Daequan Cook, the 3-point specialist who was a member of the Thunder for 2 full seasons and was part of the pre-season megatrade that sent James Harden to the Houston Rockets, appears to be on the move again. The Rockets elected to waive Cook, and now the Chicago Bulls are looking to pick Cook off of waivers.
Cook's time in Oklahoma City was an uneven affair. When he was given the playing time he needed, Cook filled an integral role for the Thunder's championship pursuits. When he was set to the side and his game forgotten, all he could offer was a token 3-pointer during garbage time. Since Bulls fans are now wondering who they're getting, one of the loyal readers at Blog-a-Bull reached out to me and asked what I thought about the pending acquisition. Here is 'piccolomair's' general question:
The Bulls recently signed him (its still 'unofficial' but its been considered pretty much done by all Chicago based journalists). I've always liked the idea of Cook, but more or less due to what i knew about him through NBA2K, the 3pt contest, and some of his short stints on national tv.
I was hoping maybe you could give me a short scouting report on him since he played for your team (like actually played) he didn't play much at all for Houston, and when he did i guess he wasn't too good.
My perception of him is that he is obviously a good long range shooter, is athletic, and according to NBA2K is a solid defender. If you could provide context and a more concise description of his game (strengths and weaknesses, as well as overall thoughts about his personalities) it would be much appreciated.
Cook is accurately described as a 'specialist.' His specialty is the 3-point shot, and since the league is moving ever toward more reliance on it, teams must properly equip themselves with specialists to stretch the opposing defenses. However, the label 'specialist' invokes a specific function. If that function is utilized, then the tool is useful. If the function is bypassed, then the tool stays on the shelf. As a matter of anology, take, for example, the Dremel Tool. This specialized tool, according to the ever-knowledgeable experts on Youtube, "Can be used for cutting, grinding, sanding, buffing and shaping materials such as wood, laminate, ceramic and metal." Specialized. Outstanding. In fact my dad gave me one 10 years ago and I still have no idea what to do with it.
Cook's numbers are about what you would expect from a guy who is only getting 10-15 minutes per game. He is good but not great from 3-point range, better than average defensively, and strong enough to grab his fair share of rebounds. These numbers will likely never depart from him for the rest of his career. That is, of course, unless a team finds use for this specialized tool.
We thought that Cook had finally found his niche during last year's Thunder playoff run. Kevin Durant was learning how to do his best LeBron James impersonation and find open shooters on the opposite side of the court. Harden had developed good chemistry with Cook. Cook was given a green light to shoot whenever open, no small concession given the presence of Durant, Westbrook and Harden on the team. A contending team was rounding into place. As we learned, every team, be it the Heat (Shane Battier), Celtics (Ray Allen), or Spurs (take your pick), needed a consistent 3-point shooter to keep defenses from sagging on the teams' main cogs.
And then Derek Fisher showed up.
We don't need to rehash that ordeal (you can find my analysis of Fisher's effect on Cook here); suffice to say that if you look at Cook's performance last year, his season is bifurcated between before and after Fisher joined the team. When Cook got his minutes and his shots, he was an effective specialist. When Fisher took his minutes, Cook was useless. A sad thing it was too, because when the Thunder met the Heat in the Finals, they surely could have used a 3-point specialist to try and offset Battier's sharpshooting.
How will Cook do in Chicago? I believe it comes down to how they decide to deploy his services. One of the key facets in today's offenses that feature 3-point specialists is the team's ability to either swing the ball quickly around the perimeter and/or rotate the ball out of the post to the weak side. The Heat and the Spurs are the best at this, because they also happen to be two of the best passing teams in the league who have, in LeBron and Tim Duncan, superb passers out of the post. The presence of this kind of player is absolutely crucial to getting the most out of 3-point specialists. Not surprisingly, Durant's post-game emergence has paid big dividends in OKC as well, and as a result, OKC leads the league in 3-point shooting. Since Houston does not deploy this kind of offense but instead predominantly uses a lot of guard-oriented pick-and-rolls to free up Harden and Jeremy Lin, Cook's services were not apparent or beneficial.
I think the question for Chicago really comes down to their post-game, not their perimeter game. Are Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson doing enough on the interior to create pockets of space for weak-side shooters to set up? Will their offense look to establish a player like Cook so that he can get those open looks? Can those big men make those kinds of passes?
Cook is a shooting specialist. Use him for his intended purpose. Otherwise, he's going to disappear back into the recesses of the tool box and you'll wonder what was so special about him anyway.