The Sacramento Kings have been searching for a franchise player since Chris Webber was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2005. DeMarcus Cousins has more than enough talent to become that franchise player, but still has a few things he needs to work on before becoming the cornerstone player the Kings need.
Before breaking down Cousins’ game, the most glaring need for the diminutive center is to adjust his attitude. Cousins has routinely clashed with management, coaches and teammates.
In 2012, just before Christmas, Cousins got into an argument at halftime of a game with his head coach, Keith Smart. The Kings decided to suspend Cousins immediately after the game. To his credit, Cousins admitted his wrong doing.
'What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. But I was wrong. I was wrong,' said Cousins, who scored nine points in 20 minutes. 'I'm a player that definitely wants to win every night, and I'm an emotional player. That's never going to change. But I shouldn't have responded back. Something was said, and I just should have stayed quiet. Is it a humbling thing? Yeah, I will say that. I mean, I messed up and I apologize to my teammates for responding the way I did and I'll move on from it.'
Cousins’ fiery attitude and immature actions were also on display the previous month in a November game against the San Antonio Spurs. The league suspended Cousins for confronting Spurs announcer Sean Elliot in a “hostile manner.”
Cousins talent is undeniable, which is why the new Kings’ ownership rewarded him with a four-year maximum contract extension in September. However, the attitude and potential must align with his production on the court if the Kings are ever going to climb out of the doldrums of the Western Conference.
DeMarcus Cousins is an absolute monster on the block. His size, athleticism and ability to score on the block are elite. Not many players in the league can guard Cousins one-on-one down low. Even fewer have his talent to score through contact.
However, much like his attitude, his offensive game drives you crazy at times. For as well as he can score in the paint, Cousins shoots far too many mid-range jumpers.
According to hoopdata, Cousins attempted 8.3 shots per game from zero-to-nine feet. Meanwhile, Cousins attempted 4.9 shots from 10-to-23 feet.
While Cousins has good form on his shot and a lot of potential to develop his jumper, he is clearly better off scoring around the rim. The Kentucky product recorded a career-high 46.5 field-goal percentage last season. This is largely due to him shooting a stellar 64.3 percent at the rim.
As can be seen in the shot chart graphic from NBA.com/Stats, Cousins attempted far too many mid-range jumpers. While he shot above league average—dark blue—from the left wing, Cousins was below average in the rest of the targeted areas.
Additionally, Cousins attempted 21.1 percent of his shots from those below average mid-range areas. Cousins can easily improve his scoring output and efficiency by redistributing a portion of those shots into the paint.
For all of his athletic gifts, Cousins is a relatively weak defender. His length, size and athleticism should allow him to become a solid defensive center.
Unfortunately, the Kings were two points better per 100 possessions with Cousins off the floor, according to 82games. Furthermore, Cousins gave up a PER of 19.4 to opposing centers, nearly eliminating his offensive contribution, resulting in a net positive-1.3 PER.
For example, watch how Cousins defends his man on both plays in this clip.
The first play, Cousins allows his man to gain solid position on the block. Cousins does not try to push his man off the block, but simply allows him to catch the entry pass without any pressure.
Next, Cousins does not establish a wide base or breakdown into a defensive stance. His feet are narrow, his hands are at his side and his defender beats him to his spot. To complicate things even more, Cousins commits a silly foul as his man attempts a shot.
The second play of the clip, Cousins does break down and pressure the ball at the elbow. Unfortunately, he gets too far into his man and is not ready to play him off the dribble. This time, Cousins avoids a reaching foul, but allows his man to blow right past him and forces the defense to break down and collapse.
The final clip is one of pure non-effort. Cousins gets back in transition and he is put into a pick-and-roll set. Cousins does the right thing by trying to hedge and cut off Ricky Rubio, but he does so lackadaisically.
His hedge is lazy, he is out of his defensive stance and he overcommits, allowing Rubio to come off the pick without any discomfort. As a result, Cousins is left at half court, the defense collapses and Minnesota scores easily, six seconds into the shot clock.
Overall, Cousins is on the verge of stardom, but he can quickly go either way. Adjusting his attitude and buying into his head coach would go a long way towards correcting some of his problems, and alleviating some of the Kings’ fears about him.
Offensively, his shot selection needs to improve. This will not only make him more difficult to defend, but will make it easier for his teammates to score around him.
Defensively, Cousins needs to put in more effort. He is capable of being a solid defender, but his effort level needs to match his talent level on that end.
Make no mistake, Cousins is one of the best young bigs in the entire league. However, his natural talent when paired with consistent effort could propel him into stardom. Cousins needs to adjust his attitude and buy into whatever system his coach plans to install.
When he finally combines his talents, effort and mental approach he will officially become the star player the Sacramento Kings have been searching for.