Initially I considered breaking out the Power Forward position as a separate post from the Center position but changed my mind for several reasons. The NBA has evolved in terms of rules in several ways including widening the lane to the NBA key for defensive 3 seconds, changing the way illegal defense is called, expanding and marking the ‘no charge area’, allowing zone defense and the way defenses can cover both the strong and weak sides of the post off ball. Additionally one and done college careers have become the norm and subsequently the NBA is increasing drafting based more on potential and atheleticism versus developed fundamental skills and body of work at the collegiate level.
Finally, if you look at the NBA finals this year you saw how much spacing and interchangeability existed between the bigs. In the current NBA, PFs are expected to knock down outside shots and clear out the paint and centers are expected to screen up to the free throw line extended and set up on the elbow to execute the pick n roll. When you add in the European influx of bigs where outside shooting and finesse are more inherent than back to the basket low block positioning and offensive scheming, the game has changed. You still need rim protectors and rebounding, that will never change. However, the days of clogging the lane and staying on one low block in a man to man defensive situation along with relying primarily on put backs on the offensive side ala Olden Polynice are over. In short PFs should be more apt to switch and cover a SF and have a consistent mid-range game while Centers are expected to be the primary shot blockers, there is much more overlap between the two so I decided to combine the evaluation of all our post players into one assessment.
I will disclose up front that the purpose of this post is to evaluate the on court production of the Kings current post players individually. It assumes we can and should improve at each position through the draft (which did not happen), via trade (still possible) or through free agency (unlikely). It also assumes that while we can surmise what the team is in need of to make the team better, there is no guarantee that the start of training camp will include any additional upgrade(s) on the team. Until the team drafts or acquires new players, this is the team. Furthermore, this post is not a rant of Demarcus Cousins, his chronicled lack of maturity, underachievement, nor a debate about his trade value. Based on DMC’s selection to the Team USA’s Minicamp, comments by Pete D’Allesandro and Vivek Ranadive and the recent comments by Shaq to become the new Andy Griffith to DMC’s Barney Fife, at least for the forseeable future, the Kings will be building around Demarcus Cousins. Just like in my previous posts I will give evaluations of our post players. Stay tuned for a separate post on how our post players compare at their position against the top players in the league. Now that those ground rules have been established please read on.Zach Randolph, Kevin Love, David Lee, tied with Blake Griffin and only 1 point behind Marc Gasol.
Weaknesses – Essentially PPat is a below average rebounder especially on the defensive end. He was last in all three rebounding categories on the Kings and his TRB% (12) compared to 20.7 for Cole. There really is nothing glaring to speak of statistically as he ranked just below to average in AST% (8.6), STL% (1.2) and BLK% (1.8). If he remains on the team, I expect him to vie for most improved player under Malone’s defensive and up tempo system as I think he has the ability to rebound and pass better.
Strengths – I really did not care initially for the senior from Rider picked 12th in the 2008 draft. I would have been happy with Robin Lopez, Roy Hibbert, JaVale McGee, Ryan Anderson, Serge Ibaka and the list went on. With his constant reaching on defense, turnovers on offense, inability to set and defend a pick n roll screen and constant whining to the refs, I was convinced that Petrie did not know how to draft post players. Looking back on things, Jason has become very dependable especially with the midrange jumper which was 42% versus only 34.9% as a team. His TOV% (10.8) and PFs (2.8) are better than his first couple years all while spending time at both the PF and the C positions which as a 3rd big on your team is a perfect asset to help at both spots.
Weaknesses – He is not really an elite athlete at either post position for a number of reasons. He lacks back to the basket skills offensively. He doesn’t have the leaping/timing ability to rim protect and is not strong enough to hold his position against most of the starting Centers in the NBA. His perimeter defense is average at best as he isn’t able to come out quick enough to defend against the better perimeter shooters at the PF position and can be taken off the dribble or bites on the fake too frequently. Down low he is susceptible to the explosive first step when defending the more agile bigs and lacks the ability to box out and when the battle of the boards at both ends of the floor. He really cannot pass out of the post if he is sealed or double teamed for easy assists is below average STL% (1.1) picking anyone’s pocket in the post.
Strengths – Although he is probably at best a solid back up post player in the NBA his per minute advanced stats would have lead the Kings last season in most categories. Offensively his TS% (60.5),eFG% (54.1), ORB% (10.9) ORTG (116) would have lead the Kings last year. Defensively his DRB% (30.4) and BLK% (6.3). Carl is undersized but his leadership in the locker room, high character, average turnover and usage rates make him a solid complement to the post and an upgrade over Hayes, Aldrich and on par with Jason Thompson. As an aside I wished Cole had been retained in lieu of Hayes and given a chance to get meaningful playing time this year. Previously his stints with the Oklahoma Thunder, the Houston Rockets gave little assessment due to their respective log jams down low so it is tough to fully assess his potential. Even in limited minutes however, he proved dependable with a solid defensive presence blocking shots and rebounding. Offensively he was efficient around the basket, can execute the pick n roll and overall is a smart choice given his youth, size and cost (probably around $3M a year) to be picked up again on this year’s roster.
Weaknesses – Carl is a below average defender in the post with average DRB% (17.3) DRTG (106) and worse steal and block numbers (.9 & 1.3 respectively). Carl will improve the depth of the bench with Patterson, Hayes and Jason Thompson but one of those players probably Hayes needs to make way for a legitimate defensive presence in the post to complement Cousins.
Strengths – I was initially very fond of Chuck Hayes coming to the Kings and although he has basically rebounded from an abysmal year in ’12 where his had career lows in most statistical categories he has not been the undersized overachiever the Kings had hoped for. Sadly, he is the strongest and most agile and quickest of all our bigs (No combine results from JT). He is a great character guy, willing passer and given his maturity a good veteran to have in the locker room. He is able to score without plays being called for him and is a decent offensive rebounder.
Weaknesses – Chuck is not a very solid defensive rebounder, as his defensive rebounding percentage of 18.2% trailed all but Patrick Patterson. His offensive numbers are anemic as well with the worst TS% (46.9), eFG% (44.2) and 2nd worst TOV% (17.2) of all post players on the Kings. His lack of offense doesn’t’ shoot outside of 9 feet and lack of defense allows too much doubling of the other post player and therefore he really doesn’t have a place on the court anymore.
Strengths – Height, weight, wing span, instincts and age equate to Demarcus possessing an elite tool box that if properly honed could develop into a perennial all-star and dominant post player in the league for years to come. He has a durable body and without consistently nor fully exerting himself to all that he is capable of physically, he ranks in the upper half of the league statistically.
Offensively he is able to operate with his back to the basket and given his coordination, footwork and quick first step, he can spin or drop step his way into creating shots for himself consistently. He has the ability to get to the rim and to the free throw line in mass. He is also capable of facing the basket and extending the defense via an albeit average spot up shooter or by driving to the basket with his long powerful strides and decent handles. He is a capable passer AST% (15.3%) and offensive rebounder ORB% (10.9) despite a lack of talent at both the PF/SF positions to help spread the floor and knock down shots.
Defensively Cousins has the ability to hustle for position, closeout on shooters, is capable of forcing turnovers via charges as well as stealing the ball. He is an elite defensive rebounder DRB% (27) just a notch below Dwight Howard (27.6) and Duncan (29.6) although those stats may be inflated in part due to a lack of defensive rebounding by other Kings defenders.
Weaknesses – In general Cousins lacks poise, hustle, consistency and what appears to be a humbled respect for other players, coaches and the game itself. While he will not get the benefit of the calls from the officials until he is a proven all-star, he has to perform at that level first and he has yet to do that. He tries to take over the game but does not yet possess the ability to make his teammates better around him like most of the elite players do. He really needs to work on his conditioning (recent off season and Team USA Camp are promising) and give 100% effort on both ends of the floor and learn to win the battle of the boards and not the battle of the words.
Offensively Cousins needs to become a more consistent shooter and although he should have a mid-range shot to complement his low post game, he needs serious improvement on those shots in order to become an allstar. Last season he hit 31.7% of his shots from 10 to 15 feet, 32% from 16 to 23 feet and 26.1% from beyond the arc. Cousins took 68% of his shots within 15 feet of the basket versus 83% for Greg Monroe, 71% for Marc Gasol and 65% for Tim Duncan respectively. While the percentage taken is within line, his success rate is horrific when you compare to say Gasol (49.4, 47 and 10) and Duncan (47.2, 42 and 42.9). If he improved his EFG% (46.7) to (51.9) which is the average of the top 10 Centers in the NBA, his PPG would improve to 23.1!
Defensively Cousins needs to help weak side more consistently and he should be able to block at a slightly higher rate given his size and length. He is lazy getting into a defensive position in transition and is inconsistent on how much effort he exerts denying the post or anticipating his man’s first move which seems to ebb and flow with the amount of fouls he picks up along the way--still high at 3.6 per game.
In concluding the summary of the Kings post player evaluations I would contend that the Kings have a real need to upgrade a starting caliber defensive minded post player to support Cousins and allow JT to provide dual back up to either position. For depth, PPat adds the appropriate amount of range to fill some minutes at PF and Carl Landry will rotate minutes with JT based on match ups unless one or two are traded before the start of the season.
Now stay tuned for the next post that looks at some advanced statistical analysis comparing the Kings against the elite players.