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Like Herod


It's hard to explain to skeptics what we see in DeMarcus Cousins. Those who get it, get it. Those flashes of dominance, those tools refined and raw. The passion. If you're not a fan of unfinished potential and an unkempt garden, DeMarcus Cousins may not be for you. 

We, of course, believed in the potential of Spencer Hawes, too, but that was different. We can see now that praying for beanpoles to toughen up to NBA standards is like, well, praying. You don't drop to your knees and find yourself rewarded with eternal life. It's a prayer for a reason: you are putting your faith in that which cannot be achieved without divine intervention. 

Nothing about DeMarcus Cousins feels like church, lest you hail from the north and believe that he is Odin's avatar.

Putting your finger on the it that speaks of Cousins' unspeakable promise is difficult, but I think I have a lead on the riddle. At the mothership, I've been doing some work on shot creation. Shot creation is the method by which shots are created. That might sound dumb on first listen if you aren't heavy into stats circles. But it goes like this: anyone can take a shot, but it takes a certain type of player to consistently create shots. While the Kings offense of the past five seasons has often resembled a random sequence of players firing up jumpers or making adventurous forays toward the rim, offenses do need to actually function to thrive. To thrive, most offenses -- let's discount the Gil-Hughes Wizards or the post-Baron Warriors -- need to feature at least one shot creator: a player who can get himself or a teammate a decent look at the hoop. Usually this is a point guard. Sometimes, it's a two-guard or a small forward.

Occasionally -- and only that -- it's a big man.

Creation Ratio, which I wrote about a bit ago, is the rate of shots created to used shots that were create by others. Assists and unassisted own attempts are shots created. Assisted shot attempts are shots used. Free throws count too, but Creation Ratio adjusts for the lower rate at which free throws are assisted compared to field goals. 

A quick example: if Jimmer Fredette throws a halfcourt alley-oop to Donte Greene on the first possession, feeds J.J. Hickson on the break with Hickson earning a trip to the line on the next and takes a pass draw-and-kick pass from Tyreke Evans for a made three-pointer on the third, Jimmer will have created two shots (the assist to Té and the assisted FTs to J.J.) and used one shot (the assist from 'Reke). At that point, Jimmer's Creation Ratio would be 2.0.

You get a low Creation Ratio if you are set up on most of your shots, and if you don't create many shots for yourself or your teammates. You get a high Creation Ratio if you set up your teammates or create your own shots frequently, and if you don't rely on teammates to set you up. It's not a good-bad thing necessarily: Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant have low Creation Ratios, while Derrick Rose and Steve Nash have high ones. It tends to sort out by position, where most high-CR players are point guards.

This is where DMC comes in.

Beno Udrih's Creation Ratio last season was 2.07. (So he created two shots for every one he used.) Tyreke Evans was at 4.08. (That was 21st among all point guards who played at least 800 minutes.) The average for that set of point guards was 3.6. Marcus Thornton was at 1.69 with the Kings. WIth the Bucks, John Salmons was at 2.08. Carl Landry was at 1.37; Jason Thompson was at 0.85. Samuel Dalembert was at 1.03. (Offensive rebounders tend to be higher than expected due to heavy unassisted FGA numbers.) 

DeMarcus Cousins led all power forwards and centers with 2.37. Higher than a Michael Beasley without a point guard (1.58). Higher than Zach Randolph (1.43). Higher than Andrew Bynum (1.54) and Al Jefferson (0.99) and even Dwight Howard (1.35). Pau Gasol, Chris Bosh, Greg Monroe, Kevin Love, of course Blake Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge. ALL OF THEM. When it came to getting shots last season, DeMarcus Cousins created them himself more frequently than all of the rest.

In fact, only two small forwards (LeBron James and Hedo Turkoglu) and five shooting guards (the gunnerific Jordan Crawford, Dwyane Wade, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant and Brandon Roy) had Creation Ratios higher than DMC. Isn't that something?

It's something. But what? Here's my read: DeMarcus Cousins did not flourish within the offense as a rookie. At Kentucky, he was ordered to dominate under the rim, 100 percent of the time. In Sacramento, he had freedom from Day 1 ... in Vegas! Mario Elie let him wear himself out taking jumpers, executing post move 15 feet from the basket, running the ball up the court. That carried over, as Cousins tried to do too much consistently as the season began. He calmed down for stretches -- January was his best run in terms of doing what he was capable of instead of what he inspires to be capable of -- but was overall on a much looser offensive leash than he'd been at UK. He showed nice touch on the long jumper ... but not nice enough to be taking so many. He showed beautiful passing instincts ... but not so beautiful to be trying to thread the needle so often. He was a kid who'd been locked up too tight as a teenager and had to prove he could wild out. He proved it. (I'm talking about offense here, not choke signs and Donte Greene fisticuffs.)

The Kings' offense was not great with DeMarcus, and it wouldn't have been great without him. It was the sum of its parts: a gunny Beno Udrih, ice-cold Greene, ice-cold Omri Casspi, some discouraged Carl Landry, an unshackled Samuel Dalembert (not a good thing), a Jason Thompson in the mire, an injured and shot-still-broken Tyreke Evans, a quick burst of Marcus Thornton and DeMarcus Cousins, who insisted on doing his own thing. The Kings' offense ranked No. 25, and that was about right. Had the shooters shot or the focal point been 100 percent or the rookie big man have taken a more appropriate role, things could have been a bit better, like No. 20 or so. But this was the offense. This is what was constructed.

But it gets better. Cousins had an awful shooting percentage, he was terribly inefficient. But that will change. High-usage players almost universally see their efficiency improve early in their careers. Part Two: Cousins will almost assuredly create a smaller ratio of his shots going forward. Whether it be through pinpoint passes from Fredette or laser deliveries from Evans, or just a calming of the personal frenzy for DMC himself, Cousins will not lead all big men in Creation Ratio again. If he does, let us pray (there's that sticky concept again) that it is because he is unstoppable, and because Paul Westphal has deemed the offense DeMarcus' to run.

When Cousins finds his place and the guards pick up more of the slack and Hickson and Salmons and the woodwinds and the orchestra and the galaxy and the universe all find their order, DeMarcus will be right where we see he will be: at the center of it all. He is a Sun without a system, but that's all coming together now, and we'll see it evolve into something wonderful. Soon.

(In case you're wondering, Herod The Great created a number of incredible things while in power. Then he killed his family and a number of priests. I swear that I don't mean anything by it.)