Posted by: Kingsguru21 | March 23, 2011

I’m thinking that DeMarcus Cousins game doesn’t have the appropriate warning label before categorizing

(Papa Was A Rolling Stone by The Temptations in case you require music.)

Reading Rohan Cruyff’s piece on DeMarcus Cousins today at SB Nation.com, it got me thinking: Is Boogie’s game even understood? Time and time again, and it’s taken me awhile to fingerpoint it, I’ve noticed this. It’s not just Cruyff’s observations (or Joe Truetlein’s) or Kings fans observations here that only matter. His game is really hard to identify. So why?

I think a big part of it is that we are hard wired to believe big man play in the paint, and if they don’t we are not happy with them unless they show exceptional skills on the perimeter. Which is why it’s hard for many to believe that Cuz’s stats (as awful as they are offensively) are sort of not really telling the whole story.

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Let me sidetrack this story for a bit and explain why I don’t like Al Jefferson but like Kevin Martin. (No, I think the Kings should have done that trade.)

I don’t like Jefferson for a lot of reasons. One is defensively. I think no matter how much better he gets, he’ll always be a guy who will be mediocre on his best days. But that’s not really why I don’t like him.

Al Jefferson is an offensive guy who needs the ball to be effective. And Jefferson’s primary worth is offensive as a player. The problem is that Al J uses possessions at a high rate and doesn’t use them at even an average rate when shooting. That’s not getting the most out of your talent IMO. He doesn’t get to the line is the biggest problem because he’s not physical enough. The only thing Al Jefferson does do very effectively is turn over the ball excessively (he’s actually exceptional in not turning over the ball).

Contrast Kevin Martin. He may not be a player whom you can build around, and he’s never been mistaken for a shut down defender. But what he does, and what defines his worth, makes him very valuable if you have the appropriate talent (that Houston somewhat does) to surround him with players who augment his weaknesses while not detracting from his strengths. One of those is that Kevin is not very adept at creating shots for others using his dribble.

What Kevin does exceptionally is shoot the 3 ball, and get to the Free Throw line and not turn over the ball. Those are extremely unique skills that have their places in the NBA. Kevin has plenty of his holes in his game, but he works hard at improving and does what he does well. In fact, Kevin is the best combination of a foul drawing/3 pt shooter in the history of the NBA. Not in the current era, in the NBA history.

The only real negative, like Jefferson, is that Kevin’s injury history is not very good. Aside over.

******

Here is a list of players with USG of 25%, An ORtg of 90, Minutes per game at 10, and 50 total games played. I ranked it by TS% so you can see how many players had a reasonably high TS% (I’ll say 54% or higher for our purposes). With 14 guys on this list who qualify, they are: Arvydas Sabonis, David Robinson, Michael Jordan, Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille O’Neal, Walter Davis, Tim Duncan, Walter Berry, Terry Cummings, Ralph Sampson, Marcus Thornton, Blake Griffin, Steve Francis and Mitch Richmond.

Notice something about this list? Some pretty damn good players on it. One other point: Only two have done so in the last 3-4 years and that’s Griffin (who is barely over 54%) and Thornton. That might give you an idea of how difficult it is for rookies to establish themselves at an elite level. Tossing Walter Berry off this list (whose career doesn’t belong on this list) all of those other guys had high level careers and in many cases were all time greats (or on track to in Sampson’s case). When you remember that Sabonis was 31 years old when he came to the Blazers in 1995, that kinda changes things for this list. In otherwords, using a lot of possessions and using them efficiently as a rookie is very rare. It’s so hard to do that it almost never happens unless that guy is a super freak and/or unusually ahead in the maturity department.

Then you have the Marcus Thornton conundrum. Does it matter that he played with Darren Collison who was unusually mature for a rookie (in part because he played 4 years at UCLA)? Does it matter that Thornton can shoot the ball from deep and that really helps with a higher TS%? I don’t know. I just know Thornton is probably the worst player on this list of 13 (again ignoring Berry) and it’s not really close. Basketball isn’t just efficiency, however.

Look at this list taking off the ORtg and substituting DRB% instead. The list is much shorter. The top 10 in DRB%? Arvydas Sabonis, Shaquille O’Neal, Blake Griffin, David Robinson, Ralph Sampson, DeMarcus Cousins, Tim Duncan, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing and Terry Cummings.

That’s why I believe Boogie has a chance to be something special in this league. That’s just a part of it though.

Getting back to the “big men” play a certain way. Many of those guys on those lists were #1 overall picks (or high picks–top 5) in their drafts, and were Seniors before jumping to the NBA. (Jordan was a Junior when he jumped from UNC to the NBA.)

When you start stripping at the first list though, you’ll notice an interesting list of players who played a lot of minutes as rookies (either jumping from high school or a year in the NCAA) and weren’t efficient. Like, at all.

I’m going to put this in box form so people can see how things change over time. Players will be ranked as having the highest TS% in their rookie seasons. In the case of Griffin and Cousins, I know their rookie seasons aren’t quite complete. But they probably won’t deviate much (with the exceptions of games played and minutes) from what they currently are so I feel comfortable using them in this type of comparison.

Last but not least, this will include ALL active players. (Note: The red team names are links to the rosters of that team for the particular player that season.) Also, I’m going to update the end of the regular season stats for Griffin and Cousins as well so it’s reflective of all the season and not just 80% of the season.

Games Total Minutes Year Drafted and Overall Selection TS% USG% TOV% ORtg DRtg
Shaquille O’Neal of the Orlando Magic 81 3071 1992 (1st) 58.4% 27% 15.9% 108 100
Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs 82 3204 1997 (1st) 57.7% 26% 15.7% 108 95
Marcus Thornton of the New Orleans Hornets 73 1872 2009 (43rd) 55% 25.3% 7.3% 111 112
Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers 71 2677 2009 (1st) 54.% 27.4% 11.7% 111 107
Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat 61 2126 2003 (5th) 53% 25% 17.3% 101 102
Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings 72 2677 2009 (4th) 52.9% 26.2% 13.6% 107 110
Elton Brand of the Chicago Bulls 81 2999 1999 (1st) 52.8% 27% 12.9% 104 103
Michael Beasley of the Miami Heat 81 2009 2008 (2nd) 52.8% 27.7% 10.2% 103 108
Ben Gordon of the Chicago Bulls 82 2002 2004 (3rd) 52.6% 30.4% 13.7% 100 103
Kevin Durant of the Seattle SuperSonics 80 2768 2007 (2nd) 51.9% 28.1% 12.9% 100 110
Vince Carter of the Toronto Raptors 50 1760 1998 (5th) 51.6% 35.6% 11.1% 107 104
Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets 82 2995 2003 (3rd) 50.9% 28.5% 12.7% 102 105
Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder 82 2668 2008 (4th) 48.9% 25.8% 17.6% 99 111
LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers 79 3122 2003 (1st) 48.8% 28.2% 13.9% 99 104
DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings 68 1914 2010 (5th) 47.9% 27.7% 18.1% 93 106
Eddie House of the Miami Heat 50 550 2001 (37th) 47.8% 26.2% 11.8% 92 102
Brandon Jennings of the Milwaukee Bucks 82 2671 2009 (10th) 47.5% 26.1% 13% 100 104

So I guess I’ve made my point. Hopefully.

Which gets me back to Rohan’s piece (one you should read as it’s very well done), and one I’d like to point out this too: Rohan was DEFENDING Cousins. He was pointing out that while plenty of things that Cuz is doing wrong, there is much that is plenty wrong the current Kings situation that has contributed to some of the lesser numbers being posted by Cuz.Rohan isn’t wrong. I think that too. Am I guilty of being someone who doesn’t watch the Kings enough?

So let me get to the point that I think matters more than the numbers themselves: Do we even understand DeMarcus Cousins talent as a NBA player? By “we”, I mean the collective group of NBA outsiders who deem him as effective or ineffective. Whatever the case may be (and opinions range on Cuz), there is one thing for sure: Just like Cuz himself, there isn’t a person without an opinion of him. Love him or don’t, there are plenty of people who have formed their opinion of him quickly. Which is, IMO, dangerous with a guy who hasn’t really established himself as a player of “yay” or “nay” status quite yet. Cousins, if you look at his numbers (or watch him play–they illustrate him well in some respects), doesn’t look like a star quite yet. Of course neither does Ekpe Udoh, Greg Monroe, Al-Farouq Aminu, Gordon Hayward, or Paul George. But hey, it’s about Cuz cuz he coulda done it!

Now, this doesn’t mean that I don’t have my opinion of Cousins as a player. I do. And, I think the comment that I made on Rohan’s piece is the gist of it. Part of Cuz’s bad reputation is the issue’s he had with Paul Westphal and the coaching staff. Part of it is the technical’s he’s gotten at times, the fight with Donte Greene, the fight with Luke Ridnour and the Wolves yesterday.

So let me get to the real point of this post. Why is it that so many think Cousins hasn’t succeeded this season? Well a big part of that equation is that he is viewed as a low post big man. This is exactly why he is misunderstood. He’s expected to be a low post big man, and the fact that he’s really not shown a great adeptness at playing in the low block as of yet has surprised many including yours truly. I’ve been surprised to find that Cousins has a far more advanced, in the NBA, perimeter than post game. His passing has amazed and his shooting is better than I thought it was (and I thought he was a good shooter coming in).

But, and this is a mighty big but, he has not played well down low. There are plenty of reasons (and theories) for why this is. The big one is that I think a lot of basketball fans are hard wired to believe that big’s play down low for better or worse. Similar to how computer programs have default settings, basketball fans do too. With regards to big men, the aforementioned biggies are expected to be low post dominate. And when they aren’t? You get those who are unhappy.

A big problem is that unlike a specific program, human beings do not necessarily translate well from one setting to another. They cannot be mass produced or expected to translate perfectly from one setting to another. An example of this is Cousins’ low post game. It was expected that the low post game shown at Kentucky would translate well to the NBA. One problem is that while Cousins is strong (and oh my goodness long), he’s not particularly a great leaper. Cuz’s conditioning is an issue, but it’s not likely to fix the issue’s of shot selection and creation.

The issue, as I pointed out in my comment of Rohan’s piece, is that taking the time to make a reasonable player (no-one makes all the plays all the time) is the big issue for Cuz. Boogie Cuzzy Cuz gets in a rush to make a decision rather than remaining patient. This can be fixed with time and experience. Or I believe that anyway. To the degree of how much better it gets will depend on Cuz’s willingness to listen to the coaching staff, overcome his bad habits, and use his bad experiences in the NBA to fuel improvement.

Again I think the issue here isn’t just expectation, but mainly our preset’s (as basketball fans primarily) of how a player should perform when considered to be a particular type of player. The playbook on low post scorers is that they tend to float out on the perimeter. When this type of issue occurs, it’s usually slanted with a negative connotation.That was the piece you read from Rohan. (Joe Treutlein said very similar things to Rohan in his draft express retrospective written in February.) In a fanshot at StR by TZ, I said something similar to Treutlein and he agreed.

Whether or not you agree with my opinion that it’s not really shot location that is DeMarcus Cousins’ issues’ at the moment, this cannot be denied. Right now not only is Cousins’ substance being debated, but his style too. That won’t go away until A) Cousins is out of the league or B) Cousins does it his way and proves all of his detractors wrong. Or, C) he grows up and learns that he can’t just run over every big man in the NBA at will.

I’m kinda hoping for C, but this is the problem with 20 year olds: You just never know. And with this headstrong 20 year old know it all? We really don’t know. With this amount of indecision, stakes on whether or not this headstrong 20 year old will become the stud some certainly saw him becoming, and other things along those lines, do you expect a linear progression of love for our dear Cuz?

If you follow politics in any way, this is sort of like the debate between “red” and “blue” states. Pick the sides, and which profoundly retarded methodology each party promotes, and you have US politics! Welcome to the land of the free, brave, and uniquely dependent idiots! With so many stakes in this deal of properly assessing our lovely cuddles teddy bear (aka Cuz), there was always gonna be a lot of stakes about how Cuz’s offensive game should look like, whether Cuz’s personality could be tamed, and so on and so forth. The media has always had a stake in portraying Cuz as an uncontrollable character. The statheads want to claim he’s a ballhog who shouldn’t have the ball in his hands. (Which is not true.) The Cousins detractors want him for popping Donte on the kisser, fighting with Luke Ridnour (he’s a pasty near Canadian!), or scowling early and often. His body language is very criminal after all. In fact, there should be a new law indicting any basketball player with poor body language. (Or for having the audacity of not having a drivers license from the time one’s 16th birthday rolls around.)

This is what DeMarcus Cousins is so far. Either you learn to accept the criticism or you do not. But you better become immune to it because the criticism won’t stop unless he beats total odds and becomes a MVP/Championship level player. What is the likelihood of that happening right now? There are too many stakes for the Cuz detractors, supporters and anything else in line with these story lines to let go of these stories. The Rasheed Wallace kills his team with his attitude line was used repeatedly by many writers in many cities in many publications for the better part of last decade. You can expect similar things unless Cuz becomes a choir boy. What are the odds of that happening?

You can be blue, red, or anything you want. But like it’s sometimes said in politics, there are people who represent purple. Kings fans probably should represent the purple if they want to get this one right. Feel free to rep one side or another. It doesn’t matter as you will be characterized with the generalization that comes with being a Cuz-fan, an anti-Cuz fan, or someone who see’s both sides.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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Responses

  1. Another great post containing all that I’ve come to expect from you:Well thought out, well written and well argued. Good job!

  2. […] discussed Cousins here & here. I ain’t doing it again in this […]


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