I am a huge fan of Shakespeare.
Generally, that’s not something I admit to unless I’m trying to pick up women by quoting the Bard of Avon. In the right setting, it can be fairly effective.
However, I feel there is one particular Shakespearean quote which Larry Riley and the rest of the Golden State Warriors organization would do well to heed for this upcoming draft.
The quote comes from the famous court scene in The Merchant of Venice where Antonio, the merchant, is pleading his case to Balthazar, the young lawyer. During this plea, he tells Balthazar “to do a great right, do a little wrong” by setting him free from the bond placed on him by the money-lender Shylock.
For the Warriors and the 2010 Draft, their “little wrong” would be giving up Anthony Randolph for the “great right” of getting DeMarcus Cousins.
Look, myself and every other hack have written ad nauseum about Big Cuz and the red neon “HEAD CASE” sign that many believe follows him everywhere. But while we’ve been so quick to criticize his potential volatility, there’s one factor everyone seems to be ignoring.
Most of the time, when a 19-year-old big man is in the draft, he gets filed away as a “project.” Cousins isn’t a project, but instead is a big man who can step in right away and become a valuable contributor for his team. In fact, he’s probably one of a small group of four (John Wall, Evan Turner, and Wes Johnson) in this draft who could potentially have that ability.
Cousins was an incredibly dominant player in his year of college thanks to his great hands, surprisingly quick feet (for a guy with his weight), and scoring touch. In the modern NBA, where dominant post players aren’t a dime a dozen, his skills should carry over well.
On the offensive end, he’s extremely polished, particularly in the low post. Defensively, he probably needs a bit more work—especially because when he is defending against guys who can stretch the floor, he occasionally gets somewhat lost positionally.
That, combined with his limited lateral quickness, could hurt him. But, against more traditional low post players, he does know how to use his bulk to his advantage by blocking the lane, and isn’t afraid to play tough and body up.
There are few big men in the NBA right now who have Cousins' range of post moves and can use them effectively. If he can combine these moves with his other positives, he could make a good big man.
As for his potential character issues, no one is denying Cousins can be a bit of a head case. However, from what I've read, most of his bad reputation comes from on-court incidents. Off the court, everything seems to point to a sweet guy who loves his mum and appreciates his fans.
While he may not have the greatest interview manner, he’s 19 and not exactly Einstein. Give the guy a break. Once he gets more experienced with the media, those skills will come.
The other concern, of course, relates to his weight. Clearly he’s a guy who puts on excess weight very easily. Some of the more acerbic Dubs fans have been comparing him to JaMarcus Russell and saying he could be his equivalent in the NBA. One difference is that Russell is a quarterback and Cousins a center.
Being a center is basically the best way of taking advantage from a gift from God (i.e. sheer height) where you don’t have to worry about staying in shape all the time. Look at guys like Shaq and Rasheed Wallace—both have had strong NBA careers (and I doubt Shaq has ever willingly stepped on a treadmill in his life).
In my opinion, the absolute worst case scenario for Cuz is that he becomes the next Derrick Coleman. While Coleman may be the poster child for wasted talent, let’s not forget that he did have a 15-year NBA career averaging 16 and nine, contributing to some good teams and dominating when he felt like it.
Best case scenario for Cuz? He becomes the most dominant big man in the league. Bar none. Yes, I said it and I mean it.
My personal prediction is that Cousins falls a bit short of that, but still has an excellent NBA career. He will probably make several All-Star teams and become a dominating presence in the paint on both ends. My guess is that he will end up somewhere in between Shaq and Sheed, if you will.
Now that I’ve covered Cousins, let’s look at what Randolph could be.
Every Golden State fan is in love with Randolph’s potential. I myself can see more than a little bit of young Kevin Garnett in his game. He has the raw ability and physical gifts to become another KG.
However, there are two major flaws in Randolph’s makeup that make me highly doubt he will ever reach his potential—No. 1 being that he is a pretty low basketball-IQ player, and No. 2 being that he’s a head case.
Let’s look at the second point first. As much as many GS fans want to consider Cousins as a bigger, fatter Ron Artest, we also seem to have a desire to embellish the warning signs around Anthony Randolph.
Everyone seems to want to blame the feud he had with Don Nelson over playing time on Nellie. If I trust that old sod as anything, I trust him as an evaluator of talent. In fact, I rate him as highly as anyone in the NBA at that.
If he didn’t want to play Randolph, it’s because he clearly felt Randolph wasn’t ready for extended minutes. And that’s not a point I can totally argue with.
Any way you look at it, Randolph is raw as hell. Before his injury, the only part of his game that was really good was rebounding.
On offense, while he’s a decent mid-range shooter, he’s still far from consistent from this area and doesn’t have the three-point game to be a true threat to stretch the floor. Plus, Randolph tends to fall in love with his shot and make too many bad attempts. His offensive post game is, well, limited.
Defensively, he’s a good weak-side shot blocker, but not a lot else. He doesn’t have the awareness, lateral quickness, or positional play to guard quicker/stretch forwards (another reason he can never be a small forward) and he certainly doesn’t have the bulk or strength to guard post players.
I highly doubt his injury last year has helped matters.
As for his low basketball IQ, well, you can see it in the way he plays. He consistently takes bad shots, displays poor defensive awareness and positional play, rarely passes the ball even though he’s not that dominant of an offensive player, and struggles to learn offensive plays on a team that has about two or three different ones, and so on and so forth.
This, to me, is the main thing standing between Randolph and a great career, or even improving a great deal from where he is right now. I honestly don’t see what part of his game is going to make the quantum leap everyone seems to believe is going to make him as good as we think he is.
Being a project is one thing. Being a project, low IQ player, and a head case is another. Randolph is all three; Cousins is only the latter.
I give Randolph a 25 to 30 percent chance of making it and Cousins a 50/50 shot. You tell me which odds are better.
There is one final reason to do this if we can. Guys like Randolph—raw, athletic, big man “projects” are a dime a dozen these days. Guys like Cousins—big men who are good players with the potential to become truly dominant—are much, much more rare.
As anyone who knows the story of The Merchant of Venice will tell you, while Balthazar refuses to grant Antonio mercy, he finds a loophole in the deal (“you shall not shed a drop of blood while removing the pound of flesh”) which thus allows Antonio to live and Shylock to be ruined.
The obvious equivalent here to the play would be a trade falling through, but Cousins ends up falling to the Warriors at six anyway, which would be the ideal situation.
Not only would the Warriors have potential franchise players at the two hardest to fill spots in the league, they'd be able to keep their current nucleus together, which I’m convinced is an injury-free season away from knocking on the playoff door.
But since life rarely imitates art, this is unlikely. Therefore, we might have to be happy to make this trade.