Tonight, the much anticipated NBA Draft will finally commence, and while the premier position is virtually locked by John Wall, every other pick is, more or less, up in the air. Of particular significance is the Nets with the No. 3 pick, as they cannot afford to come up empty in this draft.
New Jersey has not historically fared well in past drafts, and consequently, their team has perennially been amongst the worst in the league.
With relatively new ownership and coaching, the Nets will desperately seek to usher in a new era, you know, one in which they actually win. To that end, since the Draft Combine, the Nets have been prominently courting Georgia Tech’s Derrick Favors.
If they do indeed draft Favors, the Nets woes will assuredly continue, and they will flounder in mediocrity for at least the next couple of years.
While Favors is, by all accords, mentally ready for the NBA, he is by no means physically capable. While his conditioning is good, his shooting range is questionable (he can’t consistently make a jump shot outside of 12 feet) and he can’t create his own offense. For those reasons, the Nets should go with the other notable big man in the draft, DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins.
To the casual observer, the aforementioned phenom Wall had been the driving force behind University of Kentucky’s most recent successful season, but to a die hard Wildcats fan, Cousins had even more of an impact.
Cousins was one of the biggest offensive threats in the NCAA last season. Not only was he an intimidating presence in the post, but he was also a beast on the boards with a particularly soft shooting touch.
Unlike Favors, Cousins is fluid in his jump shot and has a consistent range of about 20 feet, which he is still developing. Furthermore, for a seven-footer, he possesses surprising agility and footwork, and he also has the ability to hustle down court. This belies the fact that he has one of the highest body fat percentages in the 2010 draft class.
Basically, he is an offensive powerhouse with the physical build of a slightly smaller Shaquille O'Neal, but with an even higher potential ceiling. Defensively, he certainly isn’t the best, but he has worked hard to become more than competent.
For all Boogie’s laudable qualities, his detractors would have you believe that he has even more liabilities as a NBA prospect. Much ado has been made about his disposition; his soft-spokenness and genuine introversion have been mistaken for sullenness and arrogance.
It certainly doesn’t help that his persona is being juxtaposed with that of his former teammate, John Wall, whose poise, commerciality, and affability has not been seen in a draft prospect since Grant Hill was coming out of Duke.
Comparatively, anyone from this draft would seem rough around the edges stacked against Wall.
So much is being made about Cousins' personality that the majority of the pre-draft speculation on him revolves around the perception of him as volatile and unstable, rather than on his unique athleticism.
Remember, perceptions are subjective, while facts are the only things that are concrete; the fact is the kid can ball.
Clearly those promulgating this headcase myth are people who don’t know enough about him, yet have preconceived notions largely formed by the negative press which surrounds him. This is bolstered by those seemingly in the know talking heads on ESPN, who rehash misinformation about Cousins on a daily basis.
Anyone who has spent substantial time watching him at UK can see the rapid improvement in his demeanor; where once he might fly off the handle earlier in the season, he has learned to exhibit considerable restraint by the end.
An example of this can be taken from February when Mississippi State fans somehow obtained his cell phone number and incessantly called him for days leading up to their single regular season matchup.
Cousins stated that many callers tried to elicit a negative response from him by calling him homophobic and racial slurs.
He disappointed Bulldogs fans by dismissing their heckles, only choosing to respond on the court with a virtuoso performance. After one especially thrilling dunk, Cousins gave the, now infamous “call me” gesture, in clear reference to all the unwarranted calls he had received.
Sports analysts immediately took off with this and painted him as the big, bad villain taunting innocent fans, and he was, once again, cited for bad sportsmanship.
Never once, was Cousins given the benefit of the doubt, as merely a young athlete who might have shown a lapse of judgment in the heat of the moment.
This is a microcosm of the unfair smear bestowed upon Cousins; his name has become so besmirched that whenever he is mentioned, Michael Jackson’s velvety tenor comes to mind singing his hit, “Blame It on the Boogie.”
Weighing his tremendous strengths against his few valid weaknesses, many teams are believed to be passing on Cousins, and in most mock drafts he is figured to go somewhere between picks five and seven.
This is a shame because he is arguably the most talented in the draft (yes, Wall inclusive) and without question IS the best big man.
Truth be told, he should go to the Philadelphia 76ers with the second pick, but if not, he most certainly ought to go to the Nets. If the 76ers or Nets take a chance on him, he is guaranteed to produce almost straight away for either team.
The latter team stands to dually risk and gain the most by drafting Cousins, so hopefully they are seriously veering toward doing just that.
If, however, the draft plays out according to most scripts, he will be severely undervalued and it will be the respective teams’ loss, not Cousins’.
This time next year, the only thing anybody will able to blame on Boogie is the management shakeup, which will undoubtedly ensue within those foolish NBA franchises who missed out on a golden opportunity.