(Photo via nba.com)
In today’s NBA, you would be hard-pressed to find many traditional, back-to-the-basket power centers that dominated the game in the decades before. Shaquille O’Neal is probably the last true dominant center that this game has seen in a while, and no one today has really been able to replicate that same skill set. Instead, today’s centers have altered their focus to stepping out and shooting jumpers, rather than using their power and size to their advantage on the low-block. However, there has been a recent resurgence of the traditional big man, and no one stands out more than center DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings.
With 5 years of NBA experience under his belt, Cousins has emerged as one of the best, if not the best center in the game. This season, he has put up 27 ppg, 11.3 rpg, and was voted to his 2nd All-Star game. However, due to the King’s constant struggle to win games, which seems like a common occurrence for them, the organization has been teetering with options surrounding the future of their star center. Cousins has a reputation around the league for being overly aggressive and often childish on the court. He’s never been known to handle his emotions well, and after years of waiting for him to mold into the leader that we would all like to see, we have seen little to no progress. It’s unfortunate for a team like the Kings, who haven’t had a winning season since the 2006-2007 NBA season. They want to have a leader that they can all believe in, from top to bottom, with the hopes of one day being led to a championship. But, all Cousins has shown them is he simply cannot be trusted. It begs the question: Is Boogie Cousins just another wasted All-Star talent? Sadly, I would say yes.
NBA teams not only need their All-Stars to put up big number night-in and night-out, but they also need to possess the capable leadership qualities to elevate the team’s overall performance. Cousins has simply fallen behind in that aspect; he has never led the Kings to a winning season, even with solid supporting players such as Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo, and even Isiah Thomas from 2011-2014. While many teams would love his talent, the fact of the matter is Cousins will never be able to be the true leader that we all hoped for.
Can he be a valuable player on a championship team? No doubt – his skillset and low-post dominance still make him a good player for nearly every team. But, we have to get over the idea that Cousins can be the focal point and captain of a championship winning team. His value and unique skill set would be better utilized as a great supplemental piece to a championship team, someone who can surely dominate on the court, but doesn’t carry the burden of having to be the vocal, example-setting leader for his teammates. I still expect Cousins to perform well in this league, but an environment unlike Sacramento’s that can effectively bring out the best in him will surely save him from becoming an afterthought.
– J. Yellin