NOTE: Most of this was written before tonight's monster game; expect me to touch on that next week. Also, I can't get Cousins to show up in Basketball Reference's Playfinder, so I'm just injecting him into the current leaderboards based on his season stats. Sincerest apologies for any incorrect stats.
The Story Thus Far: Where to start? Cousins' season started out well enough, but quickly dissolved into drama. You get the feeling that either Cuz or Westphal will be gone within the next few weeks (days?).
- Man Defense: Cousins' individual defense so far has been greatly improved. I don't have any hard stats beyond DRating (104 compared to 105 last year, if you're wondering) to reference, but it seems like he's contesting better in the post, staying with his man better off the dribble, and generally getting stops against people his own position (he got torched a couple times off the dribble by Rudy Gay, one of the quicker Small Forwards around). Examples; he had a strong block against a driving Carlos Boozer, which he controlled well enough to recover and outlet it to the sprinting guards, who failed to convert.
- Help Defense: Looking great, in my opinion. He helps against driving guards, Much of the Kings' problem with their Opponents' At-The-Rim FG%comes from his front-court mate's inability to provide effective defense (not for lack of effort in Hayes' case, he's just not big enough to really intimidate at the rim) and their transition Defense (which, humbly but confidently, I state that Cousins is good at when he's not trying to pick the pockets of ball-handlers in the back court).
- PnR Defense: He has had a few lapses (he left his man to defend the rim against a penetrating guard, only to have said guard drop it off to Cuz's original man for the finish), but overall he's doing well in the pick and roll. The only time I saw Cuz really switch onto the smaller ball-handler was against Rudy Gay, but I think Cuz learned that lesson pretty quick once Gay torched him on two possessions in a row. However, this is still an improvement over last year. A 6'11" Center with good footwork facing off with a 6'9" Small Forward is a much better matchup than say, that same Center trying to cover a 6' Point Guard.
- Steals: Boogie is averaging more than a steal per game (1.2, actually, putting him at #9 of all Power Forwards and Centers in the league in steals), but he's gambling way, way too often. when you're the only true line of defense at the rim, you need to make sure your gambles are actually sure things, and that you don't leave the rim open. This needs to improve, even though his box score so far is impressive.
- Taking Charges: Cousins is (unofficially) leading the league in drawn charges per game. He's got 9 on the year, or 1.8 per game, which is probably even better than getting a steal. If you count Charges as Steals, he's averaging 3 a game, which is ridiculous. The flip side of this is that he's also averaging 2 Blocking Fouls a game, so he might be going for those Charges too often. He's doing his best to straddle the line between playing awesome defense and getting into foul trouble, but not quite succeeding. I think he'll improve quickly (and if we get lucky, the Refs will come around too!).
- Blocks: This is definitely a concrete, distinct area that Cuz has greatly improved in. Last year he averaged 0.8 Blocks in 28.5 minutes of action. Thus far, he's averaging 1.4 Blocks (good for 17th among Centers and PFs) in 26 minutes. Almost double the blocks in less time. I'm lovin' it.
- Transition: Surprisingly, this is getting better rather than worse. He's putting forth a lot of effort in running the floor, especially on Offense. He still needs a little encouragement on the defensive end, as he gambles for steals in the backcourt rather than hustling back, but I have a theory on that. I'm wondering if perhaps he knows that he's getting winded and goes for those steals in an effort to contribute something to his team rather than watching. Then again, I may be a DMC apologist.
- Defensive Rebounding: As of this writing, Cuz is fourth in rebounds per game and third in rebounding percentage in the league. This is probably inflated by the fact that the Kings are shooting atrociously, but I can live with that for the time being.
- Post Play: Still Cousins's strongest area on Offense (next to Offensive Rebounding). Despite his At-The-Rim % (33.33 this year vs 62.4 last year) being so low so far, he still has some incredible skills near the rim. His best go-to move is undoubtedly the body-up, spin-to-the-hoop slam/layup/reverse slam/up and under reverse layup. If he can consistently get into position and perform that spin move--and here's the importangt part--without wrapping his off arm around the defender to clear space, it will be an incredible efficient move. Once he's past the initial defender, her's better than most at either drawing contact or finishing strong at the rim. I'm not concerned about his low at-rim FG%. It'll normalize sometime. Of particular note in this area is his %Assisted rate (the percentage of his shots at the rim that are assisted), which is nearly half that of last season's rate (32.5% in 2011 vs 18% in 2012). This is particularly ridiculous, because it means that only 1 in 5 of his shots are the rim come from a pass--the rest of them are created by Demarcus himself.
- Jump Shots/Face Up: Ziller wrote a great article on this a while back, and I really don't have anything to add. Cuz's shot selection is definitely improving, although he's not quite capitalizing on them yet. The key here is he's taking less jumpers, and no threes at all so far. He's establishing himself in the post, and making good moves once there. Yes, I'm aware this part I supposed to be about his jumpshot; he's just not taking that many.
- Drawing Fouls: Cuz is drawing fouls at a very solid rate. He's attempting 5.4 per game, good for sixth among Centers and Power Forwards in the league, and making 4, good for fourth. He draws fouls on both the offensive and defensive end, and does so very well. Assuming that 5 free throws attempted = 3 defensive fouls drawn (two sets of two free throws, and one and-one opportunity), plus his 2 charges result in 5 drawn fouls.
- Free Throws: 20 of 27 on the season; 75%, which is damn good for a big man. He's improving steadily, but I would guess that he regresses toward the mean by the end fo the season. Maybe we'll get lucky and he'll hold strong around 70%?
- Offensive Rebounding: Cousins has always been a good offensive rebounder. However, so far this season he's apparently been nothing short of amazing. Granted, that probably stems from the fact that he gets a lot of the 66% of shots he misses at the rim, and I expect his OREB Rank (1st in both total OREBs and OREB%) to drop a bit by the end of the season, as he starts finishing more of his shots due to (hopefully) better passing.
- PnR Offense: Cuz is setting way too many picks and not doing enough with them. To me, this stems from a bit of laziness and energy conservation on his part. Being a big wall is way easier than cutting hard to the basket. I'd love to see him make more of his opportunities. He does have moments of brilliance, though, mostly when paired with Jimmer in the pick and roll. Let's hope this improves as team chemistry does.
- Passing: After going assist-less for his first three games, Cuz has recorded 5 in the last two, bringing him to 1 assist per game on the year. The team's assist rate couldn't possibly get any worse this season, so hopefully this will improve in time. I did notice that Cousins has been making some pretty nifty passes that teammates either aren't expecting or simply don't finish, costing him assists that he should be getting. He's also not throwing the ball away via pass as often; making smarter plays is always a good thing.
- Turnovers: 2.6 TOVs per game is better than his 3.3 from last year, but still not ideal. He's still getting about one Offensive Foul per game, and continuing to develop his post game will allow him to limit these turnovers as well as his fouls.
- Moving Without the Ball: Please, please get better at this, Cuz. I hope that with better conditioning comes better movement in the half court, but this is currently one of Cuz's big weaknesses. Too often you'll see him standing around near the top of the key, setting a half-hearted, ineffective screen or waiting for the ball-handler to give him the ball. He's certainly establishing better position in the post, though, and that's always a good thing.
- Complaining: Cuz is doing really well in this area. It seems like he's complaining to his teammates more than the refs, which is both a good and bad thing. It's good for his technical fouls count, but not so good for team chemistry; it must get tiring. That said, I think he's improving steadily in this department.
- Body Language: I had an interesting observation about his body language the other night. Against Memphis, there was a play where Cuz tried to get in on a drive by Mayo and draw the Charge. He was a bit late and was called for the Blocking Foul. Now, that's nothing new; his reaction, however (or lack thereof, perhaps), was. He just turned around, trudged into position at the border of the paint, and watched Mayo finish his and-one. We should be happy about this. However, my initial reaction was "Man, he just looks completely out of it. Like he doesn't even care." I found it really funny that when he didn't have any reaction at all, I was very concerned because he lacked his usual fire. I, personally, would rather see him disappointed in himself on every foul than see him like that ever again. Seriously.
- Fouls: Leading the league--'nuff said. Perhaps seeing slight improvement, but he's still making very silly fouls.
Overall Progress: Not a great week for Googie. Still finding his way offensively just like the rest of the team, but I really feel that he--not Chuck Hayes--is the anchor of our defense. Hayes is our leader, and the most valuable player on our roster in that respect, but Boogie is our defensive presence.
% of Donovan's Soul Reclaimed from the [REDACTED]: 12%
1/2 Court Prayers by Marcus Thornton this Season: 0 (this is very surprising for me.)
Charges Drawn by Boogie: 9