Awards season is upon us as yet another NBA season winds down. Awards season is usually only of interest to Kings fans as it pertains to their general interest in the league, but this year DeMarcus Cousins will be in conversations for an All-NBA nod. The case for Cousins certainly exist, but an argument for Cousins certainly has some holes that require explaining. That said, let's examine the case for DeMarcus Cousins.
First, a few clarifications. I should note that there is no requirement for there to be a center in the First, Second, and Third All-NBA teams. There normally is, with rare exceptions. Such a case happened in 2013, when Tim Duncan was essentially the center on the All-NBA First Team. Duncan, of course, famously does not want to be called a Center. Despite such semantics, I'm including him in the discussion of worthy centers. Also worth noting that most folks seem to accept Anthony Davis as a power forward, and I'll be considering him as such. He won't be considered as someone Cousins is "competing" against.
The Case For DeMarcus Cousins
Quite simply, DeMarcus Cousins has put up one of the most dominant seasons in NBA history. Cousins joins Kevin Garnett, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Bob McAdoo as the only players to average 24 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and a steal per game for an entire season (hat tip to Dancing With Noah). Cousins has carried the Kings all year, and despite a dip in production in the Corbin era, his production was still fantastic.
If voters look at scoring, Cousins easily distances himself from all other viable options. This is true when looking at per 36 minutes (shown in the table below), or in per game numbers. Cousins' rebounding exceeds his peers, with exception of DeAndre Jordan. Cousins blocks at a respectable rate relative to peers. His steals lead the group. Simply put, DeMarcus Cousins has put up good numbers. Certainly good enough to warrant selection to the All-NBA team at some level.
The Case Against DeMarcus Cousins
There are a few key stats that are missing from the table directly preceding this. Let's take a look at those numbers to gain an understanding of why Cousins isn't a lock for the All-NBA team. These numbers are again based on per 36 minutes.
Cousins played in just 59 games this season. While injuries aren't the fault of the player, they're a very real factor. Injuries are why Russell Westbrook isn't in the same MVP conversation as Stephen Curry and James Harden. Will 59 games be enough for the voters? It's murky, to say the least.
Then we look at the cost the Kings pay for Cousins' numbers. He's the worst of the group in field goal percentage, while also taking the most shots. He turns the ball over more than twice as often as the field, outside Gasol. And he still fouls at an alarmingly high rate.
A discussion of Cousins' shortcomings would be incomplete without also discussing defense. DeMarcus has improved tremendously over the past several seasons, this is without question. But a large part of that improvement was an increase in effort. If we are being honest with ourselves, that effort took a major step backwards following the firing of Michael Malone. Malone's firing, of course, also coincided with Cousins' recovery from viral meningitis. We can give Cousins the benefit of the doubt and say the lowered effort was due to Cousins' needing to regain his conditioning. But we must acknowledge that the effort dipped and the defensive efficiency slid as well. Whether that was due to injury or not won't be considered by voters.
DeMarcus Cousins has a very compelling case. On one hand, he's put up fantastic numbers. Historic numbers, even. But Kings know as well as anybody the dangers of cherry-picking historic stats based on convenient minimums. Cousins also has very explainable yet very real shortcomings that voters will absolutely notice.
I believe that DeMarcus Cousins has earned a place on an All-NBA team. I also believe he will not receive this honor this season. My guess is that the first-team honor goes to Gasol, the second-team honor goes to Duncan, with Horford or Jordan on the third team.
The most important part of this prediction? It'll be ok. I think there are five big men who have had great seasons and only three spots to recognize those players. Sure, there's no limitation to just three centers being recognized, but let's be realistic, it's unlikely that any of these five centers can overtake an extra spot when competing with a tremendous class of power forwards. We're in a solid age of NBA big men. When contests have several worthy candidates, voters will look for ways to make their decisions easier, and Cousins has several numbers that make him easier to eliminate.
Is DeMarcus Cousins worthy of a selection to the All-NBA team? Damn right he is. But that doesn't mean he'll get it.