DeMarcus Cousins is many things, but shy is not one of them. This summer during the Team USA camp in Vegas, Cousins was asked about the current state of the Kings and he mentioned how he believes he'd look better playing next to a shot blocking big.
"I love playing with Jason Thompson, don't get me wrong, but I believe I would play better if I had a shot-blocking big. I'm not the greatest shot blocker and I can move to the four and play my natural position."
Now, Greg already wrote an article a little while ago exploring this issue, but I'd like to expand on it a little bit. Cousins is right. He's not the greatest shot blocker, but he's also not the greatest defender. You can be a great defender without being a great shot blocker, and as of yet, Cousins has not put the same effort in on that side of the ball as he has on offense. That's completely on him, and putting the onus on someone else coming in and covering for his crappy defense to make him look better is immature in my opinion.
Still, I don't disagree that the Kings could use a lockdown defender/shot blocker next to Cousins, if only because Cousins is such a bad defender and the rest of Sacramento's bigs aren't exactly world beaters in that department. By far the best big man defender Sacramento has is Chuck Hayes, but Hayes has not been utilized very much since he came to Sacramento. That may change with Mike Malone on board, but if it does not, let's look at some options.
In terms of defensive big men currently available to sign, there are no really appealing options. Cole Aldrich may just be the best big man FA still out there and it doesn't seem like the Kings are super keen to sign him despite an excellent performance in the second half of last season. In terms of trades, we can eliminate players that teams aren't willing to trade or who Sacramento doesn't have the assets to trade for like Larry Sanders, Serge Ibaka, Andre Drummond, etc. and players that are too old and not part of a rebuilding project. If we take this list (best shot blockers in the NBA) and eliminate those players, here's who is left over:
1. Javale McGee (8.5% Block Rate)
2. Hasheem Thabeet (5.9% Block Rate)
3. Greg Stiemsma (5.8% Block Rate)
4. Andrew Bogut (5.5% Block Rate)
5. Bismack Biyombo (5.3% Block Rate)
6. Brandan Wright (5.2% Block Rate)
7. Festus Ezeli (5.2% Block Rate)
8. Robin Lopez (5.0% Block Rate)
9. Taj Gibson (4.7% Block Rate)
10. Ekpe Udoh (4.7% Block Rate)
11. James Johnson (4.5% Block Rate)
12. Kosta Koufos (4.4% Block Rate)
13. Ed Davis (4.2% Block Rate)
14. Jason Maxiell (4.2% Block Rate)
That's not a very appealing list. Of those players there are only a few that I think would offer a significant enough upgrade over Sacramento's current crop of big men in terms of total production. Someone like Hasheem Thabeet or Bismack Biyombo will block a lot of shots, but not do much else. The player also needs to be a good rebounder, as that was a big weakness for Sacramento last year, so that eliminates Brandan Wright.
From that list there are only a few options that I find appealing: Javale McGee, Andrew Bogut, Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos. McGee is not the sharpest tool in the shed but he is still very good at what he does. He's not a lock down defender but he's a tremendous shot blocker, an adequate rebounder, and efficient with his shots (54.2% from the field for his career). I believe he'd be the hardest to pry away from his current team however, if only because Denver doesn't really have much big man depth behind him now.
Bogut could be an option for next season, as this is the final year of his contract. With Bogut, injuries are always a big factor. When he's healthy, he's a tremendous defender and rebounder, and he passes well for a big man too. But he's missed almost a third of his possible career games, and if you discount his first three seasons, that number shoots up to almost half. A lot will depend on Bogut's year this year and if he can stay healthy. Even then, any contract would have to be structured without a lot of guarantees for me to want to make a big investment in him.
Ed Davis is a possible sleeper. He's only 24 years old and hasn't really gotten much of an opportunity yet. He's an efficient players, a good rebounder, and a good shot blocker. Memphis recently acquired the next guy on my list, Kosta Koufos, so Davis could possibly be had for the right price. He'll also be a restricted Free Agent next summer if Memphis gives him the qualifying offer. Sacramento should definitely keep Davis on their radar at the very least.
Koufos is an underrated big man in my opinion. Memphis basically acquired him for nothing this summer, and his contract is very friendly. He defends well, uses his shots efficiently, and rebounds well on both ends.
There are also a few big men that might be available that aren't as good shot blockers but are still very good defenders. The foremost of these is Omer Asik, who will see a greatly reduced role in Houston with Dwight Howard now aboard. Asik is still a good shot blocker, just not an elite one. He is an elite defensive rebounder however and a very good defender, both things the Kings can use. As he's making a little over $8 million for the next two years, I could see Houston wanting to possibly acquire someone who will see a little more playing time with that money.
Sacramento also doesn't have to really rush into acquiring another big man, particularly with how deep next year's draft is. Currently on DraftExpress's 2014 mock draft, there are 7 big men projected to be taken in the lottery and 10 in the top-20. Now it's still way early, but this draft does appear to be loaded with talent, particularly at that position.
Sacramento has plenty of time to figure out just what kind of partner they want for DeMarcus Cousins. Perhaps with a greater focus on the defensive end of the court as a team unit, the need for a shot blocker won't be as readily apparent. Cousins has the lateral quickness and size to be an effective defender, he just needs to put the effort on that end. The same goes for a lot of Kings, but if Cousins wants to be the leader of this team he will have to lead by example. If he doesn't, and continues to give no effort on that end, maybe this isn't the guy our future should be staked in.