Thursday, December 10, 2009

In the Spotlight: DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins
Position: Center
Ht: 6-11, Wt: 260
Hometown: Mobile, AL
Class: Freshman
College: Kentucky
DOB: 8-13-89

  • Great size and length – Wide, strong, well built – NBA ready body
  • Extremely advanced skill set for a 6’11 Center – impressive
  • Great hands
  • Able to use his body / wide frame to establish low position. Gets his defender sealed down low, which makes him very difficult to stop.
  • Has the ability to step outside and shoot, and can even extend out to the 3 point line (on rare occasions)
  • Handles the ball very well for his size - after securing rebounds, he can comfortably take a few dribbles to get in better position, or even start to lead the break.
  • Impressive dexterity / agility
  • Possesses all of the components to be an effective rebounder
  • Does a very good job blocking shots - using his length and displaying great timing
  • Upside – Size / Skill package that is very rare – has the potential.


  • Needs to better utilize his physical gifts and not avoid contact. He plays too finesse for someone with his physical tools.
  • Effort Level on a nightly basis is not where it needs to be.
  • Has a lackadaisical attitude – His head doesn’t always stay into the game and I question if he’s willing to put in the hard work necessary to reach his potential.
  • Conditioning – Tires quickly and will often times be seen gasping for air. Getting in better shape, which would allow him to play hard for longer stretches, is huge for his development.
  • Has a tendency to rely on his perimeter skills, rather than mixing it up inside.
  • Coach Cal seems to have a very short fuse with Cousins and gets down on him quickly, which raises question marks
  • Defensively, he needs to get more committed and do a better job moving his feet. He tends to struggle against smaller, quicker bigs.
  • Foul Prone – needs to do a better job avoiding picking up stupid fouls. Most fouls he commits are with his body, which he follows up with a look of disbelief, when it’s clear he committed the foul.


Let me start by saying that I think Cousins made the wrong decision on which college to attend, based on what I’ve seen thus far this season. First, Kentucky’s style of play is not conducive to allowing Cousins strengths to shine. Kentucky likes to play an up and down transition game and Cousins doesn’t run the floor very well, in the current shape he’s in. Additionally, Kentucky likes to spread the court and go one and one, rather than running any sets that focus on getting the ball into the post. They also don’t do a great job spacing the court, so that when Cousins does get the ball, he’s not given enough room to operate.

Secondly, John Calipari is a coach who doesn’t allow you to play through mistakes. Therefore, the moment Cousins makes a mistake, Calipari pulls him immediately. Instantly, Cousins loses focus, begins to pout and his body language becomes sluggish. He can even be seen arguing on the sidelines with Calipari – anything but staying focused in the game. Cousins appears to be very sensitive and someone that needs nurturing to help build his confidence which is clearly not Calipari’s style.

I’m not suggesting that Kentucky’s offense needs to transform (given the backcourt they have – they should push the pace), or Calipari isn’t making the right decisions, I’m just saying that there’s some contrast in style / personalities between Calipari and Cousins.

With all of that being said, Cousins is still extremely inconsistent. Depending on what night you watch him play, DeMarcus Cousins can either leave you very impressed, or wondering if he’ll be another player unable to tap into his potential.

The positive is that Cousins has a rare package of a phenomenal skill set, combined with his tremendous physical gifts. He is extremely talented, possesses outstanding hands, very agile and even has perimeter skills which are rarely seen in someone 6’11. His upside is huge.

On the flip side, Cousins is not in very good shape and thus his play appears lethargic. He isn’t making quick moves, he’s picking up stupid fouls, and he’s not dominating big men that he should have no problem manhandling. Getting in better shape to play hard for 30+ minutes a night, should be Cousins primary goal.

Additionally, he has a tendency to shy away from contact when he’s in the paint. He’s plays a very finesse style and sometimes falls in love with his perimeter skills. He needs to show toughness and prove that he can handle the physical demands of the NBA.

My Take:

Based on purely talent and upside, Cousins is one of the best players in the upcoming draft (should he choose to enter). Unfortunately, his inability to stay focused and his inconsistent play have also stood out. I don’t question Cousins desire because I truly think that he wants to be great, I’m just not sold on him putting in the work necessary. I also can’t comprehend how he’s not in better shape at this point in the season, having been at Kentucky for at least 5 months already.

However, Cousins is someone that I think is worth the risk/reward, because of his rare skill set / physical package combination. At this point, in the middle portion of the first round, I would highly consider Cousins. He has the ability to move higher on my draft board (TOP FIVE), but he needs to prove it with improved play on a consistent basis, before I would move him up.

Update: 2 /22:
In the two months since completing our scouting report on DeMarcus Cousins, his game has skyrocketed. There hasn’t been a player in college basketball that has had success guarding Cousins and he’s been a central figure in Kentucky’s 24 - 1 record. Equally impressive is that he seems to have improved his on-court relationship with Coach Calipari which has led to Cousins playing for longer stretches without having to look over his shoulder when he makes a mistake.

Cousins emergence has been primarily because he’s been playing to his strengths. Rather than hanging out on the perimeter, Cousins has been camped in the paint, using his size, frame and power to solidify low position. He’s done a great job sealing his defenders, which has led to his 55% field goal percentage. His skill level was never an issue and now that he’s developing a better understanding of how to utilize his physical gifts, he’s emerged as the best big man in college basketball.

There’s no question he still shows signs of immaturity and he raises a lot of red flags for his overall demeanor, but he’s also proved that he’s a Top 3 talent, when he enters this year’s NBA draft.


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