DeMarcus Cousins is off to a good start in the eyes of many Sacramento Kings fans, even if the numbers aren't spectaular. While Boogie is averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds per game, his field goal percentage is down around 40 and he's had nine fouls through two games -- too many given how vital he is to the team. Cousins has been good defensively, especially in the opener against the Lakers where he made Pau Gasol's life miserable late.
But there's real reason for hope on the offensive end, too: Cousins is using his shooting attempts much better, even if it hasn't get translated in the shooting percentages.
The biggest offensive knock on Cousins last season -- even bigger than the turnovers, of which there were way too many -- was that he took way too many long jumpers. He's a decent shooter and can get off a jumper against anyone, but his physical make-up and agility are best suited in the pivot. A key development point for Cousins would be to shift his shot structure to rely less on the perimeter and mid-range and more on the post.
So far, so good.
To give you an idea as to why shot structure is so important to DMC, let's look at last season's numbers (via Hoopdata). Keep in mind that the majority of free throw attempts are created in the paint; players who take a larger share of their attempts within 10 feet draw more whistles. As such, we combine free throws and shots at the rim to see that on these attempt, Cousins last season averaged 1.35 points per shot.
On all other shots -- anything from three feet or further from the rim -- Cousins averaged 0.67 points per shots. If Cousins took five shots on the rim or from the line and five shots from outside of those categories per game, he'd earn an average of 6.75 points from the former and just 3.35 points from the latter. He essentially had double the probability of scoring on shots at the rim or after a drawn foul than all other shots.
This spread is not exactly unique, but it is a particularly large chasm. It's even more noticeable when a player like Cousins takes so many shots from distance, as he did last season. In 2010-11, Cousins took just 43 percent of his attempts at the rim or from the line.
That's changed in the early going this season. Through two games, 19 of Cousins' 32 shooting possessions have come at the rim or on free throws. That's up at 59 percent ... much, much better. He's missed a lot of makeable layups and struggled at the line so far, but that should normalize so long as he doesn't force wild shots under the backboard against good defenders.
Of course, getting more shots in the paint is easier said then done. But a really, really solid way to keep that ratio up is to simply start taking fewer shots away from the rim. Cousins currently has the No. 6 usage rate in the NBA. It's a mountain too high given the Kings' offensive weapons. He's taken eight long two-pointers (16 feet plus), and made one. His usage rate will definitely fall quite a bit as games add up, but it probably needs to drop a lot. If the falling usage comes at the expense of turnovers and long two-pointers, his efficiency will shoot up and we'll be talking about a Boogie coming into his own as a legit star, and we'll be talking about lots of Kings victories. But the shot selection improvement has to continue, just as his defense and rebounding improvement has progressed.