DeMarcus Cousins, known by his nickname “Boogie” across the NBA, was drafted in 2010 by the Sacramento Kings. It has been five years and many of the top players from the 2010 draft have become stars across the league: John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Paul George, Greg Monroe, Gordon Hayward, etc. DeMarcus Cousins, however, has become arguably the best player from his draft class.
Take a look at Boogie’s numbers per game over the first five seasons in his career:
These numbers are staggering. During his career, Cousins has consistently been an elite scorer and rebounder. Plus, when you consider the fact that Cousins is a center, he shoots well above average from the free-throw line and he has even become a decent passer. Add in above-average defense and you have the recipe for a superstar.
Boogie’s game is more complex than the traditional counting statistics though. Take for example his FG% from the midrange, (which is about 10-16 feet). Cousins improved each year before stagnating slightly last season. His career .352 percentage is respectable, and it spiked all the way to .390 in 2013-14 which puts him in the same discussion as elite big men like Tim Duncan (career .403).
Another quirk in his game that makes Boogie so unique is his ability to handle the ball like a point guard. A center like Cousins is normally not asked to run the fast-break. When most centers grab a rebound, they immediately passes to his point guard. Then, if lucky, his point guard will pass it back to him at the other end of the floor for a dunk. Cousins, however, can do it all himself. For example:
Most experts agree that DeMarcus Cousins has become one of the best players in the NBA. Sports Illustrated has him 14th; ESPN has him as high as 12; while on Grantland, Bill Simmons ranks Boogie as the 9th most untradeable player in the NBA. The only players that are more valuable than Cousins are players like Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, etc. But if Boogie is such a great player, why is he constantly in the headlines for everything other than his game on the court?
Since Cousins was drafted by the Kings, no coach has lasted longer than Paul Westphal. Westphal coached the Kings for just over two seasons, and was fired after a dispute with Cousins. The team decided to side with their young star, which seemed like a good idea at the time. There was no reason to call Boogie a “coach-killer” just yet.
After Westphal, the Kings went with Keith Smart. Although Smart seemed to get along with Cousins at times, it’s not like their relationship was always positive. Eventually Boogie decided enough was enough, and it wasn’t long before he was openly undermining Smart to the media. So after only 141 games, Smart was gone. At this point, it was fair to begin to question if Cousins was the problem.
Along came Mike Malone, and for once DeMarcus had a coach that he respected. Cousins flourished under Malone in 2013-14, taking a leap to become an All-Star caliber player. Then, just 24 games into the 2014-15 season, the Kings fired Malone and left Cousins shell-shocked. Boogie told Sacramento Bee writer Jason Jones, “We’re not the same team,” after Malone was fired. Malone, to this day, is the only good relationship Cousins has maintained with a coach.
Jump ahead to now, and it’s no surprise that Cousins is having problems with new head coach George Karl. After an ugly loss to the Spurs last Monday, The Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre reported that Cousins “stormed into the locker room and cursed out head coach George Karl with a torrent of obscenities.” It appears that Cousins is on his way to forcing another head coach out of town. This kind of behavior is simply unacceptable. It’s not all Boogie’s fault though.
Another huge issue with the Kings is that they haven’t built a talented enough team around Boogie. The team starts Rajon Rondo and Rudy Gay along with Cousins this season, which makes absolutely no practical sense. Neither player has true three-point range, and when you have a center as talented as Cousins you need to surround him with sharpshooters.
The Kings did, however, have a player they thought could become a deadeye three-point shooter in Nik Stauskas. They took him in the first-round of the draft just one season ago, but already traded him away. Sacramento did this because they were targeting players like Wesley Matthews and Monta Ellis, but missed out on both in free agency. It’s clear that the team the Kings built around Boogie is not working.
Cousins doesn’t make it easy on himself either. Today, he was suspended one game for elbowing the Hawks’ Al Horford underneath the basket in Wednesday’s game. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Cousins has faced suspension for violence. In February of 2014 he was suspended and fined for punching Houston guard Patrick Beverley. Sometimes your emotions get the best of you, but Cousins has shown a pattern of poor behavior.
The question for Cousins and for the Kings is what happens next? The answer isn’t clear, because when you have a player as good as Cousins, talent usually overcomes everything. It’s been five seasons though, and the Kings haven’t sniffed a playoff berth with Cousins. He’s frustrated and the team is frustrated. It’s time for the Kings to move on and trade him, and give the team (and Boogie) a fresh start.
DeMarcus Cousins though, is insanely valuable, so if the Kings trade him they will need to get a fair return. For example,look at 2004 when the Lakers traded a disgruntled Shaquille O’Neal to the Heat for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant, and a first-round pick. This return was reasonable for the Lakers, as they received two players to build around (Odom and Butler) and a pick that they could use to draft another top player.
So who among the NBA could offer a fair deal to the Kings to get Boogie in their jersey? The best bet is the Boston Celtics. The Celtics have collected multiple future first-round picks and a wide variety of young talented players. Boston needs a true superstar, however, something Cousins has become in every sense of the word. Take this hypothetical trade scenario:
|Sacramento Receives:||Boston Receives:|
|– Kelly Olynyk, PF/C
– David Lee, PF
– 2016 1st-round pick (from Brooklyn)
|– DeMarcus Cousins, C
This trade would work for both teams. Boogie gets a fresh start in Boston, with a good coach and playoff aspirations. The Kings get pieces they can build around: Kelly Olynyk, who is a young capable power forward that has range out to the three-point line, and most importantly, the 2016 first-round pick from the Nets. The Nets are so bad this year that pick should end up in the top-five.
It has been an up-and-down relationship between Boogie and Sacramento, but it’s time for the Kings to move on from DeMarcus Cousins, and it’s time to let DeMarcus Cousins move on from the Kings.
*Statistics provided by: basketball-reference.com & ESPN.com
*Images from USA Today, SLAM, Red Rock Basketball, Frankenstein, and dongtw.com