DeMarcus Cousins: 5 Players the Sacramento Kings' Forward Must Study to Improve

Shaun TobackCorrespondent IJune 16, 2011

DeMarcus Cousins: 5 Players the Sacramento Kings' Forward Must Study to Improve

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    DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 16:  Forward DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings takes a shot against Tyson Chandler #6 of the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on February 16, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges an
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    I love DeMarcus Cousins. But watching him develop is an exercise in frustration.

    Watching Cousins play basketball is like watching a puppy being trained. You know that he'll get it eventually, you just hope that everything in your home hasn't been destroyed by the time he does.

    In this analogy, my "home" would be the Sacramento Kings' franchise, which needs a savior as soon as possible. They need to get their puppies trained, and they need to do it fast. Their couch has been torn to shreds, their carpet has been ripped up, and their tennis shoes are unrecognizable.

    Which would be fine—growing pains are normal—if the structure of the house weren't collapsing and the walls weren't closing in around the young ones. Simply, there is no time for growing pains. DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans need to evolve on the fly.

    Last week I wrote about the steps that Evans can take to bring his game to the next level.

    In a similar vein, here are five players whom Cousins can study, learn from, and generally emulate to bring his game to new heights.

1. Commit to Defense, Tim Duncan-Style

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    SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 27:  Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antionio Spurs battles for a rebound against Shane Battier #31 and Marc Gasol #33 of the Memphis Grizzlies in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 27, 20
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    For the last decade, the San Antonio Spurs have been a team built around two things:

    Defense and Tim Duncan.

    And really, these two are one and the same. For years, Duncan has been shutting down younger, more athletic players than himself. He has been able to do so because he's incredibly big, has an amazingly strong base, and, most importantly, he actually cares about defense.

    Duncan and Cousins share many of the same physical gifts. They each have extremely strong lower bodies, expansive wingspans and good-enough mobility.

    The main difference is focus and commitment to defense. Cousins is extremely raw on both ends of the floor. The offensive end will develop more naturally—it does for most players. Defense takes not only physical work but mental focus, the ability to remain overly aware at all times.

    If Cousins wants to be a great player he needs to contribute on both ends of the floor. Showing a commitment to defense would be showing a commitment to basketball and to his team. And truthfully, these are the things that Sacramento needs to see from him, more so than even dramatic statistical improvements.

2. Become a Master of the Below-the-Rim Post Game, Like Zach Randolph

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    MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 13:  Zach Randolph #50 of the Memphis Grizzlies against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on May 13, 2011 in Memphis, Tennessee.  NOTE TO USER: User expressl
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    One of the most amazing things about Zach Randolph's 2010-11 season was how unstoppable he was without leaving his feet.

    Last year, Randolph was the offensive version of Kevin Love. He dominated below the rim, and was so good that more athletic players couldn't stop him. DeMarcus Cousins is much like Z-Bo in that his athleticism isn't in the Dwight Howard, raise-up-and-dunk-on-your-whole-family mold.

    Even though he is 6'11", DeMarcus is incredibly effective below the rim, where he can use his big body and great hands to get angles that would be useless to most players—yet are effective for Cousins.

    Randolph's game often isn't pretty. Neither is Cousins'. But at the end of the day, Z-Bo is perhaps the best big man in the league, proving that Cousins can be great without changing his game too much.

3. Pretend He's 'Sheed in Detroit

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    AUBURN HILLS, MI - APRIL 26: Rasheed Wallace #32 of the Detroit Pistons battles for a rebound with Joe Smith #32 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at the Palace of Auburn Hills on
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Comparing DeMarcus Cousins to Rasheed Wallace isn't exactly groundbreaking.

    Like Cousins, 'Sheed was a talented, yet volatile, player who struggled to find a balance between competitive fire and immaturity.

    And then he found Detroit.

    He found a coach he respected, a group of players he liked, and a system that allowed him to be himself instead of forcing him into a role he was never really comfortable with.

    Obviously, Sacramento isn't Detroit. They don't have the talented base of players or the resumes on the bench.

    But the key to Wallace's success in Detroit ultimately wasn't the coaches or system or even the players. The key was that 'Sheed grew up, put the drama aside, and focused on winning. Though they may be struggling, the Kings still provide the same opportunity for Cousins, should he choose to take it.

4. Ask Chris Webber to Teach Him a Jump Shot

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    NEW YORK - JANUARY 4:  Chris Webber #4 of the Sacramento Kings shoots a jump shot against Michael Sweetney #50 of the New York Knicks on January 4, 2005 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Kings won 105-98.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowl
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Chris Webber was forced to develop his patented elbow jumper after lower-body injuries robbed him of his explosiveness and first step.

    DeMarcus Cousins is (hopefully) nowhere near a similar physical breakdown. But studying Webber's career would show him that a consistent jump shot can extend NBA careers and elongate a players effectiveness.

    Part of the reason that Cousins' upside seems so limitless is his ability to score both inside and outside. He can play physically, but has great hands and has shown flashes of a shooter's touch. Developing a Webber-esque elbow jumper or a Duncan-like bank shot would open up the Kings offense, create lanes for Tyreke Evans, and make the Sacramento system, as a whole, far more effective.

5. Hit the Boards Like Kevin Love

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    BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 03:  Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves grabs the loose ball as Marquis Daniels #8 of the Boston Celtics defends on January 3, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agr
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Kevin Love makes his living off of basketball IQ and an innate knowledge of where balls will be and when they will be there.

    DeMarcus Cousins makes his off of raw athleticism and physical ability.

    If Cousins could harness some of Love's natural instincts for the game, he would be unstoppable on the boards. Currently, DeMarcus gets rebounds because he is bigger and stronger than his opponents. Imagine if he were smarter and more experienced as well.

    Offensively, Cousins has shown the instincts that Kings fans would like to see translated in the rebounding column. He knows where the ball is, and knows how to put it in the hoop. But he doesn't carry this awareness to the glass.

    Clearly, Cousins will never be the pure rebounder that Love is. But Love is the best rebounder since Dennis Rodman, and is certainly a player worth studying for a young big man trying to improve his game.