Boogie Week: Boogie’s Down Production
USA Today Sports
It’s #BoogieWeek at Hickory-High, an extended celebration and exploration of all things DeMarcus Cousins. Check out the rest of our Cousins content here.
At the start of the season, there was a real question as to whether one would rather have Blake Griffin or DeMarcus Cousins as a building block young big man going forward. At that point, it was plausible to compare them and conclude Boogie might be the better “#1 option.” However, the Kings continued struggles*, renewed evidence of Boogie’s legendary temper and/or lack of self-control, along with the giant leaps Griffin has taken forward (going so far as to break Kevin Durant‘s stranglehold on Western Conference Player of the Month by securing the award for February) have made any continuing comparison of the players as equals faintly ludicrous. But contrasting their fortunes can shed some light on areas where Cousins has improvements to make.
*Even though with their rough approximation of #FullSquad in games where Cousins, the phenomenal Isaiah Thomas and the seemingly reborn Rudy Gay have started, the Kings have a respectable 16-16 record through Wednesday.
This look at how the top 25 per game scorers in the NBA fare when faced with the league’s stingiest defense compared with production against the most generous reveals some key, and from Boogie’s standpoint worrying, differences between the two players. Without putting too fine a point on it, DeMarcus Cousins might well be the worst of the best. No player sees a larger drop in raw scoring production between games against good and bad opponents and only two (this year’s “empty stats” king, Arron Afflalo and the massively frustrating Kevin Martin, fresh off of his own playoff disappearance for Oklahoma City) have bigger proportional declines. Cousins plays fewer minutes, turns the ball over more, accumulates fewer assists and offensive rebounds, gets to the line far less and shoots significantly worse from the floor against good teams.
Griffin, on the other hand, aside from getting to the free throw line about 2.5 times per game less against the top defenses, is remarkably consistent regardless of opponent quality. The relative performance represents a massive point in Blake’s favor:
The Clippers are a team other teams prepare for. Blake is either the first or second name on the scouting report. Teams know what he wants and likes to do, and he still brings it. Conversely against the better schooled and trained teams, Cousins’ production tanks. There are many ways to interpret this. Some more favorable to Cousins than others. In his support, one might suggest that the dearth of other offensive options on his team mean the better teams can simply overwhelm him with multiple defenders and pressure. This has some surface appeal, though the fact that so far this season, Isaiah Thomas performs far better, relatively speaking, against the stingiest D’s, and one would expect him to fall prey to this same additional attention and pressure. On the other hand, if one came not to praise but to bury DeMarcus, those splits can’t hurt that narrative, as this data easily aligns with the tail of a hotheaded bully who has always handled adversity poorly.
Regardless of which story is true, it is inescapable that for him to become the alpha dog we all hope to see, Boogie must improve his ability to dominate a game, even if the defense is explicitly geared to stop him.