Boogie Week: Caring Not For Your Generalizing Follies
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.
Needs to put on strength and muscle. Raw with the ball in his hands. Needs to develop footwork. Still figuring out the game. Those are catchphrases used as all-encompassing scouting terms in characterizing different players coming out of high school and colleges. Similar to how many caucasian athletes in basketball and football are seen as gritty, tough, hustle players, and scrappers; long, lanky big men are usually thought of as lumbering giants that have never dribbled a basketball, unable to comprehend a post move and still “figuring out the game.” Think Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, and Larry Sanders. DeMarcus Cousins cares not for your generalizing follies.
Some strengths from his DraftExpress page back in college: excellent hands, excellent touch, nimble footwork, scoring instincts. The list goes on, numbering in different code words but all essentially saying the same thing; Cousins was a damn good basketball player, possessing innate skills at an age most were still trying to figure out the game.
And because most here on this website have waxed philosophical (and been awesome doing it), I thought it’d be easier to present some visualizations of the player Cousins has been, and perhaps, will become.
“Basketball instincts” can essentially be replaced with “knowing how to play a little dirty and do sneaky stuff.” Cousins plays off a cross-screen (except everyone knows it’s coming because the Sacramento Kings playbook isn’t that deep), looking one way and timing his swipe and spin as the ball swings. Now one step ahead, he’s able to drive to the basket, and show off some of his quick leaping ability, despite his size, in unison.
It isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing move but the non-linear format with which he reaches his destination, showing bursts of raw athleticism coupled with basketball IQ, is a far cry from most big men who either possess one talent or the other.
Compare Cousins to Blake Griffin who, finally, is being given some props for the offensive growth and post-game improvements he’s shown through a Chris Paul-less stretch. But before this season, and perhaps still presently, Griffin’s post moves have been more mechanical than fluid. Because of that structure, he’s been able to add, tweak, and consistently grow, mixing salts and spices, creating a melting pot of goodness. From his grinding bulldozer of a shoulder to half-spin to elongated delivery of a jump shot, Griffin’s skill-set is highly effective but less innately grown than Cousins’. Though all this, is of course in the eye of the beholder.
Cousins sees the double-team as he spins on his left shoulder here, and could easily make a pass to a wide-open three-pointer at the wing, but he takes a step-through–one most offensive post players wouldn’t do–and flips in an easy floater. Most of his post moves come from the same low left or right block. The Kings don’t dare situate him up at the high post, knowing he would sooner settle for a jumper than a hard drive to the basket. His stubbornness falls into both a dazzling display of awareness and determination with a healthy dose of ineptness.
According to mySynergySports, Cousins has taken a posted-up on 30.5 percent of his total possessions, scoring at only a 41.8 percent clip. His next closest play? A pick-and-roll that he runs 17.7 percent of time at a 55.1 percent scoring clip. And for Cousins, most pick-and-rolls meld into isolation post-up sets. Synergy might not chart it accurately, but for Cousins, it’s not hard to distinguish what he wants to do and how the Kings scheme him in that manner.
This is the evolution of Cousins, a player that can take opposing centers off the dribble and bully power forwards in the paint (again, think a smoother Blake Griffin post-move, obviously without the dunks). He simultaneously displays the striking limberness of his body, swinging through a shocked defender, then lowering his shoulder and pushing him out of the way for a hook shot. Though Joel Anthony–not a shabby defender–recovered nicely, he was shoved aside by nearly 300 pounds of Cousins shoulder.
Cousins isn’t consistent using all these moves but the inherent ease with which he decides to use them, never hesitating or exhibiting the literal grinding of gears gives way to what we perceive and hope to be unadulterated potential success.
Easily antagonized, inconsistent from the field, and surrounded by an awful supporting cast, Cousins’ weakness aren’t as profound as one would assume. But with the turgid and linear trajectories of players like Ibaka, Griffin, Kevin Love, and Roy Hibbert, there’s something refreshing and grimacing, to see Cousins simultaneously prosper and wilt under the heaping pile of dung the Kings have constructed around him.