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What DeMarcus Cousins Must Do to Prove He's Worth 4-Year, $62 Million Contract

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What DeMarcus Cousins Must Do to Prove He's Worth 4-Year, $62 Million Contract

DeMarcus Cousins is set to become a very rich man. Now it's time for him to play and act like a man.

According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Sacramento Kings and Cousins have reached an agreement on a four-year, $62 million extension. It's the same deal Sactown initially resisted giving its embattled big man:

Cousins' deal will include no early termination option, which could've been possible after the third year of the deal, a source said.

After resisting the idea of giving Cousins a max deal without conditions in the contract, the Kings finally relented and gave the talented, but temperamental young center the offer he and his agents, Dan Fegan and Jarrin Akana, had sought in negotiations.

Cousins now joins John Wall and Paul George as the third member of the 2010 draft class to receive a max-contract extension. He also joins their being-paid-like-a-superstar party. But where their contracts were considered no-brainers, the Kings "resisted the idea" of paying Boogie the money he wanted.

Is that because Wall and George are just plain better than Cousins? It's tough to say at this point. Wall and George could be worth every penny of the $80 million to $90 million each of them will receive. Or they could turn out to be impulsive investments that don't pay off.

Players at this stage of their careers are typically rewarded for what they can do more than they've done. The dollar signs are supposed to be proportionate to their potential; their salary increase speaks volumes about what teams believe will come next.

In this case, the Kings' hesitation speaks louder than the money. Their doubtfulness in the matter incites questions as to whether Cousins was retained more for his value or because the Kings felt they had no choice.

Max contract now in hand, it's on Boogie to erase the doubt sparked by the latter.

 

Defend His Paychecks

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Cousins isn't a good defender, or even close to one. Watching him, however, you get the sense that his shortcomings have more to do with (a lack of) effort and interest than anything else.

Last season, he led all all centers with 1.4 steals per game. Though swipes are often meaningless when gauging a player's defensive value—see Monta Ellis' 2.1—they're a great barometer for measuring the impact of big men.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Steals are great, but DMC must do more.

Centers aren't supposed to grab steals. Only six forced one or more per game last season—Marc Gasol (one), Andre Drummond (one), Dwight Howard (1.1), Al Horford (1.1), Joakim Noah (1.2) and Cousins.

When you spend as much time defending players with their backs to the baskets and providing help defense off split-second switches, that's understandable. And it makes Boogie's 1.4 even more impressive.

Steals, however, are only a mark of his ceiling, of his ability to defend in general. In almost every other category last year, Cousins was below average to horrible.

Opposing centers posted a 19.4 PER against Cousins, according to 82games.com, noticeably above the league average of 15 and slightly negating the 20.2 he himself tallied.

In fact, of the 10 players who logged a majority of their minutes at the 5 and rattled off a PER of at least 20 last season, Cousins' 19.4 ranks second-to-last in PER allowed:

Via infogr.am.

It's like a double-edged sword with him. He can put up a PER above 20, something few others at his position were able to do. Then he allows his opponents to post one above 19. He forces 1.4 steals but complements that with an insignificant 0.7 blocks per game.

Rocky Widner/Getty Images
Boogie must get better defensively.

Consider that the Kings were also worse on the defensive end with him in the game; they allowed fewer points per 100 possessions with him off the floor.

Sacramento ranked 29th in defensive efficiency last year as it was. That Cousins couldn't make the Kings better, let alone put them at a disadvantage, doesn't say much for his defensive engagement.

The potential is there. Those quick hands can't be ignored. But the Kings aren't paying him $62 million to be great in one area and neglect the rest. They're paying him to be a well-rounded product, to block shots and prevent baskets in addition to grabbing steals.

They're paying him to be better than he has been thus far.

 

Trust His Teammates Offensively

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Scoring isn't a problem for Cousins.

He's not as efficient as your average big man, but he also takes more outside shots than most. This isn't Howard or Omer Asik we're talking about. Boogie has range, and he relies on it heavily, as he should.

What he doesn't rely on enough is his teammates.

Fewer than half of his made baskets came off assists last season, according to Hoopdata.com. To answer your question, yes, that's low. Insanely low. The league average for all eligible players was 60.6 percent, and the average for centers was 63.8.

Self-sufficient big men are a hot commodity, believe me. It pains me to watch Howard try to score on his own when he can't. And if I had a dollar for every time I wished Tyson Chandler scored outside pick-and-rolls, alley-oops and putbacks, I'd have enough cash to hit Vegas with Floyd Mayweather.

While Cousins' self-sustaining approach can be advantageous, this is only true if he balances it out with the rest of his game.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Almost 40 percent of his offensive possessions came in the forms of post-ups and isolations last season, per Synergy Sports (subscription required). Pick-and-rolls, meanwhile, accounted for under 15 percent.

Really, it should be the other way around. Pick-and-roll-heavy bigs are the standard. Post-ups and isolations slow offenses down. We already know the Kings won't be garnering any defensive praise, so stalling the offense more than they should isn't going to help win games.

That doesn't mean Cousins should become a completely dependent scorer. The ability to create for himself is a good thing. He does need to play within the flow of his team's offense better, though.

Embracing pick-and-rolls would be a good place to start. They allow him to work with his teammates, not outside of them. Fewer long twos should be attempted too. He jacked up four shots between 16 and 23 feet per game last season and connected on just 32 percent of them, per Hoopdata..

This is one of his notorious isolation sets:

He catches the ball outside the three-point line, which is fine. Unlike other towers, he can dribble. Isaiah Thomas is even right there to run some pick-and-roll action.

Instead of putting the ball on the floor and attacking the rim or calling for a screen, Cousins takes one dribble and fires:

And he misses.

The same thing happens here:

Boogie must get to the point where he's calling for pick-and-rolls instead of settling for outside jumpers. At the very least, he should attack the rim more often in isolation.

Imagine how much higher his 46.5 percent clip would have been if he took higher-percentage shots. Or how much better Sacramento's offense could be if he became more adamant about running pick-and-rolls.

Now stop imagining, because if Cousins is to live up to his contract, these musings must become a reality.

 

Step Up as a Leader

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

The time has come for Cousins to make like Channing Tatum and Step Up.

No, I don't want to see Boogie, well, boogie. I want to see him emerge as the leader he hasn't had since entering the league—the same one the Kings need him to be.

On more than one occasion I've argued that Cousins isn't completely at fault for the drama he's found himself immersed in. Playing without the guidance of a seasoned veteran isn't easy for a young stud. Playing for a team owned by the Maloofs made things even worse.

To that end, Cousins hasn't received a fair shake. Sacramento was asking too much of him too soon and failed to put the right pieces in place to give him a fighting chance at meeting expectations. But that doesn't allow us or him to dismiss the countless technicals, unruly ejections and sporadic suspensions.

Some are quick to point out that Cousins is only 23. While that's young, he's still a man. And it's time he acted more like one.

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Temper tantrums need to be eradicated entirely. He can't be suspended indefinitely for "unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team." He is the team. Short of the NBA instituting a new policy where players receive suspensions for helping old ladies and Kobe Bryant cross the street, he shouldn't be suspended at all.

Shaquille O'Neal is in the house to help Cousins grow as a player and person, and the Kings are paying him like the cornerstone he hasn't been but is supposed to be. For the first time in his career, he has both a mentor and plays for a team that openly values him.

All excuses are null and void now. It's time for Cousins to step up as a leader. To grow up as a player. To man up as a person.

Or shut up altogether.

 

 

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