Grantland's Zach Lowe writes a Tuesday column that is a regular must-read. This week's column takes a deep look at the past, present, and future of the post-up game. The article explores the shrinking role of post-up basketball in the modern NBA, what's led to the decline, and why despite all of this the post-up game remains as important as ever.
I'm not here to give you a book report on the article. Go read it. It's excellent. This post will be here when you're done. But when you're done reading it, this discussion gives us plenty of tea leaves to look at as they pertain to DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl.
"The game is getting out of balance," says George Karl, now coaching perhaps the league's preeminent post-up brute. "But until we figure out a way to make the post-up more efficient, we're not going back. You just can't win throwing the ball into the post 60 times per game."
DeMarcus Cousins is arguably the best post-up big man in the NBA. He's an old school player in the new school game. He powers through double and triple teams, plays back-to-the-basket, and forces defenses to adapt. He's the antithesis to everything else in Lowe's article discussing the death of the post game.
And yet we have George Karl, Boogie's coach, discussing the importance of not relying on the classic post. This is more fuel to fire of "Karl can't mesh with Cousins" speculation, right? Not so fast. If we look at what Karl is saying, it fits with everything we know of Karl, everything we know of modern basketball theory, and everything we know about the ways to make Cousins be his best.
Karl isn't saying that Boogie shouldn't post up, simply that it isn't the most efficient way to have Boogie, or the Kings, score. The game has evolved in a way that requires shooting to spread the floor and passing to create easy looks. These, by the way, are hallmarks of a George Karl offense. The best shot in basketball is still a shot at the rim, what's changed is how you create those looks.
What this tells me is that the Kings need to find shooting, and fast. Surrounded by shooters, Cousins is exceptionally suited to the modern NBA. At the end of last season we saw glimpses of exactly how Karl can get the most from Cousins. Start DeMarcus in the high post with the ball in hand. Cousins is a good enough shooter to command the defense's respect. If they respect the shot too much, Cousins blows past him. Send a double team, Cousins is one of the best passing bigs in the game. The Kings have slashers to get those passes and get to the rim. What the Kings need are shooters to keep the floor spacing.
And in case there are lingering concerns about Cousins' fit in Karl's offense, let's look at one more Karl quote.
"The thing I am sold on completely," Karl says, "is that today, you need as much passing on the court as possible."
If you're looking to build a roster around five good passers, there aren't many centers out there better than Cousins.