71 GP, 32.4 MPG, 22.7 PPG, .496 FG%, 11.7 RPG, 2.9 AST, 1.5 STL, 1.3 BLK, 3.5 TOV, 3.8 PF
Needs to work on:
- Staying on the court, both in terms of not fouling and not getting techs
- Less Magic Cousins to avoid silly turnovers
- Continuing to improve mid-range jumper
This was a fantastic year for DeMarcus Cousins, and one in which he should have earned his first All-Star berth. By not making the All-Star team, Cousins became the only player in NBA history to have a PER of over 26 (26.1) and not make the team despite being fully healthy (Abdul-Jabbar missed it back in the 70s but he was out for much of the first part of the season).
Cousins was among the league leaders in multiple categories:
PER = Player Efficiency Rating
DRB% = Defensive Rebound Rate
TRB% = Total Rebound Rate
STL% = Steal Rate
USG% = Usage Rate
Def Rtg = Defensive Rating
(All stats used in this post courtesy of basketball-reference.com)
Unfortunately he was also among the league leaders in Personal Fouls (3rd) and Technical Fouls (1st) and those two categories prevented him from being even higher among the league leaders in the other statistical categories. Cousins was able to play a career-high 32.4 minutes a game this season, but most of the league's best players are able to play around 36 minutes. Among the players in the Top 20 in PER this season, Cousins played fewer minutes than all but Andre Drummond (32.3), Tim Duncan (29.2) and Nikola Pekovic (30.8). He wasn't even the leader in minutes played on his own team (that would be Isaiah Thomas followed by Rudy Gay). That's a problem, because for the first time since Cousins has come into the league, the Kings were indubitably better when he was on the court than off of it thanks to his huge improvement.
In his first three seasons, the Kings were arguably worse with Cousins on the court than off it, particularly offensively, as Cousins used up tons of possessions at a fairly inefficient rate. His rookie year, he shot just 43.0% from the field, and that only improved to 46.5% by 2012-13. For a big man that saw as many offensive touches as Cousins did, that's pretty bad.
This season however, that all changed, as he became more efficient at putting the ball into the basket and in getting to the line. He had the biggest jump in FG% we've seen yet, getting to 49.6% from the field, a much better rate for a big man, especially for one that shoots as many jumpers as Cousins does. His FG% at the rim had never been higher than 63.9% in his first three seasons, and this year it jumped up to 67.3% on more attempts. Part of that was the Kings doing a better job of getting him the ball when he was in good position to score, as 55.2% of his rim attempts were assisted, up from 49% last year. He also improved his jumper from 10-16 feet (39.0%) and from 16-23 feet (42.3%) as the season progressed. In March particularly, his jumper was relatively automatic, as he went 55 of 121 (45.4%) on all shots outside of the paint. That number is closer to 50% if you don't include the first few games of March. If that upward trend continues into next season, it will open up even more opportunities for Cousins to act as a triple-threat in the high post.
Cousins also saw a big jump in his scoring and efficiency by getting to the line more often, at 9.3 attempts per 36 minutes compared to just 6.7 attempts per 36 last season and 6.9 per 36 the year before that. He showcased more patience in the post and on drives than we've seen before, and that led to both the better scoring and increased Free Throw attempts.
Cousins' defense was perhaps the most surprising improvement. In previous years, he was a lazy defender who fouled too much. He seemed to conserve most of his energy for the other side of the court. While his foul problems remained (his 4.2 PF per 36 remained the same as the previous year), when he wasn't in foul trouble, he was actually quite good on the defensive end, with the Kings about 3.1 points per 100 possessions better defensively with him on the court. While there were still some lazy moments, they were fewer and farther in between, and he even improved his shot blocking in the absence of another rim protector on the Kings. His defensive rating of 101 was by far the best on the Kings, a team with too few defenders already. As the team's best player, Cousins has to lead by example, and at least last season he began to do that.
There's not much that DeMarcus Cousins can't do. A three point shot is probably the only thing missing from his arsenal. He's become excellent in the post and on drives, he's got a reliable jumper, he's one of the best passing and stealing big men in the league and he'll be just 24 years old next season. The sky's the limit for Boogie Cousins, and if we see another improvement on par with the jump we saw from year 3 to year 4, wins and accolades will be coming sooner rather than later. That improvement doesn't have to come statistically either, as he can improve in ways that aren't seen in the stat sheet. He went 22 games without a technical foul before picking up the one that knocked him out of the final game. Why not try for 82, and in the process improve his reputation around both the league and with his team.
Tomorrow: Reggie Evans