On Demarcus Cousins' scoring efficiency


From the FanPosts. Excellent, thorough, rich. -- TZ

So there's a lot of commotion about Cousins lately and the upcoming contractual negotiations for possibly a max contract. Dan Fegan is one of the toughest negotiators in the business, but D'Alessandro's reputation is one of no slouch either. For several reasons, I would not give Cousins a max contract right now. The reasons mainly being that I'm unsure of his maturity level, ability to control his temper to the detriment of his team, his commitment to the defensive end of the court, and his restricted free agency status next year anyways.

However, not amongst the rational reasons not to give Cousins a max contract is his scoring ability on offense. There is all kinds of chatter about Demarcus being characterized as an inefficient volume chucker whose shots would be better allocated elsewhere. Detracters will point out that his True Shooting percentage (TS%) is much lower than his contemporaries like Derrick Favors and Greg Monroe.

While this is indeed a true fact, as I have elucidated before, TS% divorced from an analysis of a player's role in an offense and the mentality of an oppenents' defense is inherently flawed. Shot creation IS in fact a skill that TS% does not account for and is the rarer commodity. An assisted field goal has a much higher efficiency than one created from scratch. Also, a player can benefit from an opposing defense focusing on another player. However TS% treats all of these the same in one big abstract swoop. So there must be context in evaluating efficiency.

So regarding Demarcus, where he stands as a player entering his fourth year, there are several reasons to alleviate any concerns regarding his scoring output. The first reason is, as most 22 year olds do, he is improving his game and establishing his comfort zones on the court. We can see this even within the season; something clicked for him around New Year's time where he was finally able to establish a consistency on the court that we hadn't seen from him yet. Just look at these splits:

2012 25 30.3 0.409 9.5 2.5 16.3
2013 50 30.6 0.496 10.2 2.7 17.4

Numbers up across the board. This isn't cherry picking either. This is the latest 50 game sample we have to analyze. Especially for a young player who is about to turn 23 years old, you have to take into account the growth a he displays across a timeframe when evaluating what that player could bring to you in the future. Cousins was a sloppy mess when he came into the league, and we may finally be seeing him refine his game beyond that. An NBA player's career is typically shaped as a bell curve; we are definitely seeing Cousins on that upward trend with a low likelihood of regression.

So then, taking that last 50 game sample as most indicative of what we may potentially see from Demarcus next year (plus some incremental improvements of course), I went ahead and calculated his TS% from 2013 and his Per 36 scoring stats to get a feel for volume as well:

2013 30.6 17.4 20.5 872 672 283 0.547

Not bad. But those are just numbers. How good are they really? To answer this question, we need to have someone to compare these numbers to. So I did some research on some players in the past who fulfill the same role that we want Cousins to fill (and tries to fill up until this day): the #1 option on offense in the post. The following list is of some truly legendary players and hopefully we can gain some perspective on Cousins' scoring efficiency. I took these players' entire careers season-by-season, ranked them by TS%, and embedded Demarcus' last 50 game sample as a comparison. This is hopefully to gain perspective about how Demarcus stacks up today, as well as where he should be at to be as successful as the following bigs.

My methodology in picking players was to pick basically the top centers from the 1990s and the top PF/Cs from the 2000s. I don't really think that there is any big in today's NBA that carries the responsibility of being the top offensive option on his team anymore, besides Cousins. So I went and dug up some numbers from the past.

Category I: Super-Elite Physical Tools

To be fair, a lot of the players on this list have absolutely elite physical tools. But at least for Shaquille O'Neal and David Robinson, their natural physical gifts go beyond even the elite moniker to the point where they are 2 of the 3 greatest athletes to play their position in NBA history. This kind of physical ability gives them the ability to be so efficient in their scoring that pretty much nobody can touch them. Pretty evident by their numbers below that Cousins will probably never enter this stratosphere of efficiency.

Shaquille O'Neal

Player Year TS% PTS per 36
O'Neal 2010-11 0.659 16.3
O'Neal 2008-09 0.623 21.3
O'Neal 1993-94 0.605 26.5
O'Neal 2007-08 0.605 16.2
O'Neal 2002-03 0.602 26.1
O'Neal 2001-02 0.59 27.1
O'Neal 2007-08 0.589 17.1
O'Neal 1994-95 0.588 28.5
O'Neal 1997-98 0.587 28.1
O'Neal 2005-06 0.586 23.5
O'Neal 1992-93 0.584 22.2
O'Neal 1998-99 0.584 27.2
O'Neal 2004-05 0.583 24.1
O'Neal 1999-00 0.578 26.7
O'Neal 2003-04 0.578 21
O'Neal 2007-08 0.577 17.9
O'Neal 2000-01 0.574 26.2
O'Neal 1995-96 0.57 26.5
O'Neal 2006-07 0.567 21.9
O'Neal 2009-10 0.565 18.5
O'Neal 1996-97 0.556 24.8
Cousins 2012-13 0.547 20.5

Pretty clear to me that Cousins will never be that good. But its Shaq, probably the most dominant center ever to play. Moving along...

David Robinson

Player Year TS% PTS per 36
Robinson 1990-91 0.615 24.4
Robinson 1994-95 0.602 26.2
Robinson 1989-90 0.597 23.9
Robinson 1991-92 0.597 22.2
Robinson 1995-96 0.589 24.5
Robinson 1997-98 0.581 23.1
Robinson 1993-94 0.577 26.5
Robinson 1992-93 0.569 21.5
Robinson 1999-00 0.568 20.1
Robinson 1998-99 0.564 18
Robinson 2001-02 0.562 14.9
Robinson 1996-97 0.559 26
Robinson 2000-01 0.559 17.5
Cousins 2012-13 0.547 20.5
Robinson 2002-03 0.531 11.7

Again, Cousins just doesn't compare. The only season he had a better TS% was Robinson's last year in the NBA.

Category II: 90s Inside/Out Centers

Now this category is more illustrative. Cousins has a very similar game to both Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon in that he has the ability to step outside and face up while also having the option to go down into the post with his back to the basket. Although both had better physical tools than him, Demarcus' season stacks up pretty nicely considering his age and potential for growth.

Hakeem Olajuwon

Player Year TS% PTS per 36
Olajuwon 1992-93 0.577 23.8
Olajuwon 1993-94 0.565 24
Olajuwon 1984-85 0.564 20.9
Olajuwon 1994-95 0.563 25.3
Olajuwon 1985-86 0.56 23.3
Olajuwon 1998-99 0.559 19.1
Olajuwon 1996-97 0.558 22.8
Olajuwon 1995-96 0.558 24.9
Olajuwon 1987-88 0.555 23
Olajuwon 1986-87 0.554 22.9
Olajuwon 1991-92 0.553 20.6
Olajuwon 1988-89 0.552 24.2
Olajuwon 1990-91 0.549 20.7
Cousins 2012-13 0.547 20.5
Olajuwon 1989-90 0.541 23
Olajuwon 1997-98 0.531 17
Olajuwon 2000-01 0.526 16.1
Olajuwon 1999-00 0.484 15.6
Olajuwon 2001-02 0.478 11.4

Hey, thats not bad! Obviously Hakeem was better in most of his seasons than Demarcus' 2013, but considering that a couple of Hakeem's prime years rank below Cousins' 2013 numbers, thats a pretty encouraging sign. Its also interesting to note that Cousins will probably continue to improve his game until he hits his prime. Hakeem's best years were roughly around .570 TS% and about 24 ppg per 36, a feat I'm not sure Cousins can get to. But if he can get into that ballpark that would be fantastic.

Patrick Ewing

Player Year TS% PTS per 36
Ewing 1988-89 0.607 22.6
Ewing 1989-90 0.599 26.7
Ewing 1987-88 0.594 23.4
Ewing 1991-92 0.563 22.5
Ewing 1990-91 0.561 25
Ewing 1997-98 0.557 22.9
Ewing 1994-95 0.555 23.3
Ewing 1993-94 0.551 23.5
Ewing 1986-87 0.549 22.1
Ewing 1996-97 0.548 21.8
Cousins 2012-13 0.547 20.5
Ewing 1992-93 0.546 23.5
Ewing 1985-86 0.526 20.3
Ewing 1995-96 0.516 22.1
Ewing 1999-00 0.516 16.4
Ewing 2001-02 0.497 15.6
Ewing 1998-99 0.491 18.2
Ewing 2000-01 0.478 13

It should be noted that Ewing probably would have belonged in Category I if he wasn't slowed down so much by injuries. But again, Cousins' 2013 stacks up reasonably well considering his age and potential for growth. There are some years of Ewing's prime that Demarcus topped in 2013, which is other-worldly praise for the 22 year old kid.

Category III: 2000s PF/Cs

Moving into the next era of NBA big men, the center position kind of died out in the aftermath of Shaq's warpath. So the players who had a similar role to Cousins in an offense were mostly PFs (and are considered Cs today!). THe bar is significantly lower in this category than the above two. Behold! The efficiency numbers for Chris Webber, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan.

Chris Webber

Player Year TS% PTS per 36
Webber 1995-96 0.581 23
Webber 1993-94 0.559 19.7
Webber 1996-97 0.554 18.5
Cousins 2012-13 0.547 20.5
Webber 2001-02 0.540 23
Webber 1999-00 0.530 22.9
Webber 1997-98 0.523 19.9
Webber 1994-95 0.521 18.9
Webber 2006-07 0.520 13.7
Webber 2000-01 0.516 24.1
Webber 1998-99 0.491 17.6
Webber 2004-05 0.491 21.1
Webber 2002-03 0.485 21.2
Webber 2005-06 0.482 18.9
Webber 2006-07 0.482 13.5
Webber 2007-08 0.482 10
Webber 2004-05 0.472 19.8
Webber 2003-04 0.456 18.6
Webber 2004-05 0.423 16.8
Webber 2006-07 0.409 13.1

Nice! So basically, Webber was more efficient than Cousins was in 2013 in only 3 seasons of his 19 year NBA career. It should be noted that post-microfracture Webber was a shell of his former self, but there are several pre-microfracture years below Cousins' 2013 output. Pretty encouraging from a Cousins standpoint.

Kevin Garnett

Player Year TS% PTS per 36
Garnett 2000-01 0.569 18.3
Garnett 2012-13 0.563 12.9
Cousins 2012-13 0.547 20.5
Garnett 2007-08 0.542 19.3
Garnett 2011-12 0.541 18.8
Garnett 2002-03 0.539 22
Garnett 2009-10 0.53 16.2
Garnett 2001-02 0.514 19.9
Garnett 2003-04 0.513 20.1
Garnett 1997-98 0.5 14.7
Garnett 1996-97 0.497 15
Garnett 1998-99 0.488 18.4
Garnett 2010-11 0.479 14.7
Garnett 1999-00 0.441 15.8

Pretty damn good. KG only had 2 years more efficient than Cousins' 2013, and one of those years was as Roleplayer KG, not MVP KG. Although KG wasn't known particularly as a scorer, there were years where he carried the Timberwolves basically by himself.

Tim Duncan

Player Year TS% PTS per 36
Duncan 2006-07 0.579 21.1
Duncan 1997-98 0.577 19.4
Duncan 2001-02 0.576 22.6
Duncan 2002-03 0.564 21.3
Duncan 2009-10 0.56 20.6
Duncan 1999-00 0.555 21.5
Duncan 2012-13 0.554 21.3
Duncan 2008-09 0.549 20.7
Cousins 2012-13 0.547 20.5
Duncan 2007-08 0.546 20.5
Duncan 1998-99 0.541 19.9
Duncan 2004-05 0.54 21.9
Duncan 2010-11 0.537 17.1
Duncan 2000-01 0.536 20.6
Duncan 2003-04 0.534 21.9
Duncan 2011-12 0.531 19.7
Duncan 2005-06 0.523 19.2

Right smack dab in the middle. Several of Timmy's prime years rank below Cousins' 2013, including his championship year in 2005. Bodes well for Cousins moving forward.


The reason I bring up all of these numbers isn't to directly compare Cousins' career with any of the above players. I am only trying to attack one argument: that Cousins does not deserve a max deal based on his inefficient play. This claim is patently false. Anytime you can comfortably put Cousins in a conversation with the above names you know there's something there. We are talking about former MVPs, Hall of Famers, champions, etc. Again, I am not arguing that we should hand Cousins a max deal this summer. I don't think we should for reasons stated above. But there is no merit to the argument that his on-court offensive output isn't worthy of a max extension. Even if his numbers hold to his 2013 form for the rest of his career, that's easily worth the max. But the reality is that Cousins will probably keep continuing to improve in the future. If he can ever get a handle over his temper and commit to the defensive end, watch out.

(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)

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