I know it’s awfully early but we’ve been nibbling around the edges of this much of the season - and the last few weeks the topic has come up from time to time in threads. Perhaps the answer in the end is both of the above - but I thought some direct discussion would be fun.
Last season Tyreke Evans won Rookie of the Year, and given our roster at the time was deservedly given the mantle of franchise cornerstone.
But there are real flaws in his game that though he is clearly working on – persist. My largest concern is not about his (improving) jump shot, it’s about floor vision and game IQ. I do believe he wants to make his team better, but I think he’s hampered by a lack of natural spacial recognition. It’s just not one of his gifts. He often doesn’t seem to see the whole floor and the moving parts of the Chessboard if you will, all that well. That’s why I think that perhaps the most important key to his potential development into an All-Star is not a better jumper - but film study. I don’t believe he’s a natural at seeing three moves ahead, so he’s got to do some hard work to recognize schemes and movement both on offense, for himself near the basket, and equally how defenses are playing or playing off his teammates.
This is especially evident late in close games when opposing defenses tighten up. Can he grow that extra pair of eyes that great facilitators seem to possess? Probably not, but by study he can learn to play a lot less head down and have better recognition of the floor as whole. Let’s face it, right now it’s often obvious to me, to you and almost certainly to defenses when he’s already planning to take the ball himself and damn the torpedoes - before he even crosses the mid-court line.
There’s nothing to fear here, many of the great guards in this league, Chauncey Billups pops to mind, had to work on their mental game very hard to be who they eventually became. Just look at how wide, how focused Steve Nash’s eyes are when he's running his team, always scanning the floor, always anticipating. That’s from hard work perhaps more than it's from his natural ability to make a great pass or start a great play.
Chess is a good example I think, and by the way, an excellent mental recognition game that would probably be a useful tool to any strategist, even a basketball player. Not only does a good coach play Chess, his lead facilitator should be out there playing it as well.
I believe Only by hard work on the mental game can Tyreke begin to make quicker, more confidant decisions for himself and others and keep the offense flowing. Only then will he become the All-Star we need.
DeMarcus Cousins for all his rookie foibles seem to be a natural Chess player. His physical tools aren’t really superior to Tyreke’s, they share similar qualities in natural strength and footwork, but his feel for the game, his awareness and vision of the whole moving (hopefully) court and anticipation is God given if you will.
I’m not saying that he doesn’t need to increase his concentration and awareness, he does, but right now he’s an excellent young Chess player who sometimes gets impatient and plays Checkers instead. Yet, after 45 games and completing his first trip through the league, he is already showing the abilty to not only match up with a variety of opposing big men, but also to occasionally dominate and confound them in a variety of ways. If he continues to improve both his physical and mental game than he’ll be truly feared and multiple All-Star appearances await.
A huge key for DeMarcus’ future success is not to fall in love with his skills so much that he fails to continue to provide muscle and strength in the post. That is the primary job of his position after all and a key to a winning playoff team. Currently, he seems to dividing his talents equally as a facilitor/ shooter and a low post threat. Make no mistake though, it’s just easier to play outside - and this is a trap that awaits him and one I hope the coaching staff is monitoring closely.
So, it’s early, it’s hasty, (especially after these last few excellent games from Cousins) but what the hell, who do we think currently looks more likely to become the true franchise cornerstone?