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DeMarcus Cousins, Kings Moving In Right Direction

Immature, childish, troublemaker, thug, and hothead, DeMarcus Cousins has heard it all. The negative backlash is nothing new to Cousins. Being misunderstood is something Cousins has dealt with his entire life.

“A lot of my situations get treated unfairly just because of my name and my reputation. Like the Sean Elliott situation. That was so overblown. It went from me asking why do you feel this way about me to I threatened him. None of it was ever said but none of that mattered because it was me,” Cousins told Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, “So I get suspended and told you can’t talk to a broadcaster. I can’t talk to a broadcaster? It became ‘DeMarcus approached a broadcaster, of course it was hostile.’ That’s just something I’ve got to roll with.”

After Cousins' lone season at Kentucky with John Wall, he was a projected top-five pick headed into the 2010 NBA draft. In terms of talent, many argued that Cousins had the most skills of the entire draft class, yet questions remained about his character. Cousins dropped to the fifth overall selection taken by the Sacramento Kings, behind Wall, Evan Turner, Derrick Favors and Wesley Johnson.

Listed at 6’11” and weighing 270, Cousins is a walking mismatch when he steps on the court. His wingspan of 7’6” creates headaches for opponents and often commands double and triple teams.

Watching Cousins play, it is easy to see the immense talent he possesses. Offensive skills that most big men only dream of having, Cousins combines his soft hands with his incredible nimble footwork to score at ease around the paint. He leads the NBA in And 1’s at 46 so far this season per Synergy Sports. Except for the dominant brute force of Shaquille O’Neal, Cousins' offensive moves are reminiscent of when Shaq dominated the interior during his heyday.

Prior to this season, O’Neal bought a stake in the Kings franchise and he sees a very bright future for young Cousins. He also attributes Cousins to one of the main reasons to why he invested in the team.

“He can play, when he shows up he’s one of the most talented players in the game,” O’Neal told Kings play-by-play broadcaster Grant Napear. “So I told him, ‘you’re going to always have to show up, you lead they follow.’”

After signing a four-year, $62 million extension in the offseason, Cousins has taken a huge step forward under the tutelage of first-year head coach Michael Malone. Cousins is averaging a career high 22.5 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. Cousins has taken the necessary steps forward to assert himself as the Kings' most important asset.

Since Cousins' rookie year in 10-11, we have seen his PER rise from a mediocre 14.62 to an elite 26.14, which ranks sixth in the NBA. It is no mistake he has been improving as he gains more experience on the floor. Malone has been adamant on increasing Cousins' usage, especially when the Kings are in their halfcourt offense. Per Synergy Sports, when the Kings are in their halfcourt set, Cousins gets the ball to post-up 31.5 percent of the time.

The Kings are already on their third coach during the tenure of Cousins.. Neither Paul Westphal nor Keith Smart could control Cousins' antics that have often led to suspensions and fines for the big man. During Smart’s tenure, he went as far as inviting Cousins over for dinner many times in hopes to better understand the young star.

With Cousins' breakout season, there have been instances where his immaturity still gets the better of him. In a narrow defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers earlier in the year, Cousins made sure Isaiah Thomas did not shake Chris Paul’s hand as they walked off the court (video here). Cousins also created an unnecessary altercation with Mike Dunleavy Jr., which lead to his ejection.

“He’s a clown, and he’s scared,” Cousins said following the game. “I wouldn’t even waste my time on him if I ever saw him outside of the gym. He’s a clown.”

This season the Kings have been going through major changes with a new coach, new personnel on the roster and a new ownership group. The addition of Rudy Gay has added another dimension to the Kings' offense that they have solely missed from the perimeter. Plus, Isaiah Thomas has been a revelation at the point guard position after Greivis Vasquez was traded away. With more time playing together and the continuing growth of rookie swingman Ben McLemore, the Kings have a legitimate chance to fight for a playoff spot in the highly competitive Western Conference next season.

Although the Kings' current lackluster record does not help Boogie’s case as being an elite player, there is enough evidence and development in his maturity to project him as becoming one of the best big mans that the NBA can endorse for the next decade. Cousins is still second in the NBA in technicals, but he has made progress in that area.

“I know I’ve done bad things,” Cousins told Jonathan Abrams of Grantland. “But I’ve done just as much good as I have done bad. And it’s not even necessarily bad. I would say they’re growing pains.”

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