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DeMarcus Cousins: Is the Sacramento Kings Rookie Worth the Headaches?

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DeMarcus Cousins: Is the Sacramento Kings Rookie Worth the Headaches?
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
DeMarcus has all the tools, but can he harness them?

Excellent hands. Outstanding touch. Nimble footwork. Physical toughness. Quite a rebounder. Ability to create own shot. Ability to finish around basket. Doesn't always play hard. Immature. Not mentally tough. Questionable intangibles.

The preceding scouting report was written for DeMarcus Cousins in anticipation of the 2010 NBA Draft.

As a Kings fan who's been fortunate enough to watch every one of Cousins' games thus far in a Sacramento uniform, I can attest that, for better or worse, that scouting report is explicitly accurate.

Thus far in his young career, Cousins has been precisely what he was advertised to be. There are games where he'll look the part of a perennial All-Star, like his Jan. 28 game against the Lakers where he posted 27 points and 10 rebounds in a shocking road victory.

Or the following evening, when he helped put an end to the Hornets' 10-game winning streak with his beastly 25-point, 12-board, seven-assist effort.

On the other side of the coin are the well-documented missteps Cousins has made thus far in his young career.

Cousins has twice been kicked out of practice, publicly threw Tyreke Evans under the bus by berating him on the court following a heartbreaking defeat, and exchanged haymakers with teammate Donte Greene in the locker room after that same loss to the Thunder on Feb. 12.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Kings brass hope DeMarcus Cousins doesn't follow in the footsteps of Rasheed Wallace.

That rap sheet looks more Rasheed Wallace than Tim Duncan. The Sacramento organization is hopeful Cousins' development leaves them with a 2011 version of the latter, not the former.

In the beginning of the season, DMC struggled mightily to stay on the floor for any length of time, collecting cheap personal fouls and undisciplined technical fouls.

I personally feel like Cousins has shown a lot more restraint in his dealings with officials and has by in large avoided the type of feeble personal fouls that drive head coaches berserk.

It was just last April when Tyreke Evans won the prestigious NBA Rookie of the Year award and had Sacramento in a buzz with his impressive rookie showcase.

Evans figured to be the unquestioned franchise player and the single entity with which the Kings would rebuild around.

But the 2010-11 season has played out like Cinderella after midnight for Tyreke, the honeymoon is long over and that 20-5-5 campaign feels like an eternity ago.

Tyreke has been revealed as just an ordinary basketball player. No clear position. No noticeable improvement from a year ago. No discernible basketball IQ. No leadership to speak of for an adolescent ballclub desperately yearning for some. Franchise player? Not if you're planning on winning anything.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Can DeMarcus and Tyreke work in unison to return Sacramento to prominence?

Fast forward to the here and now, and the Kings have certainly noticed what the rest of the basketball world has all year. Despite being by far the youngest player on the team, DeMarcus Cousins is the team's best player and thus, their chief building block going forward.

It does feel as though a slight power struggle is indeed in tow for the Kings, as the Maloofs' golden boy Tyreke Evans and this year's prized rookie, DeMarcus Cousins, jockey for the rights to be the best player on the team.

The confrontation that led to Cousins and Donte Greene exchanging punches a couple weeks ago originated in Cousins accosting Tyreke about his putrid shot selection at the end of games. Their relationship certainly has to improve for the Kings to begin winning with any consistency.

Forget Tyreke, the one guard in the league who hasn't a clue what a "two-for-one scoring opportunity" means. This is Cousins' club.

Since the calendar flipped to 2011, Cousins has seen an astonishing spike in his production, averaging 17 PPG with a 45.2 FG percentage and 8.8 RPG in 23 contests.

That is in contrast to the first 29 games of the year, where Cousins struggled along at 14.8 PPG with a 41.2 FG percentage and 7.6 RPG.

Statistics can be empty, as we've learned from Tyreke's inflated accomplishments a year ago, or Monta Ellis scoring a million points for the Warriors with minuscule team success to show for it.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Fair to say Sixers GM Ed Stefanski would take DMC over Evan Turner if he owned a Delorean.

But DeMarcus is a different animal. When he's tuned into the game, getting others involved, competing hard for rebounds out of his area and taking pride in protecting the paint, and generally beasting offensively, the Sacramento Kings are a reasonably respectable basketball outfit.

Though he bares no physical resemblance to Vlade Divac whatsoever, there are actually a number of similarities I see in the two. Both were more than capable with their backs to the basket, using an array of clever moves and their advanced footwork to score in the post.

Both were capable of stretching the floor all the way to 20 feet (and on occasion, three-point range). Both actually took joy in firing gorgeous passes to cutting teammates or out to wide-open shooters.

Cousins has even shown a penchant for sticking his nose in there and taking a charge, which if memory serves me correctly, Vlade was known for in his day as well.

In a perfect world, DeMarcus Cousins wouldn't have any baggage to speak of. He would be mature. He would be mentally tougher. But it's not a perfect world.

The question marks, the immaturity, and the baggage are the reasons the supremely gifted Cousins fell to Sacramento in the first place. If he were a Tim Duncan/Grant Hill choirboy type, DMC would've been the first overall pick, hands down.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
DeMarcus excelled in the Rookie-Sophomore game, will he ever make it to the All-Star game?

The pick was an easy one for the Kings, for the following reason. Small markets have to roll the dice in the draft, because it's not like they're going to be able to coax an All-Star stud to sign there.

Elite free agents sign in Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Dallas. Not Sacramento, Milwaukee, Minnesota and Toronto.

It is virtually impossible for small markets (like Sacramento) to get a potential All-Star caliber player on their roster. Even with all the issues DeMarcus has had in his first four months as a professional, every other general manager would gleefully line up to select Cousins if given the opportunity again.

You don't think the Nets, Sixers or Timberwolves wouldn't take a mulligan on their selections of Derrick Favors, Evan Turner or Wesley Johnson, respectively? Trust me. In a heartbeat, each would snatch DeMarcus Cousins up.

By the same token, I'm fairly certain rival general managers have called Geoff Petrie relentlessly in hopes of prying loose DeMarcus from Sacramento.

This is a league starved of big men. It's the reason why project centers like Darko Milicic, Kwame Brown and DeSagana Diop keep getting job after job, with little success to show for it.

Getting back to the point, by my count, there are two methods for small markets to attain the services of a potential All-Star. One would be through the draft, with a very high lottery pick.

And two, you don't see very often because it's a matter of circumstance and coincidence, but it is when a team is at the end of their wits with a troubled superstar.

Chris Webber to the Kings in 1998. Baron Davis to the Warriors in 2005. Jason Kidd to the Suns in 1996 and the Nets in 2001. Vince Carter to the Nets in 2004.

We live in an era where the traditional, back-to-the-basket center is growing extinct. The Eastern and Western All-Star ballots have many players pigeon holed into the center position out of necessity every year, and it's been this way for at least a decade.

Simply put, they don't exist anymore.

Look no further than the All-Star game this past Sunday, when the starting "center" for the West is averaging 13.4 points and 9.2 rebounds. And that was replacing the center who was voted on as starter, who was averaging 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds. 

Do you see where I'm going with this? DeMarcus Cousins has the talent and the pedigree to flirt with All-Star consideration every year for the next 12 years, so long as his head is in the right place. Let's not forget, the kid won't even turn 21 until Aug. 13. 

The average NBA fan and the national media never get to see Cousins and his unmistakable gifts, and it's a shame.

Disguised in a diminutive market, on an irrelevant Kings team, playing alongside one of the most selfish teams in the league, DeMarcus' diamond still shines bright.

Blake Griffin is obviously the runaway winner of this year's Rookie of the Year award. But in any other year, DeMarcus Cousins would absolutely be in consideration.

Heaven forbid Cousins get into any mischief, though. Every time he does, the rumor mill will fabricate outrageous claims that the Kings are shopping him.

But just know that Geoff Petrie, who's long been celebrated for his illegible poker face, knows full well he possesses a diamond in the rough in his right hand. You hear it all the time, that the sky is the limit.

But in the instance of DeMarcus Cousins, that assessment is right on the money. This kid is a keeper.

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