DeMarcus Cousins, All-Star

It’s been a long road to here. But DeMarcus Cousins will gladly accept the winter pains of traveling in February to show up at his second All-Star game, selected by the coaches, which for Cousins is a beautiful thing. He is being talked about for something other than his behavior, his immaturity and the reckless impulses he can’t control.

If Cousins had been selected to the All-Star game by the fans, it would have meant that he was popular with the paying customers and internet-philes. But it was the coaches who selected DeMarcus Cousins to represent the Western Conference. It was the coaches who looked at his game, before and after scheming to control Cousins, and at long last, legitimized his career.

DeMarcus Cousins Points FG% Rebounds PER
2016-17 27.8 45.2% 10.6 26.6

DeMarcus Cousins entered the league on October 27, 2010. DeMarcus Cousins was accepted into the league on January 28, 2016, his first All-Star selection. It had been a long 5+ years. But, he finally made it when he was in Toronto for the All-Star game.

Talent is a two-edge sword. Talent rises to the top, is on the surface and DeMarcus Cousins has been blessed with it in spades. Offensively, he is the best big man in the NBA. The league that suddenly goes small has Cousins as its outlier. He has the skills of a guard. He can go right or left. He has a mid-range jumper. This year he is taking threes. On the offensive end, stopping him means crowding him on the catch, before he has a chance to get the ball. Otherwise, you are going downhill in a fight that is not really fair.

But talent also means you have to deliver on what supports the promise. Commitment. Dedication. Work ethic. Maturity. You can’t continually put your team in bad situations because one thing happened you didn’t like and you responded negatively, you took it too far and the game turned all because you are married to the notion that life (and basketball) is about fairness. It is not. It is about will.

In his seven year career, quality point guards have been in short supply for Cousins. When he was drafted in 2010, Cousins was paired with Tyreke Evans, the reigning Rookie of the Year. It seemed, on paper, like a good match. But Evans is not a true point. He’s a driver, not a great playmaker and he couldn’t make ten jump shots in a row if his life was at stake. Teams abandoned Evans and doubled off of Cousins. Evans was injured and Beno Udrih ran the point. The next season was more of the same, 28 wins. The next season Isaiah Thomas added some punch so of course the Kings traded him instead of paying him. Greivas Vasquez did some good things but 28 wins once again. Ramon Sessions, Darren Collison…the same Sacramento Kings story, in the lottery.

But this is how talented Cousins is. With mediocre point guards he averaged 14.1 points his rookie year, 18.1 points his second year, 17.1 his third year, 22.7 his fourth year, 24.1 his fifth year. Last year with Rondo, an elite passing talent, he averaged 26.9 points. This year Cousins is having a career year in scoring, 27.8 points.

The 7 Year Curve Points FG% Rebounds 30+ Point Games
2010-11 14.1 43.0% 8.6 1
2011-12 18.1 44.8% 11.0 3
2012-13 17.1 46.5% 9.9 3
2013-14 22.7 49.6% 11.7 15
2014-15 24.1 46.7% 12.7 11
2015-16 26.9 45.1% 11.5 26
2016-17 27.8 45.1% 10.7 22

Cousins scored 33 points against the Mavs and the next game dropped 55 points in a win against the Blazers. He has had 22 games this season where he has scored 30 points or more. He is at a career high in three-point attempts, three-point percentage.

He is 4th in the league in scoring, 9th in double-doubles, 11th in the league in rebounding, 16th in the league in Real Plus-Minus, 10th in the league in PER. He still has a ways to go defensively, learning how to guard his man without fouling, developing the footwork. He leads the NBA in fouls.

But DeMarcus Cousins has come a long, long way. His talent was always there. His desire was always there. He had to prove to the coaches he had the other intangibles of an All-Star, particularly in carrying his team to wins, controlling his emotions and exhibiting on-court leadership.

For Cousins, his real career starts now. He can cross back to back All-Star appearances  off his must-do list. It leaves him plenty of time to concentrate on the next goal after New Orleans is over. Getting into the playoffs.

photo via llananba