Most of the Sacramento Kings’ news this offseason has been about Rudy Gay’s player option, whether or not to pay Isaiah Thomas, and who will the Kings draft at No. 8.
It feels like there has been little talk about the team leader in points, rebounds, steals, and blocks, DeMarcus Cousins. No matter what happens to Gay or Thomas, Cousins is now the face of the franchise. He is the player that will take the Kings as far as they will go, and the Kings made the decision to pay him like that type of player.
Before the beginning of last season Sacramento inked Cousins to a four-year, $73 million extension, with the first year of the new deal kicking in for 2014-15.
Cousins’ basketball skills have never been questioned, it has always been his demeanor on and off the court that has people worried. The question with Cousins is can you build a contending team with Cousins as the main piece? We will examine Cousins both on the off the court and see if we can answer this question.
On the Court
Cousins is coming off his best season of his young career, where he was able to raise all his numbers. Offensively he was the best center in the NBA, as he led all centers with 22.7 points per game. He was even able to show his passing ability as he averaged 2.9 assists per game, which was fifth among centers. The biggest difference last season was how well he shot the ball from the field–in his first three years he averaged 45 percent. Last year Cousins shot 50 percent from the field. One reason for the bump could be he only took seven 3-pointers the entire year, compared to 22 the year before, which means his shot selection was much better than in years past.
Defensively, Cousins still is not where you would like a top notch center to be on the defensive end. Cousins led all centers in fouls per game at 3.8, and even was the league leader in this category.
Then you add in the fact that he is 13th among centers in blocks at 1.3 per game. This leads to Cousins being looked at as not good defensively; however, it is not as if he has any help from most of the Kings. This season Cousins did improve on his steals per game and led all centers.
In addition he was able to increase his rebounding average almost two per game from last season.
Furthermore, Cousins had a career high with 53 double-doubles on the season and he was one of few players this season to average 20 points and 10 rebounds. Cousins is on the short list of top centers in the league and his play last season proved it.
Off the Court
Cousins has always been known as a hot head, evidenced by his amount of technical fouls from the start of his career. Last season was especially bad has he had 17 technical fouls, which led the league, and four ejections. This season he was able to cut down the ejections to only one, but again led the league in technical fouls with 16.
Then during the season he was suspended one game for “punching“ Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley during a game. He was also suspended the last game of the season for picking up his 16th technical foul the game before.
It is hard to tell if Cousins can be the leader of a team, he seems to have the fire to want to win, but is that fire misplaced too many times? The thing to remember with Cousins is that he is only 23 years old and already has four years’ experience in the NBA.