Most championship teams that I can think of have that one guy that a team drafts and cultivates to be their centerpiece for years and years. Dirk in Dallas, Duncan/Robinson in San Antonio, Kobe/Magic in LA, Pierce in Boston, Wade in Miami, etc. For Sacramento, I believe we finally have a guy like that and his name is DeMarcus Cousins.
At the Age of 21, DeMarcus Cousins is averaging 16.4 points and 11.3 rebounds. He leads the entire NBA in charges drawn. He can shoot, he can score inside, and he has an internal fire to want to become the best. There have been, and will continue to be, roadblocks in his path to greatness, but I believe that is exactly what he will achieve one day.
It's clear DeMarcus is the centerpiece for this Kings team, but a big question the team has to answer is getting players that complement him next to him. To me, the best fit next to DeMarcus is a defensive minded, athletic, shot blocker. Of the Kings three other rotation bigs, none of them full fit the bill. Jason Thompson is perhaps the most well-rounded, and has been the most consistent of the bunch this season. J.J. Hickson has athleticism, but that's it. Chuck Hayes is defense personified, but he's hardly athletic and he doesn't block many shots. Hassan Whiteside would seem to fit the bill, but he's probably not ready to play big minutes in the NBA and might never be.
This season has had it's ups and downs, and although Jason Thompson has played well to date, and Chuck Hayes seems to be finally coming into his own, I'm not sure the Kings have the right fit just yet. It'll be something to keep in mind when the trade deadline comes up in a little less than a month, and again this summer with the draft (one filled with bigs) and Free Agency.
I will be using several sources for my analysis. First, I'll be using the Advanced Statistics found on Basketball-Reference (PER, TS%, AST%, etc.). I will also be using mySynergySports.com to give a more in-depth look at how our players perform each possession, both offensively and defensively. mySynergySports.com uses PPP (Points Per Possession) to track individual players. They track individual play types on both ends of the court and I will be provding samples of each players major play types. For the shot location statistics, I'll be using HoopData. For On/Off court statistics, I'll be using 82games.com.
The following statistics were compiled as of February 23rd, 2012. If you would like some explanations of the following statistics, Basketball-Reference has explanations here.
Offense: Points Per 100 Possessions ON court: 102.6
Offense: Points Per 100 Possessions OFF court: 96.4
Overall Offensive PPP: 0.85
- Post-Up (24.3%): 0.74
- Offensive Rebound (19.4%): 0.94
- Isolation (14.5%): 0.73
- Spot-Up (11.4%): 0.87
- P&R Roll Man (9.3%): 0.86
- At Rim: 3.5 FGM / 6.8 FGA (52.0%)
- 3-9 Feet:0.8 FGM / 2.8 FGA (29.4%)
- 10-15 Feet: 0.5 FGM / 1.2 FGA (42.9%)
- 16-23 Feet: 1.3 FGM / 3.0 FGA (45.0%)
- Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA): 0.41
Defense: Points Per 100 Possessions ON court: 108.2
Defense: Points Per 100 Possessions OFF court:109.3
Overall Defensive PPP: 0.84
- Post-Up (41.8%): 0.93
- Spot-Up (33.5%): 0.88
- Isolation (10.3%): 0.75
- P&R Roll Man: 0.75
DeMarcus Cousins has gone from inconsistent, temperamental rookie to Double-Double machine and the Kings best player in just his 2nd year in the NBA. The best part is that there is still a bunch of room for improvement. Offensively, DeMarcus has more skills and moves as a 21 year old than some players accrue during their careers, but he doesn't have a reliable go-to move perfected yet. His efficiency is still very bad for a man his size, but in context of watching him play, you know that sometimes he'll throw a ball up in the general direction of the hoop knowing that he'll get better position to actually score off of the offensive rebound. Speaking of rebounds, Cousins is a monster on both sides of the glass. His Total Rebounding % of 20.7% (meaning he grabs 20.7% of all available rebounds on the floor) is second only to LaSalle Thompson's 21.1% in 1984.
DeMarcus also stands out as a big man for his mid-range game, where he's been by far the Kings most consistent and reliable shooter. Last month after 10 or so games, DeMarcus was shooting 47% from 16-23 feet and I said that that would probably fall off. It did, but not by much, falling just 2% to 45%, still a ridiculous number for a big man.
Defensively, DeMarcus has fallen a bit statistically from when we last took a look at him, but he's still very competent on this end of the floor. He's no star by any means, but he has a good foundation to build on. He'll likely never be an elite shotblocker, but he makes up for it by being amazing at taking charges, arguably the most effective defensive move in the NBA, since it guarantees possession while giving a foul to the opposing player. DeMarcus currently leads the entire NBA in charges drawn.
DeMarcus has also improved in other areas from his rookie year. His turnovers are down, and his fouls have started to dip as well, although he gets at least two or three unnecessary fouls each game from him trying to force the issue defensively. Those are mistakes he can grow out of. He's also noticeably restrained himself from blowing his top when he gets upset, and hasn't argued with the officials nearly as much.
I have extremely high hopes for DeMarcus' future with the Kings, and I think his improvement and growth have been the best part about the job Keith Smart has done since taking over.
Offense: Points Per 100 Possessions ON court: 98.0
Offense: Points Per 100 Possessions OFF court: 101.6
Overall Offensive PPP: 0.7
- Post-Up (21.4%): 0.69
- Offensive Rebound (16.1%): 0.72
- P&R Roll Man (13.8%): 0.87
- Spot-Up (12.1%): 0.37
- Cut (12.1%): 1.0
- Transition (10.7%): 0.96
- At Rim: 0.9 FGM / 1.8 FGA (49.1%)
- 3-9 Feet: 0.4 FGM / 0.9 FGA (41.4%)
- 10-15 Feet: 0.2 FGM / 0.8 FGA (23.1%)
- 16-23 Feet: 0.5 FGM / 1.5 FGA (31.0%)
- Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA): 0.36
Defense: Points Per 100 Possessions ON court: 110.4
Defense: Points Per 100 Possessions OFF court:107.4
Overall Defensive PPP: 0.79
- Spot-Up (47.8%): 0.76
- Post-Up (17.6%): 0.79
- Isolation (12.6%): 0.95
- P&R Roll Man (10.7%): 0.82
Arguably the most disappointing player on this roster outside of John Salmons. When the Kings gave up Omri Casspi and a 1st round pick for Hickson, they were hoping they'd get an athletic big man who could complement Cousins in the frontcourt. Instead they've gotten an offensive black hole who isn't a good defender either.
Don't let the individual numbers up there fool you. Hickson is a bad defender, and lazy in his rotations to boot. His rebounding has also dropped off since the beginning of the season and from last year.
Offensively, J.J. is shooting an absolutely horrid percentage from the floor for a big man, mainly because he's exclusively shooting jumpers despite being one of the worst jump shooters in the NBA. He's also ruining almost one-fifth of his possessions with turnovers, showcasing some of the worst hands I've seen.
This regression from J.J. in his 4th year in the league has extremely disappointing.
Offense: Points Per 100 Possessions ON court: 98.5
Offense: Points Per 100 Possessions OFF court: 101.6
Overall Offensive PPP: 0.9
- Cut (21.6%): 0.79
- Offensive Rebound (19.8%): 1.18 (20th in NBA)
- Post-Up (19.4%): 0.96 (20th in NBA)
- P&R Roll Man (14.1%): 0.8
- Transition (11.3%): 1.25
- At Rim: 2.1 FGM / 3.2 FGA (65.7%)
- 3-9 Feet: 0.8 FGM / 1.8 FGA (42.9%)
- 10-15 Feet: 0.1 FGM / 0.2 FGA (66.7%)
- 16-23 Feet: 0.3 FGM / 1.1 FGA (27.0%)
- Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA): 0.38
Defense: Points Per 100 Possessions ON court: 107.0
Defense: Points Per 100 Possessions OFF court:110.1
Overall Defensive PPP: 0.81
- Post-Up (37.7%): 0.91
- Spot-Up (30.1%): 0.95
- Isolation (14.2%): 0.46 (8th in NBA)
- P&R Roll Man (11.5%): 0.76
JT meanwhile has improved in his 4th year, particularly in his skill around the basket. He's one of the best post-up players in the NBA according to Synergy, thanks in part to the development of his left-hand. About the only thing he isn't doing well offensively is hitting his jumper with the same consistency he had been his first few seasons, but he's also been less apt to take jumpers.
Defensively, he's been better as a team defender than an individual defender. The Isolation number by Synergy is a bit deceiving. Not only has he not had that many Isolation plays against him, not many big men are all that good at Isolation. His rebounding on this end also needs to improve to around 20% on the defensive end, which would be more around his career average.
JT hasn't been the best big man around, but he's been good, and should expect a nice contract this summer if he continues his good play during the 2nd half of the season.
Offense: Points Per 100 Possessions ON court: 97.7
Offense: Points Per 100 Possessions OFF court: 101.0
Overall Offensive PPP: 0.74
- Cut (28.6%): 1.03
- Offensive Rebound (21.9%): 1.09
- P&R Roll Man (12.4%): 0.46
- Post-Up (10.5%): 0.27
- At Rim: 1.0 FGM / 1.9 FGA (50.0%)
- 3-9 Feet: 0.3 FGM / 1.5 FGA (20.7%)
- 10-15 Feet: 0.1 FGM / 0.2 FGA (66.7%)
- 16-23 Feet: 0.1 FGM / 0.3 FGA (40.0%)
- Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA): 0.25
Defense: Points Per 100 Possessions ON court: 107.7
Defense: Points Per 100 Possessions OFF court: 109.0
Overall Defensive PPP: 0.64 (11th in NBA)
- Post-Up (41%): 0.6 (15th in NBA)
- Spot-Up (24.8%): 0.5 (4th in NBA)
- Isolation (18.1%): 0.53
Chuck was the big free agent signing for the Kings this year, and it hasn't been until the last few games that he's really started to get in any sort of rhythm, thanks to injuries, both real (shoulder) and unfounded (heart). Offensively he's been terrible aside from passing the ball and setting screens, not finishing well near the basket, which is the only place he's likely to be effective offensively anyway.
Defensively though, he's been just as advertised. Those numbers are pretty astounding, particularly the Post-Up. His low center of gravity, quick feet and huge bulk to not make him easy to get off the block. He also has extremely good timing on swiping the ball out of a players hand as they're trying to go up for a shot. It's not necessarily a block, and it's not necessarily a steal, but it causes a turnover nonetheless.
With Chuck starting to find his rhythm, I think a move to the starting lineup in the near future may be a good call. His passing is an asset there, as is his ability not to need the ball. It also allows the Kings to bring in Jason Thompson off the bench for either Cousins or Hayes as warranted. Thompson also can be the post-threat for the bench, which we currently lack when JT and Cousins are both out of the game.