Last night might have been DeMarcus Cousins' last game of the season due to him picking up his 16th technical foul. Cousins had gone more than a month straight without picking up a technical, as getting his 16th would mean he'd get suspended. There's still a chance that his technical will be rescinded and he'll be available Wednesday to play in the season finale against the Suns, but even if it isn't, it doesn't take away from his excellent performance this season.
Going into this season, many of us were skeptical (myself included) of the Kings' decision to give DeMarcus Cousins a max contract extension. In his first three years, he had shown some flashes of greatness but also a moody temperament, an inability to stay on the court for long stretches, bad defense, and inefficient scoring.
Fortunately, not only has Cousins righted the ship, he's sailed straight into stardom with a season that saw huge improvements in almost every category.
Points: 17.1 to 22.7 (#10 in NBA)
Field Goal %: .465 to .496
Free Throw Attempts: 5.6 to 8.4 (#4 in NBA)
Rebounds: 9.9 to 11.7 (#4 in NBA)
Blocks: 0.7 to 1.3 (#13 in NBA)
Minutes: 30.5 to 32.4
Player Efficiency Rating (PER): 20.2 to 26.2 (#5 in NBA)
True Shooting %: .524 to .555
Defensive Rebounding Rate: 27.0% to 30.6% (#1 in NBA)
Assist Rate: 15.3% to 17.8% (#33 in NBA, #5 among big men)
Offensive Rating: 102 to 107
Defensive Rating: 106 to 102 (T-14th in NBA)
Offensive Win Shares: 2.0 to 4.2
Defensive Win Shares: 2.3 to 3.8
The best part about this improvement is that Cousins still has plenty of room to improve, not turning 24 until August. According to Basketball-Reference, there have only been 8 times that a player has averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds with a PER of 26 or higher by the Age of 23 years old and only 6 players that have done so: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Walt Bellamy, Shaquille O'Neal, Bob Pettit and now DeMarcus Cousins.
The next steps Cousins will need to take involve getting even better on the defensive end (where he has surprisingly become good this season), staying on the floor longer through not fouling, and not missing games due to needless suspensions and technical fouls. My hope is that this is the last time in his career that DeMarcus Cousins will put himself in the situation to miss a game because of too many technical fouls. He managed to go 22 games in a row without a tech before last night, by far the longest stretch of his career. My challenge for him next season is to try to go all 82. It very likely won't happen, but playing with the same mindset he's shown this last quarter of a season will drastically lower the amount of technicals he gets and improve his reputation with both the officials and around the league.
In Cousins, the Kings have their first legitimate franchise cornerstone in a long time. The road back to respectability is a long and arduous one, especially in the West, but thanks to Cousins' improvement this year, a big step forward was taken, even if the team's record hasn't changed from last year. Awards, accolades and winning will eventually come in future seasons, but 2013-14 is the season in which Boogie took the next step in his development.