DeMarcus Cousins has been a victim of off-the-court altercations that have taken away from his already above-average skill set, but also his enormous ceiling.
Cousins has skills that will only continue to grow as his career progresses. Yes, this is no one’s fault but his own. He’s the one arguing with his coaches, the referees and broadcasters.
However, he has power to bring this chaos to a stop. And I’d bet the Sacramento Kings would love to see nothing else, especially with Tyreke Evans nearing a return.
Evans has missed 14 games this season with a sore left knee. A second opinion confirmed that he’s on the right track and should return sometime next week if everything goes according to plan.
Either way, one can’t deny that Cousins and Evans are the Kings’ building blocks. That may seem like a nutty statement at the moment, but they were both high lottery picks and still project to eventually get the Kings onto a winning path. So it would only make sense that they feed off of each other, right? In this case, yes.
The return of Evans and his devastating penetrating skills may see Cousins suddenly go from an atrocious shooting percentage to a mark more befitting his skills. Take note of his 2012-13 shot performance chart below–red is below average, yellow is average, and green is above average.
As you can see, there’s a ton of red. Worse, there’s red in the painted area, which is usually an area of strength for players of Cousins’ size and strength. Generally, shots in that range are point-blank put-backs or easy layups off of a quick post move. For Cousins, it’s been much harder than that, which is mind-boggling. Eventually, though, that 47.3 percent mark from the five feet range should see an upswing; he can’t continue to miss easy put-backs and layups.
Cousins’ percentages don’t improve as he moves away from the rim. He’s shooting a mere 32 percent from five to nine feet, 25.8 percent from 10 to 14 feet and 36.2 percent from 15 to 19 feet. Part of the reason for these weakened percentages is due to the fact that Cousins is more perimeter shots. Take a look at his 2011-12 shot distribution chart below.
Notice the 67.7 percent in the painted area. This year, that number is down to 60 percent. So on top of his deflated shooting percentage overall, he’s taking more difficult shots.
So what’s the solution? Feed off what Evans will bring upon his return.
Before Evans’ knee acted up, he assisted 16 of Cousins’ field goals. Despite the time Evans has missed, he’s still the top distributor to Cousins with 16 assists. Cousins has made 402 shots.
That means Cousins isn’t getting much–if any–help from the guys who are supposed to create opportunities. Therefore, Cousins is forcing shots that aren’t open because Evans hasn’t been there to penetrate and draw defenders.
And even despite missing 14 games, his 16 assists to Cousins remains the most. That simply confirms that he isn’t getting much help from his penetrators, or lack of. Thus, he’s forcing up shots that would usually be wide open attempts created from Evans’s penetration.
Isaiah Thomas has shown the ability to create shots for his big man–he assisted 65 (team-high) in 2012– but this year he’s been wildly inconsistent. Evans, on the other hand, could lose his already wobbly shooting touch, but his tendency to get himself into the paint rarely fades.
More importantly, Evans’ return isn’t just going to help Cousins’s game, it’s going to aid his mentality. Cousins won’t feel like he needs to score 30 a night and will instead take opportunities as they come. This approach should help his shot selection.
So do you think Cousins is happy to see Evans on the right track? I’d say so. The Kentucky product hasn’t had a “true” penetrator this season, which is an overlooked factor in his dwindling shooting percentages.
Evans may not be the definition of a point guard given that he’s not a great shooter, but Cousins doesn’t need a point guard; he simply needs someone who can create shots for him on the perimeter. Evans will provide him with that.
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