Put Cousins on the block and let him be a bully

There were things about Chris Webber that drove me insane.

Rarely do you see such potentially imposing post presences with that much ball skill like we did with Chris Webber. His legendary suction cup-action hands, his great vision, anticipation and passing ability, and his post game seemed more than capable of allowing him to dominate in the paint for years. If you doubled him, he’d pick you apart. If you left him one-on-one, he’d probably score or get to the line. He was as complete of an offensive weapon as you could ever ask for in a power forward.

But he spent so much damn time on the elbow and away from the basket because he had another rare skill for most big men of that era: a good jump shot. In a way, it was perfect for what the Kings needed most of the time. He had the ability to play away from the basket and run their Princeton-inspired offense to a T. At the same time, it kept him away from an area he just as easily could have dominated in maybe a more destructive way.

When I watch DeMarcus Cousins find his way through his rookie season, I worry about the same thing happening to him. DeMarcus is an above average big man in terms of ball skills. He can dribble decent-enough (although I cringe when he starts making a move with his left hand). He’s a fantastic passer with great hands and good recognition of the play developing. And he’s shown the ability to knock down the mid-range jumper. He can also push it out to the perimeter when he needs to.

Oct 19, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. The Kings defeated the Clippers 96-94. Photo via Newscom

However, when you put DeMarcus Cousins on the block, he scores the ball pretty well. HoopData.com has DeMarcus making 72.5% of his shots at the rim this season. It’s one of the best percentages in the league amongst big men. He’s too strong for many of the post defenders in the NBA and he has pretty good awareness. His biggest issue is rushing into his post moves and getting ahead of himself. That seems like something that gets worked out with more reps on the block. If the defense doubles him, he can pass the ball well and hit the cutter.

The problem with getting Cousins the ball on the block is two-fold. First, the Kings are arguably the worst post-entry passing team I’ve ever seen. Beno Udrih can make the pass. And DeMarcus can make the pass. That’s it. Nobody else on the team can consistently get a good post-entry pass into the block, and Cousins certainly isn’t allowed or quick enough to pass it to himself in the post. Second, the offense gets big men like him, JT and even Dalembert too far away from the hoop for hand-off screens.

I think it’s great Cousins has confidence in his shot and can create by driving better than most centers in the NBA. He still should be on the block.

Big men with jumpers don’t do much for me. I don’t really get the point. When you have someone as physically overpowering as DeMarcus Cousins, why wouldn’t you bolt him to the block (figuratively and systematically, not literally) and make teams stop him inside? Chuck Hayes is one of the best post defenders in the NBA and Cousins bullied him in the post multiple times like it was nothing. How many guys can realistically shut down a man that strong with that skill and good touch around the hoop?

The Kings have offensive problems right now. They play one-on-one, don’t feed the guys in the corners and don’t get the ball on the block. If a post player kicks it out and re-establishes position, he rarely gets the ball back. This can all be changed by centering the offense when Cousins is on the floor with pick-and-rolls heading toward the basket and giving him the ball on the block.

I’m not saying the team should run through him. He’s been terrible making jumpers consistently (28.7% from beyond 10 feet) and his short game (inside 10 feet but not at the rim) has been equally ineffective (28.9%). DeMarcus is not a go-to scorer yet. But if the Kings are going to put him in positions to be effective with the ball, why not put the bull directly in the china shop instead of down the block?

Letting him migrate out away from the basket is just asking for a less destructive pattern of attack.


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