2010 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: DeMarcus Cousins

Editor's Note, by rook6980:
This is the fifth installment in what I expect to be a regular posting on Draft Prospects.  This series will take a look at the top draft prospects for the 2010 NBA Draft in June. The plan is to have one or two a week, leading up to a flurry of activity the week of the draft. My DVR is crammed full of College games, and I'm watching and writing as fast as I can (between Wizards games).

Just another note: These draft prospect articles are not necessarily done in any order... but rather their order is based on which College games I've had time to watch and analyze; and which ones my editor (Mike Prada) thinks may be particularly pertinent at the time.


Draft Prospect assessments:
John Wall
Evan Turner
Wesley Johnson
Derrick Favors
Al-Farouq Aminu     Upcoming
Cole Aldrich        Upcoming
Greg Monroe          Upcoming
Patrick Patterson   Upcoming

DeMarcus Cousins

19 years old
6'11"; 270 lbs.
Kentucky, Freshman

A full grown man, playing against 6th graders. That's what Cousins looks playing against College competition. He's a tremendously imposing physical specimen, standing every bit of 6'11", and looking like old time (1960's & 1970's) prototypical NBA Centers like Bill Lambier or Willis Reed - thick chest, broad shoulders. But Cousins is not just an impressive physical presence - he also has an impressive skill set to go with his physical gifts.

Standing nearly 7-feet, and weighing in at 270 with a condor-like wingspan and great hands; Cousins still looks like he's got a little baby fat on him. He's got the ideal size to play Center in the NBA - but he's also mobile and agile.

There isn't a better low-post scorer in college basketball. I'll let that sink in for a few seconds. Cousins is averaging 15.9 points, 10 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game; but he's only playing a little over 22 minutes a game. His per 40 minute numbers are absolutely gaudy: 27.6 points, 17.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per 40 minutes. Those are scary numbers.

Cousins is able to establish and hold deep position in the post  and rarely gets pushed off the blocks. His long arms gives teammates a target that the opponent simply cannot get to. He's able to handle the ball well for a player his size. He has very good footwork around the basket, and when he's not dunking, he shows a surprising number of post moves. He's shown a baby hook, with either hand, a jump hook, tear drop, various pivots, drop steps (usually from the right side) and spin moves to the middle. I even saw him do an up and under against North Carolina. He's got no problems finishing through contact, even very heavy contact. He's shooting a respectable 54.5% from the field; and he gets to the line a lot (7.1 times per game) and converts at a 63.7% rate. That percentage could be better, but he has a good, consistent stroke and he should be able to improve that percentage.

Speaking of shots, Cousins does have a fairly good mid-range game. He rarely brings it out, but the few times I've seen him shoot a jumper, he looked smooth. His jump shot is mechanically sound, with a good release and nice rotation on the ball. That's one of the reasons I think he can be a better free throw shooter.

However, Cousins is not what you'd call "unselfish." He's more of a black hole on offense. He's not much of a passer, once he gets the ball and he rarely gives it up without taking a shot. He runs the floor well, but otherwise, he's got only average athleticism. However, his great size and strength help to mitigate that weakness somewhat.

Defensively, Cousins can block shots ... well, he can block a LOT of shots and sometimes he can block shots just by standing in the paint with his arms up. Most of the time, he looks like he's putting forth effort on the defensive end, if only because John Calipari would bench him if he wasn't trying Calipari. He cannot be backed down, at least at the college level, and it's extremely difficult for opposing Centers to get shots over him.

Cousins is a terrific rebounder, especially at the defensive end. His 17.6 rebounds per 40 minutes attest to that fact. However, I'm not totally enamored with his rebounding technique. It seems that he rarely blocks out, and sometimes rebounds with one hand. He's picked up some lazy habits because he's just simply bigger, and stronger than his opponents at the college level, and he'll find out that you just cannot rebound that way at the next level. There are bigger (taller), more athletic guys in the NBA that will jump higher than him, and there are guys that will use their body, timing and fundamentals (David Lee, Kevin Love)  to out rebound him in the NBA.

Cousins lacks anything resembling quickness - and his deficiencies on defense are exposed when defending smaller, quicker opponents. Cousins will have a lot of trouble at the next level defending the pick-and-roll, or switching out on smaller players. He's also not especially comfortable guarding the perimeter, and the NBA is peppered with Centers that roam around the three-point line.

There are also obviously questions about Cousins maturity and mental toughness. There were some incidents in high school where he displayed some anger issues and there was that forearm shiver incident against Louisville. But for the most part, with the entire college basketball world waiting for Cousins to explode, those issues have not materialized. Cousins has his supporters, like Calipari and John Wall, and there's always the problem that small issues are sometimes taken out of context or blown up way out of proportion, as Brian Eldridge points out in his article at Scout.com

That's not to say that Cousins is the epitome of teamwork and unselfishness. While Kentucky was blowing out East Tennessee State in the second half, an ETS player drove to the basket, and while Patrick Patterson and Perry Stevenson defended for Kentucky, Cousins leaked out on the break. Patterson and Stevenson battled with three ETS players before one of the East Tennessee State players finally put the ball in the basket. As John Wall brought the ball up court, he spotted Cousins under their offensive basket and hit him with a pass for an easy dunk. Now I don't bring this up to show John Wall's vision, or Cousin's ability to dunk; but rather to show that while his team was battling on defense, Cousins was sprinting down court for a blue bird.

On another play, he was fouled hard under the basket; and showed a little disgust? Anger? I'm not sure what the right word is, but he's gotta know that until he's a better Free Throw shooter (63%), teams are going to foul him rather than let him just go up and dunk the ball. The CBS announcers noticed it and talked about Cousins attempts to "control his emotions" this year, and that he had made real strides.

STRENGTHS:

  • Great size, NBA body, Strength, Huge wingspan
  • Good hands, great footwork, Excellent Touch
  • Establishes, and maintains deep position in post
  • Offensively skilled, post moves
  • Ability to finish through contact
  • Great rebounder
  • Productivity, ability to get to the FT line
  • Dominates inside
  • Nice mid-range jump shot
  • Above average ball handling skills for a big man
  • Shot-blocking

WEAKNESSES:

  • Conditioning, motor, effort, focus, activity level
  • Not especially athletic
  • Sometimes lacks effort on defense
  • Defensive Fundamentals
  • Lack of quickness
  • Intangibles: Maturity, work ethic, Basketball IQ
  • Anger issues?
  • High bust potential

Talk about a dilemma! General managers must look at the physical gifts and the skills of Demarcus Cousins and dream that he could be the next great center. A franchise cornerstone type player. A HoF type player. And they are right. The physical gifts and skills are all there.

 

But then there's the other side of the coin: those pesky intangibles. Those things that are hard to quantify with statistics, but easy to see on and off the court and easy to put into words: Work Ethic. Coachability. Basketball IQ. Effort. Focus. Maturity. Mental Toughness. Competitiveness. If those things are there, they can turn a good college player into a great NBA player. But if they are not, well, you know the rest.

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