The Lakers continue to do their best to recover in free agency after the late breaking news that Kawhi Leonard is Clippers-bound. After coming to terms with Danny Green and re-signing JaVale McGee, the Lakers pivoted to point guard by going up the PCH to grab a Golden State backup:
Cook has had a windy road to becoming an established NBA player. He’s played for 3 teams, was waived twice, and spent time in the G-League before earning a role with the Warriors. Cook has shown mettle as a backup to Steph Curry and has been thrown into the mix as a starter (at times) when Steph was injured.
Like the Lakers previous signings, one of Cook’s better qualities is his ability to knock down the long ball. Cook’s a career 41.8% 3-point shooter and has hit that number on a good volume the last two seasons in Golden State. His ability to space the floor and work as a spot up option — just as Danny Green — will serve this offense well, especially in P&R actions that involve LeBron and/or Anthony Davis.
What I also like about Cook is his confidence and experience in the big moment. Cook will not shy away from taking big shots and his role on the past two Warriors teams have led him to playing in some of the highest stakes games there are. I cannot stress this enough, the Lakers are hoping to make long playoff runs and players who have been in these moments and understand the atmosphere and pressure that comes with them have a leg up in my eyes.
Where Cook will struggle is defensively. He’s listed as 6’2″, but that’s generous. He’s also not the thickest of players, so he can be bullied on that end of the floor and will have trouble keeping up with physical guards in isolation and in getting over screens. The Lakers will need to compensate for this by having sound defense around him — especially if he’s going to be a heavy rotation player (we cannot know this yet until we see the remaining signings). As it stands, you just have to hope that Cook’s smarts and commitment on that end (which he has — he will play hard defensively and does try) can help overcome some of his individual weaknesses when put against the backdrop of the team’s scheme.
Ultimately, though, I’ll take the tradeoff of Cook’s defensive shortcomings for what his skill set is offensively. Cook’s shooting and ability to be a lead ball handler while doing his best work as an off-ball scorer is something that fits really well playing off James and Davis. Cook is familiar with this type of role already (playing with all those star players in Oakland), so I think the transition will be easier for him than it might be for other point guards.
In the end, then, I really like this signing. Beyond the skill set stuff, I again like that this is a 2-year contract at reasonable money. The Lakers are clearly looking at the summer of 2021 as another summer where they might dip their toes into the free agent market, so Cook’s deal slots appropriately there, too.