Can DeMarcus Cousins Be a Leader of a “Great Team”?

Scott Burns@Follow @ScottInTheBayCorrespondent IIIJanuary 31, 2014

Cousins is growing up, but he still has a way to go.
Cousins is growing up, but he still has a way to go.STEVE YEATER/Associated Press

DeMarcus Cousins is the face and the leader of a struggling Sacramento Kings basketball team.  He is playing at an All-Star level clip, but the team is still flatlining in the Pacific Division standings and nowhere in the vicinity of being a great team.

Through January 30, Cousins has put up a relatively impressive stat line of 22.6 PPG, 11.6 RPG and 1.2 BPG.  He also has been extremely efficient by marking down a 26.58 PER (Player Efficiency Rating), which factors in a player’s accomplishments to result in a per-minute production reading.

As a result of his recent strong play, Cousins was invited to the USA National Team.

Cousins is now in his fourth year in the Association, and he is the cog that the Kings and new owner, Vivek Ranadive want to use to win and build a perennial contender.  However, immaturity is still plaguing Cousins.  

A great example was when Cousins pulled teammate Isaiah Thomas from a post-game handshake with Chris Paul.  

Cousins had some unflattering words for Paul, but he took his actions too far.

Ranadive believes that Cousins will eventually get over the problems, which include being tied for the league lead by racking up 11 technical fouls.  He also has 156 personal fouls through January 30, but he is still considered the face of the franchise.

As a result, Cousins was rewarded with a maximum extension resulting in four more years at $62 million.

Cousins had hinted earlier last year that he felt there was a future with the Kings in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix.

Taking a team no players really want to go to, a team considered the worst in the league, and through all the struggle and all the negativity, they found the way to win. I want to put Sacramento back on the map. I want to be an instrumental part of things changing here.

The major problem is that this team doesn’t have the pieces in place to be a title contender in a very competitive Western Conference.  Ranadive is going to have to rebuild the franchise from the ground up.

Cousins is the pillar of the frontcourt, but he needs some young, talented players to surround him. 

Rudy Gay is definitely an upgrade at small forward, but Jason Thompson, Carl Landry or once-promising Derrick Williams are not game changers at the 4.

In the backcourt, the Kings have Isaiah Thomas, who is a young building block to go with a shooting guard rotation that includes first-round pick Ben McLemore.

The one thing Cousins has in common with Coach Michael Malone is that he doesn’t like to lose.  Malone also forces him to be the team leader and understand how his actions affect the team on a daily basis.

As great of a year Cousins is having, the question still remains whether he can assert himself to the elite level or will he bounce around at a level similar to the retired Derrick Coleman?

Cousins is an extremely talented player who can dominate on offense and is still finding his groove on defense.  In this highlight, Cousins takes the lose ball and decides to drive all the way for the easy slam.

Coach Malone is the right guy to do it, as he has had previous experience with a burgeoning star like LeBron James in Cleveland.  James is a two-time NBA Champion, who is now considered to be the greatest of his generation.

Cousins sees the forest through the trees and knows that he has to put in the work to get to the postseason.  He needs to show the rest of the NBA that he can be a steady player, one who can dominate on both sides of the ball every night.

He will also be helped if the Sacramento Kings can finalize and build the new arena. The new arena will stabilize the franchise after the craziness caused by the potential move to Seattle.

The new arena will also solicit free agents by showing the Association that there is a solid ownership group in place that is not afraid to spend the money.  Couple that with Ranadive’s drive to put a contending team on the floor, Sacramento is realistically three to four years away from being a legitimate destination.

That estimate would put Cousins in the third year of his four-year extension and right in the prime of his career.  However, the pieces must be in place for that dream to happen.

The Kings currently sit with the worst record in the Western Conference and have the fifth-worst record in the NBA.  As a a result, they are in a great position for a top-three pick in one of the deepest drafts in recent years.

If Cousins can add another weapon, and possibly a player who can impact a game early on in his career, Cousins could show off his leadership skills and be the catalyst for another significant run by the Sacramento Kings. 

This is Cousins' time to shine and build the once-proud Kings back into a great team, and Ranadive won’t even have to mow his lawn.