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Even DeMarcus Cousins is regressing under Tyrone Corbin

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

For all the struggles that Kings fans have had to endure this season, one bright spot that we have been able to point to since Day 1 has been the emergence of DeMarcus Cousins as a true star.  He came into the year in the best shape of his life and immediately set about changing the narrative around him by playing the best basketball of his career on both ends of the court.  Just the other day he was rewarded for his efforts with his first ever All-Star berth.

Not everything is as peachy as it seems though.  While Cousins is still by far the most important and integral piece to the Kings, even he hasn't been immune to the changes in style that came with the firing of coach Michael Malone.  As such, even his level of play has regressed, and the Kings have suffered the consequences.

First, let's note a couple of important factors:  the case of viral meningitis that knocked Cousins out put a severe damper on his season.  It's quite possible that due to such a severe case, he's still not in the same place physically that he was prior to coming down with the disease and it's almost definitely certain that even if he is, he spent quite a long time having to work himself back into game shape.  Second, Cousins has been dealing with a bum ankle for a few weeks now and possibly even longer.

Despite noting those injuries, Cousins' offensive game has taken a pretty severe dive since Tyrone Corbin has become coach and a lot of it has to do with style of play.  Under Corbin, Cousins has had to shoulder even more responsibility on both ends of the court, but particularly offensively, where he's been running the offense from the high post at a far higher rate than he was under Malone, which while this has led to more assists, has also led to an increase in turnovers.

Let's take a look at Cousins' basic statistics for the year, split between Malone and Corbin:

MPG PPG FG% RPG AST TOV STL BLK PF
Under Malone 32 23.5 0.512 12.6 2.4 3.7 1.1 1.5 4.7
Under Corbin 35.8 23.9 0.437 12.5 3.9 4.8 1.9 1.7 3.9

Not all of that is bad.  Most notably, Cousins is fouling at a lesser rate, playing significantly longer, blocking more shots, stealing more and assisting more.  However his efficiency has fallen off a cliff.  That 43.7% from the field is an absolutely atrocious mark for a big man and would be Cousins' worst mark since his rookie year when he shot just 43% for the season.

Why has Cousins' efficiency fallen off so much?  That happens to be a matter of shot selection. Let's take a look at some more numbers.  This first chart shows Cousins field goal percentage from certain areas of the floor:

Less Than 5 Ft 5-9 ft 10-14 ft 15-19 ft 20-24 ft
Under Malone 0.614 0.353 0.625 0.422 0.071
Under Corbin 0.536 0.268 0.48 0.333 0.28

There's been significant dips in each area, but what is more worrying is the increase in the amount of jumpers he's taking.  This chart shows how frequent Cousins shoots from a certain area:

Less Than 5 Ft 5-9 ft 10-14 ft 15-19 ft 20-24 ft
Under Malone 58.90% 13.80% 3.30% 18.30% 5.70%
Under Corbin 51.40% 11% 6.70% 24.10% 6.70%

With Tyrone Corbin as the head coach, Cousins is shooting far fewer attempts at the rim while increasing his mid-range jumpers to compensate.  Those jumpers are not falling at nearly the same rate either, likely because Cousins has the ball in his hands so much longer now that he is trying to create more of his offense by himself rather than letting it be created for him.  According to NBA.com's stats portal, only 47.9% of Cousins' buckets under Corbin have been assisted, while that number was 54.8% under Malone.

The other side of the court also shows a regression, although it's not as severe as on the offensive end.  Here's a chart showing Cousins' field goal differential percentage from certain areas of the court, which NBA.com defines as "the difference between the normal field goal percentage of a shooter throughout the season and the field goal percentage when the defensive player is guarding the shooter".  In this case, a negative number is good as it means the opposing players are shooting worse when Cousins is guarding him.

Overal Diff% 2 Pointers Less than 10 ft Less than 6 ft Greater than 15 ft 3 Pointers
Under Malone -1.50% -1.10% -3.90% -4.80% -10.20% -12.90%
Under Corbin -0.30% -1.50% -3.60% -6.60% 1.80% -0.20%

Cousins actually is doing better the closer he is to the rim under Corbin than he was under Malone, although he's not challenging jumpers as effectively any more.  That's probably because the team relies on him to protect the paint now more than ever considering Sacramento's perimeter defense has fallen apart under Corbin.

***

This Kings team can't win without DeMarcus Cousins, but it's also shown that it can't win when he's playing like this.  Sacramento's now 6-17 under Corbin, a huge underachievement given the talent available.  Cousins is one of the best players in the entire NBA and right now he's not being used correctly or to his full potential.  It's causing frustration for the team and fanbase both on and off the court, and no solution seems to be in sight.  There's still plenty of time left this season for changes to be made.  Pete D'Alessandro loves to talk about data points.  Well, here they are and they're all trending downward.  Star players don't come around very often, and right now we're seeing an entire year of Cousins on a max contract being wasted.  That contract is effectively a shot clock for this franchise, because if they can't get this thing figured out before it's up, he'll end up leaving and we'll be back to square one... always looking to next year.