Daequan Cook isn’t likely to ever win any awards for his defense.
In fact, it wouldn’t be unfair to label him a liability on that end of the floor.
But one thing that is becoming increasingly clear is that opponents darn sure won’t turn their matchup against Cook into a layup drill.
Cook won’t stand for it. He’s one of the few players on the Thunder who effectively deliver hard fouls to prevent easy scores.
In the first half against Miami on Sunday, Cook wrapped up Dwyane Wade and LeBron James with purpose, preventing them from muscling up high-percentage shots and potentially converting three-point plays. Cook sent them to the foul line and made them earn their points.
To the naked eye, Cook’s 10 first-half points in that game, which included two 3-pointers, were his biggest contribution.
But those two shrewd stops were not small victories. A major factor in the Thunder’s defensive slippage this season can be attributed to allowing to0 many uncontested shots. And that has caused opponents’ field-goal percentages to skyrocket, while also setting off a domino effect that leads to breakdowns in other areas of the Thunder’s defense.
“The one thing that we’ve been slacking on a lot of times is the easy buckets in transition,” Cook said. “So we got to slow that down a little bit. And that’s just always been in me to always foul hard to make sure a guy doesn’t get the shot off.”
Cook’s textbook fouls are rivaled on the Thunder by only Nick Collison and Eric Maynor.
So where did Cook learn to foul?
“I played for Pat Riley,” said Cook, referring to the one-time drill sergeant of a coach whom Cook played for as a rookie during the 2007-08 season. “It wasn’t nothing easy on that team. I played behind Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille O’Neal, guys that are hard foulers. It’s nothing earned easy in this game.”