DeMarcus Cousins is unquestionably one of the most talented players in the NBA today. He has Hall of Fame talent, but the onus will rest on his shoulders if he plans on giving a speech one day in Springfield.
One might believe that the previous statement epitomizes the hyperbole in sports. But that’s far from the case.
Cousins has a rare combination of skills. He can either play in the high post, low post or even the perimeter on occasion. He can drive the ball off the bounce, post up defenders and finish at the rim after contact.
In addition, the former Wildcat can pass the ball on the move and thus act as a hub on offense for his team.
He is an exceptionally rare talent.
But his gift must be cultivated. It’s the difference between being Antoine Walker and Chris Webber. Or perhaps even the gap between Chris Webber and a healthy Bill Walton.
More crazy talk right?
Before answering that question, have a look at these four stat lines accumulated by players in their first three seasons in the league:
- Player 1: 19.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.8 BPG, 52.7% FG
- Player 2: 19.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 3.2 APG, 0.7 BPG, 42.2% FG
- Player 3: 16.2 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.9 BPG, 44.5% FG
- Player 4: 14.8 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 4.5 APG, 2.0 BPG, 48.5% FG
One of these players is already in the Hall of Fame, while the other has a case for perhaps making it one day. The other two players are Antoine Walker and DeMarcus Cousins. Can you associate the player with the stat line?
Player 1 is Chris Webber, player 2 is Antoine Walker and the last two respectively are DeMarcus Cousins and Bill Walton.
Talent is obviously about more than just statistical production.
For instance, Webber was a gifted offensive player but often shrunk from big moments. Walker was an erratic shooter that loved — not sure that’s even strong enough a word — putting up treys.
Walton is by far the better player though. He was dominant defensively, understood the limitations of his teammates and consequently played to their strengths. He is one of the best team oriented superstars the league has ever seen.
The former Bruin changed games with his passing, rebounding and defense. At his peak, he might have been the best center ever; a fact that Bob Ryan highlighted in his most recent appearance on the B.S. Report.
This begs the question: where does DeMarcus Cousins fit all of this?
The big man has made that question increasingly difficult to answer. His wide array of skills would have you believe he is a franchise player currently learning his ways in the Association.
But his attitude and temper combined with the Kings’ lack of collective improvement make it difficult to bestow such a label on him.
Cousins drifts out on the perimeter on occasion and takes low percentage shots from out there. In addition, he can force the issue and make poor decisions, which result in turnovers.
This explains why the Sacramento offense is actually more productive without him. Per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool, the Kings are far more efficient with the former Calipari protégé on the bench.
They score 101.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the hardwood, and 103.9 per 100 possessions when he rides the pine.
Defensively, it’s just about the same.
Cousins does a lot of looking around and rotates late fairly routinely, which leads to opponents generating some good looks when he’s on the floor. What’s more, he will reach a lot and commit a lot of perplexing fouls. In 29.9 career minutes per game, the Kings center is getting whistled 3.9 times per game for fouls.
Have a quick look at his plus-minus ratings:
- Kings with Cousins on floor: minus-6.4
- Kings without Cousins on floor: minus-3.3
Put it all together and the Kings are technically better without him. His tantalizing skills on the other hand would have you believe such a phrase is preposterous.
But that’s the reality of it. If that Hall of Fame caliber talent is ever going to manifest itself, one of two things might be required: the big man may need to relocate. A change of scenery, coaching staff and teammates might do the trick. Surrounded by veterans, Cousins might become the terrorizing force that we are all projecting.
Given that the odds of Boogie getting shipped out of town are small, that leaves him with one another option: figuring things out himself. Whether it’s soliciting the help of former greats or changing up the coaching staff, a change in the big man’s mindset is almost mandatory if he is going to morph into an elite player.
Let’s just hope he wants it bad enough.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.
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