The trade for Samuel Dalembert took a smidgen out of the Kings 2010 cap room, because Dalembert was paid more this season ($12,025,694) than Hawes and Nocioni combined ($9,832,800). That amount boosted the Kings' 2010/11 committed salary to $36,500,829, a figure onto which we must add DeMarcus Cousins's salary ($3,374,640), as he has already signed his rookie deal. There is also a qualifying offer extended to Jon Brockman, which is fully guaranteed; the fact that the Kings extended that offer, whilst also signing Cousins early (first round picks almost always have smaller cap holds when unsigned than when signed, since cap holds are 100% of the rookie scale and players almost sign for 120%), suggests that the Kings aren't too serious about doing the cap space thing.
[...] By signing DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings no longer have enough cap room for LeBron James.
Pick 5: Now armed with a centre in Sam Dalembert, the Kings further bolster their front court by picking DeMarcus Cousins, also out of Kentucky. Cousins reacts to the news with a huge hug for his mother, and John Calipari is quickly in there to get one of his own. That man can find a camera, let me tell you.
Gotta say the trend for prefixing normal names with "De-" still doesn't bore me. It particularly works with DeGreg Monroe and DeDarington Hobson.
Cousins bounds to the stage nattily attired in Kings colours - it's almost like HE knew, too! - and then proceeds to give the worst interview in the history of draft nights. Openly, brazenly and stupidly, Cousins says "they think I'm a monster [but] I'm just a kid who likes to have fun." We don't think you're a monster, DeMarcus. We just don't think you're very mature. And I think you just proved it.
(We can all equate. I was hideously immature at that age, too, and the jokes about Sexual Favors's name above suggest that maybe I'm not quite there yet either. But if you're in the NBA at that age, you have to mature incredibly fast. And if you can't do that, you're simply got to hide it. DeMarcus doesn't.)
In vaguely related trivia, Cousins was the victim of my favourite dunk from last season, by Georgia wingman Travis Leslie;
Good dunks are all about the dismount. And that was a fine dismount.
Cousins is the right pick for Sacramento, for they needed a big man. There were of course a multitude of other big man options in this size-laden draft, but Cousins represents the best chance of stardom. He is better than Favors right now. He has NBA size, great strength, athleticism as well, soft hands, a deft touch, footwork, and the ability to score in the post going either left or right. Moreover, he is a prolific rebounder, who grabbed as-near-as-is 10 rebounds per game list year in only 23 minutes. That's an unbelievably good rebounding rate, particularly in view of the 35 second shot clock that sees less possessions per game. Cousins ranked 28th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage last season, and ranked second offensively: the only player with significant minutes in the NBA last season to come close to Cousins's 19.1% ORB% is the man he may replace in Sacramento, Jon Brockman (18.2%). DeJuan Blair (16.0%) is comparatively a mile behind.
However, while he has the most star potential, Cousins also has the most bust potential. He backchats, sulks and argues with coaches, and can be brash and abrasive on the court. People around him seem to love him, but coaches - particularly the staid ways of NBA coaches - will not. Cousins has been subject to criticisms about his work ethic, laziness and maturity, and they are why he resides behind Favors on the draft board, even though he's better than him right now.
Rebounding translates, as does size. Cousins has more than enough of both, and he could be a 20 point scorer as well. But to realise his potential, he'll need to stop the sulking and the petulance. Almost everyone matures at some point in their playing career; Sacramento surely drafts him knowing that the leash must be short, yet the patience must be long. It won't be especially smooth, but Cousins has the skill level to justify it.
Jay Bilas chimes in and states "Only DeMarcus can stop DeMarcus." It's a more succinct way of saying the same thing, but it negligently overlooks the very real threat of chrondomalacia. Easily the most underrated disease featuring an NBA player's name.
On the most basic level, the Sacramento Kings needed more talent. They now have that. Even after years of mismanagement and the frivolous burning of assets, Sacramento now has, you would think, a core five. Isaiah Thomas, one of the draft steals of the decade and a man who thoroughly outplayed Vasquez thus far this season, is the point guard. Preconceptions that small score-first guards must come of the bench should be disposed of, because Thomas is a legitimate starter. Rookie Ben McLemore has had a slow first month, but has plenty of time on his side to be the two guard of the future while Gay slots in at small forward. Derrick Williams is thriving since his trade from Minnesota, now that he is finally functioning as a full time power forward. DeMarcus Cousins is tied into a maximum contract extension, the certified core piece going forward. Marcus Thornton, Jason Thompson and Carl Landry compliment this lineup from the bench with quality role player production, creating a front eight of players that any team could use.
[Jason] Thompson's mainstay to date has been points in the paint, and any jumpshots in his game have been secondary to this primary offensive weapon. Thompson has developed his post game to the point that he can make moves over either shoulder and finish sufficiently with both hands, in addition to a reasonable mid-range baseline jumper and some dribble drives. Further combined with good rebounding effort and position, and acceptable if foul prone defense at the power forward spot, Thompson contributes sufficiently on both ends of the court, and is a productive scorer in the paint, an increasingly rare skill to have.
However, a downside to DeMarcus Cousins' break-out season has been the impact it has had on Thompson's play. This season marks the occasion that Cousins has finally taken the hint, and almost exclusively played in the post - not coincidentally, this has led to huge spikes in his overall scoring output and his efficiency. Yet nailing Cousins to the low block pushes Thompson away from it, and thus away from his strengths. Thompson has found it difficult to get looks - his efficiency is in line with hiis career averages, but Thompson's scoring opportunities are way down, an inevitable situation for a player no longer taking the shots he calls his own.
[...] Less so is the other potential extension. It's being reported that DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings are also nearing a deal, and while there isn't any confirmation that the amount is for the max, this seems to be the overwhelming interpretation. If true, it is one of the biggest gambles we've seen in recent years.
"If he can just grow up, he'll be a star" is, in some form, an oft-levied defense of the Kings's commitment to Cousins. But it obscures the problems with his play. This is all too easy to do when talking about supposedly "prodigious" talents.
For Cousins, it's not just his petulance and attitude that hold back his talent; it is also his talent. At this point in his career, Cousins is not a star player, nor all that close to it. He looks like he is, and most certainly looks like he should or will be, but he simply is not.
Cousins's rebounding is elite. However, in almost every other category he is sorely lacking. He defends through size, hands and swipes alone, not having incorporated the fundamentals of defensive positioning and footwork three years into his NBA career.
He is big and quick enough to often get away with this. Although, the foul rates that prevent him playing more than 30 minutes per game speak to all those times when he doesn't. Offensively, Cousins is a mediocre finisher around the rim (which is at least an improvement from "poor," which is where he was), and an otherwise decent mid-range jumpshot is undermined by terrible shot selection. The turnovers are high, the wild flails to the basket are unproductive, and the defense is flawed. That is not the skill set of a star.
Can he be one, though? Yes. And that, then, is what Sacramento will be paying for. They're paying for the possibility of stardom, not the presence of it. A genuine possibility of stardom is almost as rare as stardom itself. If they feel this is the best way to maximize their asset, then it's a risk worth taking.
You can buy loyalty in the NBA - players respond to being shown "love," and "love" is money and minutes. Cousins seems to have an uncanny knack for perceiving disrespect, so perhaps Sacramento are banking on his ability to see and feel this 'love', with the hope that it assuages the rather large chip on his shoulder.
To be sure, it seems they are giving him as much opportunity to succeed as they can. Shaq is there now, and regardless of Shaq's ability to teach (on which we'll wait and see), he surely is someone to whom DeMarcus will listen. Mindful of the need for Cousins to succeed, given his importance to the future of the franchise, Sacramento is helping him as much as they can, and showing him how important and good he can be.
However, a max contract extension - should this be that - is not good value. And it takes a very, very favorable prognosis of Cousin's career for it to become one. Cousins is regrettably much closer to J.J. Hickson than Tim Duncan at this point - a less efficient Hickson at that - yet he continues to ride a wave of perception about the depth of his talent.
Perception is more important than reality - the perception that Cousins is a tremendous talent is more powerful than the reality that he keeps failing to be one. If the extension is indeed a max contract, or one so close to it as to basically be it, they are paying for the eventuality that Cousins realizes the fullest degree of his potential, and not all of the eventualities in which he doesn't.
This is the biggest of gambles. They are building their future around a player who can't play more than 30 minutes per game, get along with any coaches, avoid getting technicals, or go a season without being suspended. And that's before incorporating the questions about his talent.
There have been incremental improvements in Cousins's game year on year. It would follow logically that he will improve further between this opportunity to pay him, and the next one. But Sacramento is forgoing a built-in security measure to offer unearned security to Cousins.
"You're now our guy," they're saying. "We rely on you. You have our full and frank attention. We will give you everything you need to succeed." This is the message, and the money is its authority. I don't dispute that Cousins will try his best, even when he has the security of guaranteed money - he always tries. But he tries on his terms. That is what needs to change.
It is my hope that Cousins realizes the extent of this "loyalty." He hasn't earned it, yet he's gotten it anyway. Time to pay it forward.
Note: Non-US teams that the player
has played for are, unless stated otherwise, from the top division in
that nation. If a league or division name is expressly stated, it's not
the top division. The only exceptions to this are the rare occasions where
no one league is said to be above the other, such as with the JBL/BJ League
split in Japan.