Assessing DeMarcus Cousins’ Potential

DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins

Bill Simmons’ ever-intriguing “Trade Value” series of columns has begun over at Grantland. He has lots of provocative, interesting opinions, whether or not you agree with any/many of them. Simmons, tongue-in-cheek as can ever, also talks a lot of sense from angles that matter: player potential and history, team cap situation, and team need. It makes for a good read.

There are a bunch of guys I’d flag as worth checking out to see if Simmons’ idiosyncratic ratings comport with your own. But none more than DeMarcus Cousins, the almost-Wolf who was passed over in favor of Wesley Johnson.

I found what Simmons had to say – both the goods and the bads – remain revealing about what a team might be getting in Cousins. This isn’t directly Wolves’ related except insofar as he easily could’ve been a Wolf and probably still would be had we drafted him at #4 instead of Wes Johnson, but Simmons makes a fairly credible case both about what’s wrong (and right) with Cousins, what’s wrong in SAC, and how we might come to see this behemoth talent realize at least a good part of its massive potential.

Simmons writes:

39. Boogie Cousins18
I’m sitting here in the Boogie Bandwagon with some of his family members, a few of his buddies in high school, a couple of his old Kentucky teammates and John Wall’s face on Skype. There are only like 20 of us left. Three years into the Boogie experience, here’s what we’re getting: 17 and 10 every night; 47 percent shooting (subpar for a low-post guy); some of the most lackadaisacal/atrocious/mindblowingly bad pick-and-roll defense you’ll ever see; lousy body language; a few blowups and tantrums, followed by seemingly sincere public apologies to whomever may have been offended; and many more losses than wins. Where are you going if he’s your best guy or your second-best guy? Here’s your answer: the lottery.

I know all of this.

But I’ve also been following the NBA for too damned long. It’s nearly impossible to find big guys who can run the floor, rebound, pass and score down low. How much can you blame on Cousins, anyway? Here’s what Sacramento offered him these past three years: shoddy coaching, an inept front office with no plan, broke/negligent/incompetent owners, a franchise in flux, a Seattle move looming, a never-ending slew of lawsuits and press conferences, and a roster of me-first pickup players and Good Stats/Bad Team guys, none of whom had the chops or the wherewithal to make Cousins better. There’s only one way Boogie’s situation could have been worse: if the Kings hired a training staff that urged players to eat fried food, smoke cigarettes, quit stretching and switch from coffee to cocaine. And actually, they may have done that and I just missed the story.

I’m still betting on Boogie, but really, I’m betting on history. C-Webb needed Sacramento. Spree and Bernard needed New York. Z-Bo needed the Grizzlies. Sheed needed the Pistons. Rodman needed Jordan and Phil. Iverson needed Larry Brown. Rick Barry needed Al Attles. Derrick Coleman never found what he needed, and that proves my point, too. The belated success of an NBA head case hinges on the city and the situation. And it usually happens later in his career, after he’s blown it somewhere else. It’s going to happen for Boogie at some point … I just don’t know when. But it’s happening. Did you see him tear up the Clippers on Wednesday night in what may have been Sacramento’s final home game ever? Thirty-six points, 22 rebounds, real passion spilling out of him on every possession. That game was everything I ever wanted from Boogie Cousins. I still believe. I’m keeping my bandwagon seat.

I’m still conflicted about this pick. I was extremely wary of DMC. I liked either Monroe or George, preferably as a trade down. But DMC undeniably had and has more talent than Wes Johnson, and that’s the real bar we have to use as a comparison from a Wolves perspective. The results aren’t encouraging, despite DMC’s troubles.

It’s worth reading Simmons’ piece in full.

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