the offseason.

Getting Cook onto the 15-player playoff roster would mean waiving one of Casspi, Damian Jones, Kevin Looney, or Patrick McCaw. Cook will be moved back to the bench next game if Curry does return against the Hawks, and he’s earned the right to be there.