DeMarcus Cousins’ New Facet Could be Just What the Kings Need


Last season, the Sacramento Kings‘ enjoyed watching their young center DeMarcus Cousins turn in another dominant season. The former fifth-overall pick posted career-highs in points, at 24.1 per game, ranking fifth in the NBA, and rebounds, as his 12.7 per game ranked third in the league. Even as Cousins carried the heavy load for the team, the Kings struggled to a 29-53 record, finishing 13th in the Western Conference.

One of the Kings’ biggest deficiencies last season was their lack of three-point shooters on the floor. As a team, the Kings made 461 three-pointers in 1350 attempts, both of which were the third-lowest totals in the NBA, behind only the Memphis Grizzlies and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Individually, only Ben McLemore (1.7), Darren Collison (1.3), and Rudy Gay (1.2) made more than a single three-pointer per game, on average.

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In the offseason, Kings’ vice president of basketball operations and general manager Vlade Divac went to work to improve that area for Sacramento. Divac brought veteran shooting guard Marco Belinelli over as a free agent after he spent two seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, where he played mostly off the bench and provided a solid scoring threat. Caron Butler was also brought in, and despite getting up there in years, he can still give the team a little boost in the second unit.

Make no mistake, Cousins is still the star of the team, and his improvement from long range could be exactly what the Kings need to take the next step as a team. In the season opener against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, Cousins dropped 32 points and pulled down 13 rebounds. Despite losing the game, Cousins was a key cog to the Kings’ furious comeback that nearly left them with an upset win over the Clippers.

While the numbers Cousins posted should be no surprise, the way he racked them up should be. In 35 minutes, Cousins attempted 21 shots and made 10, both totals pacing the team. Five of his shots came from beyond the arc, and he drained four of them.

Looking at numbers like that with no prior knowledge, one would have no idea that Cousins is a 6’11”, 280-pound center, known most for his post-up game. In his career before opening night this year, Cousins had taken 69 three-pointers and made just 11 of them, good for a lowly 15.9 make percentage. In the entire 2012-2013 season, Cousins made four three-pointers, marking his career-high. He matched that number on opening night.

Through the numbers, this looks like it came out of nowhere for Cousins, but he spent a lot of time in the offseason adding a new weapon to his already impressive arsenal. He’s already shown an ability to hit deeper shots in his career, as he has hit 40.3 percent of his shots from between 16 and 23 feet over his last two years.

Kings’ head coach George Karl says he doesn’t mind his big man taking a few long shots this season, in an effort to open up the offense a little more. “Being able to make the three ball with a big man is spacing and it frees the ball up to play. It’s easier to get a big guy open than it is to get a guard open”.

On opening night, Cousins showed off his ability to hit from distance, but his teammates also picked up some slack as well. New teammate Belinelli hit three three-pointers in seven attempts, attributing for all nine of his points. As a team, Sacramento made 11 triples in the season’s first game, a total they reached just once in 82 games last season. They reached 10 threes only four other times in the 2014-2015 campaign.

Cousins doesn’t need to shoot like Golden State Warriors’ guard Stephen Curry on a nightly basis. It’s not imperative that Cousins makes 40 percent of his three attempts. But having a big man that poses the threat is enough to open up the floor and creates offensive scoring opportunities for other players.

Plus, it’s never a bad thing having a guy who can take over a game from every area on the floor.

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