NBA Deja Vu (For Now, At Least): Comparing DeMarcus Cousins and Al Horford

Daniel ShirleyContributor IOctober 22, 2010

NEW YORK - JUNE 24:  DeMarcus Cousins stands with NBA Commisioner David Stern after being drafted fifth by  The Sacramento Kings at Madison Square Garden on June 24, 2010 in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

There’s little doubt that Demcarus Cousins will have success in the NBA. His size and talent level make that obvious. The question is: what will his fantasy impact be this year as a rookie?

To answer this question, I think we can look to the rookie season of a player he reminds me of coming into the league: Al Horford. Of course, they aren’t the same exact kind of player, but I think their overall styles of play coming out of college match up fairly well. Cousins probably has the offensive edge, but Horford probably began his pro career as a better defender and rebounder than Cousins will.

Both players played on very successful teams with very good players around them. Physically they match up pretty well. Cousins will be coming in to a situation in Sacramento much like the one Horford debuted in Atlanta with. The specific make ups of the teams are not completely alike, but the Kings have some young, promising players much like the Hawks had when they drafted Horford.

Let’s look at Horford’s rookie numbers. 

31.4 Mins/Game
.499 FG%
.731 FT%
.70 Steals/Game
.90 Blocks/Game
9.7 Rebs/Game
1.5 Ast/Game
10.1 Pts/Game

Looking at these numbers should give us a pretty good example of how this year will play out for Cousins. As I said before, I think he comes into the league with a little more offensive skill than Horford did. While the Kings are on the rise, they don’t have the scorers that the ’07-’08 Hawks did, so Cousins should have an easier time getting scoring opportunities.

I also said that I see Cousins somewhat behind Horford’s rookie pace when it comes to defense and rebounding. Still, when you look at the team around Cousins, it becomes obvious that he won’t have a lot of competition on the boards from his own teammates. Sure Samuel Dalembert proved himself serviceable on the boards last year, but he didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

On top of that, scoring ability is the greatest indicator of play time in the league. As valuable as rebounds are, they remain simply a stat. Points drive the game. They drive every game.

Here are some projections for Cousins based on both individual player analysis and comparing him with Al Horford 

31.5 Mins/Game
.540 FG%
.565 FT%
.55 Steals/Game
.75 Blocks/Game
9.5 Rebs/Game
0.8 Ast/Game
11.5 Pts/Game

As you can see, these projections are very similar to Horford’s actual rookie stats. If anything, Cousins could surprise me defensively. His steals and blocks per game might be in the same ballpark as Horford’s if he’s able to adjust quickly.

Everyone has been talking about what a hard worker he is and I don’t doubt that at all. That will go a long way toward success. I just think that his style of play and body type takes more than the preseason to adjust to the NBA. If you have a fairly deep keeper league, he’s probably worth a shot as a final kept player.

Don’t buy him too early, though. He’ll have good enough numbers to occupy a nice spot on your bench, but it’s always better to see a player you wish you would’ve drafted than to end up dropping your 5th round pick to waivers when you realize there are five free agents with comparable or better stats.

What do you think? Does Demarcus Cousins live up to the Al Horford comparison? Does he supersede those expectations? Leave a comment.

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