When 25-year-old guard Quinn Cook was waived by the Atlanta Hawks without making an appearance in October last year, his sputtering NBA career looked like it had finally reached its conclusion.
He had already bounced in and out of Cleveland, Dallas and New Orleans, so it wasn’t like he hadn’t had a fair shake in the big leagues. However, just when things seemed done and dusted, the reigning champion Golden State Warriors came calling.
After he signed a two-way contract, Cook spent a good chunk of the season in the G-League playing for the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State’s affiliate team. During his 29 games in Santa Cruz, Cook was clearly far too good for the the NBA’s little brother league. He averaged 25.3 points on a scorching 52.7 percent shooting from the field and 43.9 percent from behind the 3-point arc. His 4.6 rebounds and 8.1 assists per night rounded out Cook’s impressive box-score-stuffing.
The former Duke Blue Devil’s patience and great form was finally rewarded, albeit in an unfortunate way for his team. When Stephen Curry strained his MCL – leaving him sidelined and the league without its best shooter – Quinn Cook was the next man up. To keep elite back-up point guard Shaun Livingston in his preferred role, he was slotted straight into Curry’s starting gig.
When speaking with Ryan Lindsay of The Athletic, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was quick to heap praise on his new starter.
“He stays ready,” Kerr said. “When we call on him, he performs. When we don’t call on him, he supports his teammates — perfect guy to have in that role.”
When that call-up came, perform he did. Cook dropped 14.8 points and 4 assists per game in the Chef’s absence, all while maintaining the red-hot shooting stroke he showed in Santa Cruz. He hit 49.5 percent of his field goals and 45.2 percent of his triples, the latter ranking 13th in the league over the 18 game stretch.
The 6-foot-2 guard was already a budding sniper from deep, but with players like Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson demanding extra attention, Cook was in shooter’s paradise. He was able to drift around the arc and find pockets of space to spot up in, with such talented players combined with Kerr’s elite offensive system, it was easy pickings for the former G-Leaguer.
It wasn’t just spacing the floor to provide lanes for Golden State’s stars to operate in, Quinn Cook was a devastatingly effective offensive player around the board. According to Synergy Sports Tech, he graded out in the 84th percentile or higher in spot up, pick-and-roll (ball handler) and coming off screens, he also was respectably placed in the 64th percentile when working in transition.
Despite being undersized and below the NBA average athletically, Cook also excels in coach Kerr’s defensive schemes. He held his opponents to just 38.7 percent shooting and 0.81 points per possession, insane numbers that rank him above elite guard defenders like Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons and Marcus Smart.
After the two-time MVP Curry returned to the line-up for the Warriors championship winning playoff run, Quinn Cook’s role was diminished. He averaged just 10 minutes per game in the post-season, however the fact he featured in 17 of Golden State’s 21 games is a testament to how far he has come since his career hit a crossroads last October.
More meaningful affirmation of Cook’s future in the Warriors’ plans came in the summer of 2018, when Cook agreed to re-join the team who revived his career on a 2-year, league minimum deal.
While Curry and Livingston still sit ahead of him on the depth chart, his ability to stretch the floor and provide solid defense is an extremely valuable back-up plan. In fact, don’t be surprised if you see he and Livingston sharing minutes this season, Cook is just that effective he needs to be out there at times.
“I try to help this team be as successful as possible,” Cook told The Athletic, “whether it’s guarding Steph in practice or playing some big time minutes out there — whatever the team needs me to do, I’m willing to do it and that’s what I hang my hat on.”
If last year’s end-of-season-run was anything to go by, Quinn Cook might just be one the best reserve point guards the league has to offer in 2018-19, with a championship ring on his finger to boot. Not bad for a man who couldn’t even stick on an NBA roster under a year ago.