On DeMarcus Cousins' Shot Selection

The hints were there at Vegas Summer League a year ago: DeMarcus Cousins fancies himself a skilled shooter, and is not at all shy. While he began VSL pounding the paint to great, scintillating effect, his most notable play was ... a turnaround fading jumper from about 15 feet. As the week wore on -- six games in seven days, mind you -- he began to take more and more shots from the perimeter, both using up valuable possessions on middling opportunities and negating his most wonderful strength: an impeccable post game for a player of his age.

Little did we know that this was just the beginning.

In his rookie season, Cousins ended up taking more jumpers than shots at the rim. According to Hoopdata, Cousins took 335 shots at the rim and 386 jumpers, plus another 283 "short shots" from between three to nine feet. If you consider those shots from 3-9 feet as being "in the post", that'd give you 618 post shots and 386 jumpers, or a post ratio of 1.6.

How does that compare with other high-usage centers? Does it need to shoot up dramatically for Cousins to reach his potential?

First, an explanation of why Cousins needs to boost that post ratio:

Cousins' effective field goal percentage on "post shots" inside of 10 feet: .477
Cousins' effective field goal percentage on "jumpers" outside of 10 feet: .360

Cousins' points per shot on "post shots": 0.954
Cousins' points per shot on "jumpers": 0.72

Clearly, Cousins is more efficient in the post, even if he is not really that efficient in the post at this point. And this all ignores the impact of offensive rebounding -- if you're in the post, you're in better position to grab the offensive rebound -- and foul-drawing -- few draw fouls on jumpers. Add those in, and it's more stark.

Now, other centers. Cousins' usage rate was a mammoth 27 percent. We'll look at centers with a usage rate above 25. There are but two.

BROOK LOPEZ

Bro-pez had, like Cousins, a usage rate of 27 percent last season. Here's his post ratio breakdown:

396 shots at rim + 440 shots from 3-9 feet for 836 post shots
178 shots from 10-15, 294 shots from 16-23, 1 three-point for 473 jumpers
Post ratio of 1.76

Lopez's post ratio isn't terribly different than that of Cousins' ... it's a decent spread (you'd have to knock off about 80 of Lopez's post shots to get him down to 1.6, but it's not some mammoth, unrecognizable gap.

Now let's look at Lopez's efficiency:

Post shots: .544 eFG, 1.09 points per shot
Jumpers: .399 eFG, 0.799 points per shot

Like Cousins, Lopez is much, much more efficient in the post than on jumpers. But Brook (with two extra seasons and three years of age as a head start) is also much more efficient in both spots.

DWIGHT HOWARD

Howard had a usage of 27 percent last season. Let's look at his post ratio.

545 shots at rim + 351 shots from 3-9 feet for 896 post shots
91 shots from 10-15, 50 shots from 16-23, 7 three-pointers for 148 jumpers
Post ratio of 6.05

Now we're talking! Efficiency:

Post shots: .633 eFG, 1.27 points per shot
Jumpers: .351 eFG, 0.703 points per shot

So like Lopez and Cousins, Howard is much more efficient in the post than on jumpers. Unlike Lopez and very very unlike Cousins, Howard conscientiously limits those jumpers in favor of more post attempts.

Of course, Orlando's offense is designed around Howard in the post, and Dwight only recently gained any confidence in his jumper at all. Cousins' usage rate would fall precipitously if he waited for the Kings offense to set him up in the post. (That's an issue for another time.) But he'd be a more efficient player immediately, and that'd make the Sacramento offense that much more potentially potent.

***

For reference's sake, here are some more post ratios:

Al Jefferson: 1.43
Paul Millsap: 1.06
Amare Stoudemire: 1.38
Pau Gasol: 1.69
Andrew Bynum: 11.9 (!) (This guy never takes jumpers.)
LaMarcus Aldridge: 1.35
Al Horford: 0.86 (he takes a huge number of long twos ... which he hits at an amazing 53 percent)
Jason Thompson: 1.76

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