Monday’s poll brought some serious fireworks. Jimmer Fredette won the “Who is your favorite King?” contest by a landslide. Isaiah Thomas came in second and the Kings centerpiece, DeMarcus Cousins came in third. Jimmer has a following that goes well beyond the game of basketball, so it is understandable that he would win a popularity contest. And Thomas is one of those players that fans gravitate to – a 5-foot-9 point guard taken with the final pick of the second round wins starting job and flourishes.
But what about Cousins?
He is talented for sure. Most believe that he will develop into one of the best big men in the league and he may even make the 2016 Olympic team. But it’s never about talent with Cousins – it’s always about whether he can get out of his own way.
The Kings are doing their part to help bring this young prospect along. They have made Cousins the key building block and started putting the pieces around him. A true point guard in Greivis Vasquez will definitely change the dynamic of this team, as will a conventional shooting guard in Ben McLemore. Carl Landry will help take off some of the scoring pressure in the post and a defensive-minded small forward like Luc Mbah a Moute makes everyone’s job easier.
Sacramento has also added an incredibly deep coaching staff with a strong willed, defensive-minded leader in Michael Malone. Former NBA players Dee Brown, Corliss Williamson, Chris Jent and Ryan Bowen bring both game and coaching experience to the table. Everything this team is doing revolves around developing, supporting and growing young players like Cousins.
The days of franchise instability are a nearly a thing of the past. Vivek Ranadivé and his team of owners are leading the charge, hoping to change the culture of the Kings from the top down. They have installed incredible basketball and business minds like Pete D’Alessandro and Chris Granger and you can see that they are spending to rebuild the franchise.
All of these changes are fine and dandy. They mean that the team is moving the right direction. But if Cousins doesn’t buy in, the Kings will lack the final piece to the puzzle – an elite talent.
After a productive rookie season, Cousins showed major strides in year two, averaging 18.1 points and 11.o rebounds in 30.5 minutes per game. But in year three, the former Kentucky star’s production plateaued. While his shooting percentage improved slightly and his assists per game jumped to 2.7, Cousins points (17.1 per game) and rebounds (9.9 per game) dropped in the same 30.5 minutes per game.
The Kings are designing their team around Cousins and in all likelihood will lock him into a new long-term deal before the Oct. 31 deadline. They are working hard to rebuild the franchise, adding players, coaches and front office personnel. But they are counting on a major jump from their young center. The question is a tough one, but with so much riding on him, how good can DeMarcus Cousins be?