The NBA draft is one of the most compelling events in the world of sports for a number of reasons. From ridiculous outfits and awkward interviews on draft night, to the amazingly-high amount of potential that needs time to develop, to the actual performances that are destined to happen in the future, a wide array of entertainment is always present.
The 2010 NBA Draft was no different, and the talent and potential were as strong as ever…alright maybe not, but there was certainly some talent. From everyone’s surefire Hall-of-Famer in John Wall, the second round steals of Derrick Caracter and Lance Stephenson, and of course, the potential picks of, among others, Derrick Favors and Paul George, the abundance of basketball skills was high.
Almost as high as the talent present, was the amount of praise heaped on these young men from every media network imaginable. They loved the all-around-game of Evan Turner, they loved the athleticism of Larry Sanders, they loved the passing skills of Greg Monroe, they even loved the adversity that Luke Harangody overcame.
There was, however, one thing that nobody seemed to love. Nearly every commentator affiliated with ESPN found something wrong with his game. The #1 recruit at one time his senior year of high school, even over Wall, was even left off of Jay Bilas’ top five.
“He’s a thug” “He’s a troublemaker” “He doesn’t care about the game of basketball” “He won’t be able to get in shape” “I think he’s a little overrated” “He’s too immature”
While the major media might not like him, I’m here to tell you that DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins will be the best player from the NBA draft class of 2010. SOMEBODY STOP COUSINS! HE'S GOING TO KILL THAT BABY! STOP THAT MAN! Maybe he isn't such a bad guy after all?
In case you didn’t know (which you probably didn’t…), here are the stats from Cousins last year: 23.5 minutes, 15.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 1.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 55.8% field goal percentage.
Now, while numbers from a college player obviously don’t translate entirely to the NBA, there are a couple of things that I take from this.
First off, look at just how productive DeMarcus Cousins was! 15 points and 10 rebounds in fewer than 24 minutes is fantastic. Per-40-minutes, Cousins averages 25.8 points a game, and is one of only two guys over 6-10 (Charles Garcia from Seattle, being the other) to be in the top twenty, while only three players ahead of him played in major conferences (James Anderson in the Big 12, Harangody in the Big East and Devan Downey, also in the SEC) in points per-40-minutes. So while lots of players had dynamic scoring production, Cousins was one of only four to do so on a big stage.
But to really get a sense of how good a scorer Cousins was, you need to look at the offense he was playing in. In case you forgot, Kentucky had five first round draft picks, four of which went in the top 18.
If Cousins wasn’t playing with a PG who went first overall, or a PF who scored over 1,500 points at Kentucky, or a SG who was a fantastic scorer in high school, or a backcourt of guys who both went in the first round, how much higher do you think his scoring could have been? Without Patrick Patterson, could he have averaged 25? Without Wall and Patterson, could he have averaged 35?
Cousins also was eleventh in the country in offensive rebounds, ahead of Brian Zoubek, considered to be “the best offensive rebounder in the country” (Duke bias, anyone?) and way ahead of Ekpe Udoh, the only other post player drafted in the first round that was close to him, statistics-wise. Keeping possessions alive is, in my opinion, the most underrated quality of successful teams; if you want to have a good offense, someone needs to be able to do this, and Cousins is phenomenal at it.
As for total rebounds, despite playing just over 23 minutes a game, Cousins was 23rd in the country, ahead of guys such as Cole Aldrich, Monroe, Udoh, or any other big man drafted in the first round other than Damion James. As good a scorer as he was, he might have been an even better rebounder!
But again, one needs to look at who he was playing with. Not only did he have another lottery pick playing opposite him down low, but Cousins had TWO first round picks also playing in the post at Kentucky! Patrick Patterson averaged 7.4 rebounds, while Daniel Orton averaged 3. Even Eric Bledsoe could rebound a little bit! Kentucky, as a team, averaged just over 40 rebounds a night, so Cousins was equivalent to nearly a quarter of the #1 seed’s rebounds.
Patterson was one of six big men taken in the lottery, so he obviously is a solid rebounder; yet, Cousins out-rebounded him by almost 20%- in around 25% less minutes.
What were his numbers when he played as much as Wall or Turner did, you ask? Cousins played 30 or more minutes in five games last year:
Auburn- 30 minutes, 16 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks
South Carolina- 34 minutes, 27 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks
Alabama- 31 minutes, 16 points, 13 rebounds
South Carolina- 32 minutes, 19 points, 11 rebounds
Tennessee- 30 minutes, 15 points, 14 rebounds
If you really want to know, in the Sam Houston State game that Kentucky won by just ten points, Cousins had 27 points and 18 rebounds in 27 minutes.
So yeah- I’d say that Cousins was a pretty effective player when he got the minutes that he should be getting in the NBA. Wall might have been the most NBA-ready player on the Kentucky team filled with NBA talent, but Cousins was easily the most dominant.
Think about that for a minute. As a freshman, DeMarcus Cousins was arguably the most dominant player in all of college basketball.
Yet looking beyond just the statistics that he put up, what separates Cousins, at least for me, is his athleticism. I’ve been playing, watching and observing basketball for a very long time, and I have never seen a big man do some of the things that Cousins does. He splits defenders in the post. He has incredibly soft hands. He stays with point guards on pick-and-rolls. He can effectively pass out of double-teams. He moves his feet on defense. Yes, Cousins might be a little lazy at times (who isn’t?), but his athleticism at 6-10/6-11 is off the charts.
Ah, yes, but how could we only talk about DeMarcus Cousins and not bring up the criticism? He’s appalling! He’s a terrible person! He’s a disgrace to the human race! Well, let’s take a look, shall we?
The big knock against Cousins seems to be that he is a jerk. There seem to be three main incidents that people form this conclusion on: he got kicked out of a state championship game in high school, he elbowed Jared Swopshire in the Kentucky-Louisville game, and he punched a fan after the Kentucky-South Carolina game.
Getting kicked out of a high school game is obviously not a good thing, and to some extent is absurd. Cousins made a mistake, and I think he learned from that, seeing as how he didn’t get kicked out of any games while at Kentucky. However, as someone who has played basketball their whole life, there have been plenty of times that I’ve been frustrated during games, and have even said things against my better judgment that the refs just didn’t hear. Now, they might not have been as bad as what Cousins said, but things like this happen to competitive basketball players.
Everyone looks at Cousins’ attitude, but nobody looks at how competitive of a player he is, which is certainly not a bad quality.
Just for the record, a somewhat-overlooked fact about Cousins’ new Kings teammate, Tyreke Evans, is that while in high school, Evans was the driver in a shooting that ended up as murder. I have nothing to say about this, nor anything to say about Evans’ involvement. All I’m saying is that Cousins is viewed as “the most immature player in years” for doing things like getting kicked out of a basketball game; it wasn’t the worst thing he could have done in high school.
Next up, there is everyone’s favorite thug move: the elbow. This one is inexcusable. Cousins was a complete coward for this move, and he should have been kicked out of the game and probably suspended, too. John Calipari has been called a “scumbag” by many people, and in this instance, for coaching his players to do something like this, I’ll side with Coach Cal’s critics. Regardless of whether he got kneed in the head (which Cousins did), nobody can defend an action like this.
However, the third instance, the post game event, is entirely up in the air. Cousins “allegedly threw two punches”. The video proved inconclusive, many people denied it, and the only ones who claimed to have seen in were South Carolina fans. Now, I am certainly not ready to give Cousins the benefit of the doubt, and to be honest, he probably did something to the fan. But the fact that after a loss, a frustrated player may have done something out of his emotions, and he has a reputation as a thug for it? That seems a bit over the top to me.
However, at the end of the day, who cares if he might be a jerk? Basketball players are drafted to help a team win games, not bring a positive reputation to their name. While there are plenty of NBA players who people associate with being not-so-nice people, one guy pops up immediately: he plays shooting guard for the Lakers. Yet, this can get overlooked to a point; why? Because Kobe Bryant is the best player in the NBA! Another guy I think of synonymous with being a jerk is Kevin Garnett. KG has an MVP, a Defensive Player of the Year award and an NBA title, among other things, to his name. Evans won Rookie of the Year this past season. Zach Randolph had arguably the best season of his career! Even Ron Artest just won a title!
Even if he is as big of a jerk as people make him out to be, DeMarcus Cousins is just 19 years old! There is plenty of time for him to mature into a more mature person! For all of you reading this who are over 19, I’m sure that you did some things that you now regret while you were 19- right?
Cousins might not be the quickest guy from his college team (John Wall), the leading scorer from his college team (John Wall), the guy who ran the show for his college team (John Wall), or his college coach’s favorite player from his college team (John Wall), but I think Cousins might just be the most talented player from his college tam, and could very well be the best player from the 2010 NBA draft.
My reasoning behind this is, quite simply, there aren’t a lot of guys like Cousins. Yes, Turner, Wall and Favors are all great players, but so are LeBron James, Derrick Rose and Chris Bosh. Who are the best big men in the NBA? Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, Pau Gasol, Carlos Boozer, and Garnett, to name a few.
While all of these guys are excellent players, I really just don’t see any of them that resemble Cousins.
Howard doesn’t have the offensive dependability that he does; Dirk doesn’t have the post game that he does; Duncan isn’t as athletic as he is; Bosh isn’t the physical prescence like he is; Amar’e can’t rebound like he does; Gasol doesn’t have the strength that he has; Boozer doesn’t have the ability to dominate like he does; and KG simply wasn’t the force under the basket that he can be.
Of course, there are certainly some question marks with Cousins. But at the end of the day, I really think that Cousins’ talent and potential outweigh everyone else in this draft class, and yes- that includes Wall.
After all, John Wall didn’t even win SEC Freshman of the Year.