Demarcus Cousins is a very young—potentially very good—player trying to overcome his own internal turmoil and figure out who he is in the NBA. So, in a way, it is incredibly poetic that he was drafted by the Sacramento Kings.
Cousins has seemingly limitless potential, and evokes daydreams of a brighter, Zach Randolph-like future.
On the other hand, watching the way he conducts himself both on and off the court often leaves fans dreading a much darker, Zach Randolph-like future. While every team in the league would love to have 2011 Z-Bo manning the paint, the 2003 version is a much less coveted (not to mention more frustrating) commodity.
For all his potential, Cousins is—at times—a disaster. He shows lapses in maturity and judgment that make you wonder if his considerable potential will ever be realized.
He is good enough to make you salivate over the myriad ways in which he could dominate the NBA and bad enough to make you think that he just isn’t worth the trouble.
When he was drafted, I predicted that Cousins would follow the career path of players like Randolph and Rasheed Wallace, fellow big men with undeniable talent and unavoidable character flaws. He would be a difference-maker one day, I thought, but not anytime soon and most likely not while wearing the uniform of the team that drafted him.
He has done nothing to disprove this hypothesis.
There is no need to rehash the red flags Cousins threw up last season. They are well documented and besides, recounting them would take up the bulk of this article and could likely fill several more by themselves.
The good news is that his troubles, significant though they were, took place on the court—or in some cases, the plane. Either way, his altercations involved teammates and coaches and not civilians, pets or significant others.
But players who leave you constantly searching for excuses rarely turn out to be worth the thought and energy, at least for their first five or six years.
I actually don’t mind that Cousins has had his issues. It annoys me when he puts on his Brad Miller face and threatens to burst into tears over perceived fouls, but I can only hope that he grows out of that. It’s the fact that he leaves me with an uneasy, anything-is-possible-and-not-in-a-good-way feeling that I don’t like.
So this is my proposal, which you can feel free to disregard immediately: give Demarcus one more season to show what he’s got both on and off the court beginning the first game of the 2011-2012 season, whenever that should actually occur. After that time, Sacramento either needs to move on, or not. Either way a decision must be made.
I am limiting Cousins trial period to a single season for two simple reasons.
1. It is dangerous to keep him around a young team if he is not going to be retained for the future. Letting Demarcus poison the Kings young roster for several more seasons with his immature antics only to ultimately decide that he isn’t worth the trouble would be incredibly damaging to the team.
2. At this point, Cousins' trade value is still extremely high. He probably has more value than any other Kings player and if he is going to be traded, Geoff Petrie would benefit from striking while the iron is hot.
Even one more year of knuckle-headedness will not significantly hinder Cousins’ value (barring a Melee at the Palace-type suspension, which isn’t out of the question). Two more years will definitely get the process started. Year three will see a significant decline. Four more and all bets are off.
Sacramento also has cap room to spare. Offering up Demarcus and one of their terrible contracts (*cough**BENO!**cough*) could net Sacramento a player who could help move along the growing process of both the Kings and their other young star, Tyreke Evans.
The Kings need to find out who Demarcus really is and what they are going to do with him, and they need to do so quickly. Otherwise they risk sacrificing a talented young nucleus to the childish whims of a young player who has accomplished nothing aside from showing glimpses of quality play.
Last season, Demarcus Cousins was who we thought he was. Anyone who watched him interact with teammates and coaches at Kentucky knew what the Kings were getting themselves into when they drafted him. The hope was (and is) that he could grow up in a hurry, and help an NBA team instead of sinking them.
One year later, this question remains unanswered. Which is fine. I guess. But if the Kings are going to part ways with Demarcus, sooner is much better than later. If they decide that he is a player worth investing in, I’m all for it. Heck, I rooted for Ron Artest loudly and annoyingly for several years. I can talk myself into Demarcus Cousins in about five seconds flat if need be.
As long as he cuts out the Brad Miller face.