DeMarcus Cousins is one of the few old-school centres remaining in the NBA, and now he’s torching everyone between him and the basket.
Consider the following stats: in January, Cousins is averaging 33 points and 13 rebounds per game, and he is shooting 50% from the floor and 44% from three (Steph Curry shoots 45% from three). He set a Kings franchise record with 56 points against the Charlotte Hornets this week, just two nights after putting up 48 against the Indianapolis Pacers. That’s 104 points in two games!
Dating back to his time at Kentucky, Cousins has always been characterised as a talented and temperamental player. Following a rocky offseason in which Cousins and head coach George Karl were feuding to the point that it looked looked like the Kings might fire Karl and trade Cousins, he’s now leading a surprisingly decent Kings team that’s in the mix for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Part of Cousins’ success comes from the addition of Rajon Rondo, who is enjoying a resurgent season and helping the big-man get easy buckets.
“This dude makes my job so much easier on a nightly basis,” Cousins said of Rondo earlier this year. “Throughout my career, this probably is the most easy baskets I’ve ever got. He just makes my job so much easier.”
Here’s a pass from Rondo that doesn’t look like much, but sets up Cousins to go to work down low (all GIFs via SB Nation):
Here’s another Rondo pass leading to an easy basket:
Cousins is also just force in the paint, unlike anyone else in basketball:
There’s more to Cousins’ dominant January than Rondo finding him in the right spots, though.
As Seth Parnow notes for the Washington Post, his usage rate is currently the highest in the NBA, and among the highest for any center in the shot-clock era of the NBA. It’s unusual for centres to have such high usage rates because they hold the ball less than other players. Still, Cousins is Sacramento’s biggest offensive threat — and a multidimensional one.
Although he’s at his best banging bodies and posting up, Cousins has developed a nice shooting stroke and embraced the small-ball revolution. As Parnow notes, Cousins is shooting more 3-pointers than any NBA center except Atlanta’s Al Horford. While his 35% from three isn’t excellent, 44% in January is bonkers for a big-man. That’s good enough that opposing defences must honour it, which then allows him to beat people off the dribble.
Cousins is, of course, still leading the NBA in technical fouls and fouls, and when a game isn’t going his way he’s still susceptible to poor behaviour. But if he can keep dominating during the second half of the season, the Kings might not just remain relevant in the Western Conference, they might end their nine-year playoff drought.
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