Temper tantrums aside, DeMarcus Cousins is blessed with the intangibles of a top-flight center. He is relatively quick for a 6’11”, 270 pound mountain and possesses the fundamental skills of an NBA wing. Considering his competition in the Western Conference, it would not be a surprise if Cousins is nominated as an All Star reserve in the near future. In 18 games this season, the 3rd year big is averaging 17.2 points, 9.9 boards, 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 74.7% accuracy on his free throws.
Two of Cousins’ weaknesses are a lack of mental stability and poor shot selection. When he isn’t in the running for the league-lead in technical fouls, the center is straying from the key and firing ill-advised jump shots. Take into account Cousins’ 94 attempts at the rim this season, which he makes at a 59.6% clip, when he has launched 134 jumpers at a 27.6% success rate (basketball-reference.com). His strength and size are being underutilized as he settles to look pretty.
What’s more concerning is Cousins’ increasing willingness to fire jump shots. In 2011-12, 49% of the King’s attempts were jumpers, which has risen to 52% this season (82games.com). Either Coach Keith Smart cannot influence Cousins to take better looks, or the suit on the sideline is choosing to look the other way. If Smart is interested in 20+ victories or his job security, he may need to sit down with his young star and explain the reality of banging down low.
But there is another solution, which requires glancing at the floor. If Cousins must appease his inner Chris Bosh and hoist rainbows, why not take a few more steps back and gun for the 3? Along with the extra point opportunity, the big can continue to massage his ego while stopping the hearts of Kings fans. Everybody wins.
It’s common knowledge to any coach that the long 2 pointer is the most inefficient shot in the NBA. The long 2 ball is nearly the same difficulty as a 3, without the reward of landing from distance. There are a few exceptions in recent history who rebuff this logic (Matt Harpring, Calbert Cheaney) but most NBA players are better off stepping behind the arc, if they must shoot a long jumper at all.
As for Cousins, there are signs of hope he can turn into a Josh Smith-style 3 point shooter (because they suffer from the same disorder). While the 22 year old has scored 30.8% of his 65 long 2 attempts this season, last year he was successful on 41.1% of his 207 tries. Cousins’ downtown percentage would be considerably lower if he took a similar amount of attempts, but he has demonstrated he can line up his shots from distance at a professional level. The center is 1 for 5 on 3 pointers in 2012, which is a small sample size, but at least the most difficult basket is out of the way.
Firing more 3 balls is an unconventional adjustment for a growing center, but the Kings coaching staff should be willing to try anything as they wade in the NBA cellar. The worst-case scenario is one where Cousins’ ego gets the best of the man-child and he transforms into Derrick Coleman, but GM Geoff Petrie already considered the possibility when he selected the unstable personality at 5th overall. If anything, Sacramento basketball could get some of its mojo back.