To say DeMarcus Cousins’ season for the Sacramento Kings has been a rollercoaster is a bit of an understatement. It’s been a season filled with ups and downs—both on the court and off of it. But through it all, two things become abundantly clear: Cousins is an immensely talented player, but he’s got a lot of growing up to do to fully utilize that talent.
This article is an attempt to grade Cousins’ season. Because of the tumultuous ride, that’s no easy task. He’s had periods of greatness on the court. He’s also had stretches of futility. At times he’s looked to grasp the bigger picture as far as how to conduct himself as a professional, only to turn around and wash away all that goodwill he’s built up.
In comprising his overall grades, I’ll look at his high points and low points both on and off the court, compare and contrast them with each other, and come up with an overall grade that resembles what the Kings have gotten from DeMarcus Cousins this season.
On-Court High Points
He started the stretch by notching a triple-double against the Celtics with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
DMC also posted arguably his best game of the season during that spell, scoring 31 points on 11-of-18 shooting, hauling in 20 rebounds, dishing out four assists and swiping two steals on Jan. 4 at Toronto.
Overall, Cousins averaged 20.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.6 blocks, a 490 shooting percentage and 34.1 minutes during the 10-game spell. The Kings also went 5-5 during that span.
Production like that rivals that of any elite center. In the big picture, Cousins is already one of the league’s better centers. But when he plays up to his capabilities, he may be the best.
On-Court Low Points
DMC’s worst period of basketball probably occurred at the start of the season. He had big expectations on his shoulders entering the campaign. Consequently he tried to do too much and it ended up hindering his play.
Over the first 10 games, Cousins averaged 16.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.6 steals and shot only 42.7 percent from the field.
His worst game of that spell was Nov. 21 against the Lakers. He fouled out in only 21:10 of game action, hit only 3-of-9 field-goal attempts, scored seven points and brought down eight rebounds.
Even with this being DeMarcus’s low point of the season, he still put up respectable statistics. But his inconsistencies hurt the team and surely contributed to a 3-7 start to the season.
Overall On Court
Cousins’ overall year has been pretty solid. When taken at face value, his averages of 16.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists and a .465 field-goal percentage are certainly above average for a center.
Yet it still leaves you wanting more. For one, his scoring, rebounding, PER and win-shares per 48 minutes, while still solid, are actually worse than what he posted last season. His only real strides as a player came in field-goal percentage (.465 this season; .448 last season) and assists (2.7; 1.6).
What it really comes down to is what Marc Spears posted in the tweet above. Cousins is the most offensively gifted center in the NBA. Anything other than statistics corroborating that statement leads one to believe there’s still room for improvement.
Off-Court High Point
The difficulty with Cousins, at least for me, is that he’s not a bad guy. You may wonder what’s difficult about that. Let me explain…if he was a malicious individual with the same temper issues, it would be much easier to cut bait, even with his immense talent.
But since Cousins is a good-natured individual—just one that can’t control his temper in the heat of a moment—it’s hard to know how to handle the situation. On the one hand, you think he’s going to figure it out because he seems to be a caring person. On the other hand, he’s made no discernible strides in reeling in his temper, despite having a good heart.
Regardless of how that translates on the court, one thing seems pretty clear from his time in Sacramento: He’s a valued member of the community.
Cousins has been generous with his time on many occasions. The one instance that stands out most in my mind was his “Santa Cuz” program, where he dressed up as Santa Claus at Christmas time and took 50 underprivileged kids to Wal-Mart for a shopping spree.
This sort of act is indicative of his generous nature. Even if he causes many head-scratching moments when he’s angry, there’s no denying the kindness he’s displayed numerous times.
Off-Court Low Point
Too bad I wasn’t doing “off-court low POINTS,” because there are so many of them. It’s difficult to pick just one.
However, if there’s one moment that stands out as worse than all of his other transgressions, it’s his postgame altercation with San Antonio Spurs broadcaster Sean Elliott.
There are a couple of reasons why this one stood out as worse than the others. For one, it occurred after the game, and not only after the game, but after the Kings had already gone into the locker room. At that time, Cousins was made aware of some of the comments Elliott had made, prompting him to go back out on the court and verbally attack Elliott.
This one wasn’t a heat-of-the-moment issue, as he had plenty of time to think about an appropriate response. Even then, he decided a suitable response would be to go back out onto the court and get in Elliott’s face.
Secondly, that moment stands out because of when it occurred: at the beginning of the season. Throughout the offseason, all we heard about was how different DeMarcus was going to be…how he’d matured. Yet you find out during the sixth game of the season that his temper is as bad as ever.
That altercation prompted a two-game suspension from the league and set the table for what’s been another reckless year for Cousins.
Overall Off Court
There’s really no way to describe his off-court year other than atrocious. He set the tone by getting suspended early in the season. He’s seemed to follow that up with some sort of issue every few weeks…like clockwork.
Whether it’s clashing with Coach Smart, clashing with the referees, as he’s done on many occasions, or trying to fight a broadcaster, Cousins has done nothing but disappoint with his off-court behavior.
While he’s clearly got the talent to be a star player in this league, that may never come to fruition if he can’t learn how to control his emotions.
While his season has been a rollercoaster, it's been one that's had more downs than ups. His on-court performance, while tantalizingly good at times, still doesn't quite live up to a player of his talents. His off-court persona, while clearly generous at times, has shown no signs of maturing into the professional we'd like to see.
On the bright side, at 22 years old he's still extremely young—young enough to figure it all out. On the dark side, he's not quelling any of those doubts by progressing.
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