Today is a big day for DeMarcus Cousins. For the first time in his career, he has a legitimate chance of being named an NBA All-Star.
In Sacramento he has his supporters, but he also has people around the league who are starting to take notice of his growth this season.
“He just continues to get better,” four-time NBA MVP LeBron James said of Cousins before the Miami Heat’s lone game against Sacramento this season. “He’s a big force out there. He can shoot the ball. He can pass. He can score and he has a lot of talent.”
Cousins certainly has the numbers to back his case. The 23-year-old center is averaging career highs in points (22.6), rebounds (11.6), assists (3.0) and field-goal percentage (48.8%). He’s recorded a double-double in 28 of his 40 games this season and is one of three players in the NBA to average at least 22 points and 11 rebounds this year. The other two men? All-Star starter Kevin Love and expected reserve LaMarcus Aldridge. Before missing the last four games due to injury, Cousins also posted 15-straight contest with at least a double-double – the longest such streak in the NBA this year.
“I think he’s done enough this season, whether he misses a couple games or not, to warrant an All-Star vote and spot on that roster,” Kings head coach Michael Malone said of his starting center.
There are numbers that argue against his case as well. His above-average ballhandling ability for a player his size has led to some misadventures with the ball, leading Cousins to average a team-high 3.4 turnovers a game. And despite his dominant performance in the first half of the season, the fourth-year big man is playing just 32 minutes a night, largely because of foul trouble. He remains atop the technical foul leaderboard with a league-leading 11 techs this season, tying him with Blake Griffin of the Clippers. And at 15-30, the Kings’ win/loss record doesn’t help matters for Cousins either.
But no player is perfect and Cousins certainly isn’t the exception. The difference for Cousins this year is that his strengths appear to be outweighing his imperfections.
“He certainly should be considered,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said last month of Cousins’ All-Star chances. “We couldn’t stop him. He had his way in our building. And he did it everywhere on the court – in the post, offensive rebounding, driving, shooting.”
Marc Gasol is well aware of the versatility Cousins brings to the basketball court. Last year’s defensive player of the year can easily compile a laundry list of items that make the Kings center a load to handle.
“He has a lot of skills that he can get you with,” Gasol said of Cousins. “Then, of course he can pass as well, so it’s hard to read him. You just gotta play him straight up and make him work for every shot.”
From an outside perspective, Gasol can see the differences in Cousins’ approach this season compared to years past. The Memphis Grizzlies center thinks Cousins has embraced the opportunity to take “ownership” and more “responsibility” in the Kings’ fortunes.
But do all these things – the production, abilities and recognition from his competitors – make Cousins an All-Star? He’ll soon find out later today.