Boogie Nights: Free DeMarcus
DeMarcus Cousins made his triumphant return to Sacramento last Thursday as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans. To say that he played well would be an ultimate understatement. He finished the game with 41 points, 23 rebounds, and 6 assists in a win for a Pelicans team that was without Anthony Davis and the majority of the players on their roster. Cousins seems to be in a better place in his career with New Orleans and was very open about his time in Sacramento. He also shared regrets about his time there.
While the return of Cousins was the story on Thursday night, I felt that the real story is about the unbelievable amount of factors that can lead to player success or lead to failure. The NBA is a tough league and it takes talent to win. In addition to talent, you have to have consistency with front office decisions and coaches. If those things are not present, players and teams will not be successful. Some players are just drafted into bad situations. DeMarcus Cousins was drafted by the Sacramento Kings with the 5th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Watching him drafted, you can hear the analyst’s talk about his talent, but they do bring up his maturity.
If there were problems with his maturity, the Kings may have been the worst team for him to be drafted to. They had a bad ownership situation that did not improve after the team was sold. In addition, the team went through 6 different head coaches during Cousins’ time with the team. They struggled to draft good players despite constantly being in the NBA lottery. They were a team constantly in flux. There was no consistency in a vision and there was no consistency in management. Despite all of this, Cousins was blamed for the lack of success. You need good players to win in the NBA and the Kings never had enough.
DeMarcus Cousins is now playing with the Pelicans and is getting the chance to play with superstar Anthony Davis. Unfortunately for Cousins, the team he joined is similar to the team that he left. The only difference is Davis. The Pelicans have a strange ownership situation and a roster that was not constructed well. There does not seem to be a great deal of vision for the team moving forward and it is hard to see them winning a great deal of games. The individual brilliance of Davis and Cousins cannot help you win games if you do not have good players to surround them with.
This brings me to the most interesting point in Cousins’ career and that is his impending free agency. He will have the chance to pick the team that he would like to play for. I personally hope he will find a team that has a good roster and a vision moving forward. We cannot really judge players until they are in good situations. For the longest time, it was assumed that Kevin Garnett was a player that could not get his team, the Minnesota Timberwolves to the next level. The reality was that he was on a team that made bad decisions. The second he joined the Boston Celtics with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, he elevated them to an NBA title and had he not gotten injured in 2009, I fully believe they would have won multiple titles.
DeMarcus Cousins right now is not a player that is looked at in a positive light around the league. There are concerns about his character and some of that blame does belong to him, but when players are drafted to bad teams they are being put into situations that they have no control over. If that player shows potential, it can actually make it worse. All of a sudden, it is that player’s fault that they can’t win. Forget the fact that the owner changed coaches for the 5th time in 4 years or that he overruled his general manager and drafted the player that does not fit the roster. This is why player evaluations can be maddening. DeMarcus Cousins is head and shoulders above the rest of the centers in the league and it is not close, sorry Nikola Jokic. He is also not bad defensively. If given the chance to be in a good situation, Cousins can help a team win. Hopefully, this summer he chooses wisely.