DeMarcus Cousins Should Not Be Scapegoated for the Kings' Woeful Season

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DeMarcus Cousins Should Not Be Scapegoated for the Kings' Woeful Season

Dating back as long as DeMarcus Cousins' name has been in the national lexicon, there has always been two sides of the Sacramento Kings big man: the player and the problem.

The player is one of the most talented on the planet. Gifted with top-shelf strength, a multitude of post moves and a throwback toughness down in the paint, Cousins has enough talent to be the NBA's best big man.

The latest instance of Cousins' potential dominance came last Saturday in a 120-81 loss to the New York Knicks. Despite spending most of his night being guarded by reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, Cousins outscored the Kings' other four starters by seven points himself. He dropped 25 points on New York on 10-of-14 shooting on a night that saw his fellow starters go a combined 7-of-31 from the field.

That's been par for the course for Cousins' season. He's averaging 17.1 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, and somehow his season is largely seen as a massive disappointment. 

The problem, of course, is Cousins' "attitude" and questionable "intangibles." He's largely seen as an aloof giant, someone who could dominate the entire basketball landscape if only he was actually interested in doing so. Cousins has already been suspended this season for "unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team" and was the subject of countless trade rumors in the wake of that incident. 

No one denies that his attitude problems exist. He's a 22-year-old man whose emotions seem unstable at best, to the point where one has to wonder whether he should seek professional treatment.

The most recent outburst came against the Utah Jazz on Monday night, where he was ejected after calling referee Scott Foster a "bleeping female," per the Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones. The offense gave Cousins his 12th technical foul of the season, which leaves him four away from an automatic one-game suspension.

With February's trade deadline looming and the Kings sitting at 17-33 on the season, that latest outburst once again left people wondering if Cousins is more trouble than he's worth.

In short: Not a chance. 

The issue with Cousins' problematic behavior is that it makes him an easy scapegoat for the Kings' problems. If only DeMarcus could "mature," he wouldn't bring the rest of the team down along with him. Perhaps the Kings would be able to compete if Cousins gave consistent effort instead of only "playing when he feels like it."

It's a popular trope bandied about by people too lazy to watch the actual games or take the time to understand the basic fundamentals of NBA team construction. 

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Scapegoating Cousins ignores the fundamental flaw for the Kings: They have easily the most mismatched group of players in the entire NBA. It's as if general manager Geoff Petrie, who is unlikely to return to the team next season, cobbled together a motley crew of talent without first thinking of how they would actually, you know, play basketball together. 

Simply one look at the team's guard situation is all evidence you need. Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas, and Marcus Thornton are all young, talented players who can score the ball from anywhere on the court. They would be welcomed in places like Indiana that need scoring, and Evans could be the most dominant sixth-man in the league if properly used.

The problem is that all three play on the same Kings team. That leads to frustrating shot selection, as evidenced by the fact that exactly zero Sacramento players are making half of their shots this season.

(Yes, that includes Cousins, which is part of the reason pundits calling his season "disappointing" have a point.)

And these are also supposed to be the players responsible for feeding Cousins the ball. I don't subscribe to the notion that point guards must be distributors first and scorers second, but you cannot build a team full of black holes and expect them to avoid falling into the abyss.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Kings' leading assists man, Thomas, is averaging a robust 3.2 dimes per game. That ranks tied for 55th in the NBA, behind Maravichian passers like Nate Robinson, Chandler Parsons and Jerryd Bayless

On a team-wide level, the Kings rank 29th in assists per game and have failed to finish any better than 23rd in Cousins' three seasons. In today's NBA, where variations of the pick-and-roll are run on just about every play, a team cannot subsist without a competent ball-handler or floor-spacing talent on the outside.

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The Kings have no point guard and rank in the bottom 10 in three-point shooting. And yet, somehow, Sacramento's problems always start with Cousins and get to the whole lack of talent thing whenever it's convenient.  

Yes, Cousins is a malcontent who outwardly displays questionable behavior way too often. LeBron James was almost thrown off the United States' Olympic team in 2008 for being an unbearable diva. Players mature in different ways and at different points in their careers.

That's not an excuse for Cousins' behavior, just an anecdotal fact to point out that we could be giving up on the Kings star too soon. He's been in an utter mess of an organization since arriving in the NBA, and is now having to take blame for the Kings' downfall in what could be their final season in Sactown

The famous saying goes "winning cures everything." I bet eradicating Cousins' petulance would be a whole lot easier with some organizational competency. 

 

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