Saturday, October 13th, 2012 at 12:00 pm  |  28 responses

Top 50: DeMarcus Cousins, 28

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Tzvi Twersky | @ttwersky

In the past few months alone, DeMarcus Cousins has been referred to as “immature,” “uncouth” and “enigmatic.” And that’s only in reports written during his summer mostly spent away from reporters.

Yeah, after two up-and-down seasons in the NBA it’s fair to say that the slander surrounding DeMarcus Cousins is out of control. Just ask Thomas Robinson.

“Everybody told me, ‘You need to watch out for Cousins. He’s got an attitude—y’all are gonna clash,’” Robinson, the No. 5 overall Draft pick from Kansas, told me in August. “I met DCousins and we clicked, from the get-go.”

Maybe some of the negative press surrounding Cousins stems from a real place. Maybe—OK, more like probably—at times he acts immaturely on and off the court. Maybe he’s made a few mistakes since being drafted fifth overall by the Kings in 2010. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Strip away the uncertainties and the “uncouth” behavior. Strip away what you’ve read about him—because, be honest, you probably haven’t seen him play much, him being in Sacramento and all—and how you feel about him. Strip away everything you think you know, and you’ll find that there are a few certainties with Cousins. Namely: He’s loud, he’s proud… and he’s better than any power forward or center on your favorite team.

“He’s just like me,” says Robinson, who is not only expected to help the Kings immediately but is also admired for his well-known off-court story and interview skills. “It’s just the way he expresses himself is a little louder than what people might want. But he ain’t changing, and he ain’t need to. They’re gonna have to accept it, because he really is going to be one of the best in the League.”

Robinson was on a roll, so I didn’t stop him… but he was wrong about one thing. Cousins isn’t going to be one of the best. He already is. I mean, just set aside all the talk about attitude and behavior and focus on skills.

Can he score? Last season—remember, it was only his second in the League—Cousins averaged 18.1 ppg in 30.5 mpg of playing time. According to NBA.com’s advanced stats, that was good for 28 percent of the Kings’ offense while he was on the floor. You can only imagine what those numbers would look like if he played with a pure point guard.

Can he rebound? Last season Cousins averaged 11 rpg, 4.1 of which came on the offensive glass. The latter number tied for first in the League with Kevin Love, and the former digit was good for 39 percent of the Kings’ rebounds while he was on the floor.

Can he play defense? Though Cousins sometimes plays apathetically on D and can certainly get better at it, he did average 1.5 spg and 1.2 bpg last season. It’s safe to assume that if he played on a winning team that focused on defense, with his size (6-11) and width (250+) and quick feet, he’d be an asset on that side of the ball.

Can he not do anything on the court? Very little. (Yes, he could shoot a higher percentage, he could stay out of foul trouble and he could pass better. Keep in mind, though, he just turned 22.)

Is he better than Amar’e Stoudemire, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Kevin Garnett, Tyson Chandler, Roy Hibbert, Tim Duncan and Al Horford? According to his ranking in the Top 50, yes. And even if you might not want him on your team ahead of all those guys yet, I personally had him ranked No. 18 in the League, four spots higher than I had Chris Bosh (22), and one spot higher than Blake Griffin (19).

Ah, Griffin, Blake. You knew this would come up, especially since Blake and Boogie (Cousins’ nickname) might be the new decade’s version of Duncan and Garnett.

In the middle of last season, the Second Season of Blake, Cousins called Blake “babied” and an “actor.” He said that Blake is a posterboy for the League, and that he gets away with a lot because of it. Take away the L.A. factor, though. Take away the dunks, the fans, take away SportsCenter. Take all that way and who between the two young bigs really is better? Thomas Robinson was quick to tell me he supports his teammate Cousins, and if you ask the experts you might be surprised by what stance they take, too.

“I say Cousins is the most talented big man in the League,” NBA TV’s Chris Webber told SLAM recently. “This is the year for him to show that.”

In a recent candid interview with SI‘s Sam Amick, entitled “After busy summer, Cousins ready to take his place among NBA elite,” the young forward seemed to be geared up and ready for a big, potential-tapping season. As Kings basketball President Geoff Petrie told Amick, “It has the potential for a really significant growth year for him. On the physical side for sure, he really consistently worked on his conditioning, played every day for the past couple weeks here getting ready. He’s shooting the ball very well. He’s coming into camp in the best shape I’ve ever seen him, really.”

In the wake of that interview, in the weeks since the start of training camp, there seems to be somewhat of a softening stance towards Cousins underway. There have been reports of his good conditioning, leadership efforts and strong play. Maybe just maybe the tide is starting to turn in his favor, at least when it comes to acknowledging his abilities on the court.

If things keep going this way, if he plays like he can and the Kings mesh, there could soon be a few new buzz words associated with Cousins. Namely: loud leader, proud prized player… and most dominant big man.

Where should DeMarcus Cousins rank in the SLAMonline Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8
49 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 14
48 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 13
47 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 12
46 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 11
45 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 14
44 Anthony Davis Hornets PF 13
43 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 12
42 Al Horford Hawks C 7
41 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 10
40 Danny Granger Pacers SF 6
39 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 11
38 John Wall Wizards PG 9
37 Monta Ellis Bucks SG 8
36 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 10
35 Roy Hibbert Pacers C 6
34 Tyson Chandler Knicks C 5
33 Eric Gordon Hornets SG 7
32 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 9
31 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 6
30 Amar’e Stoudemire Knicks PF 8
29 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 4
28 DeMarcus Cousins Kings C 3

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • ctk

    The hardest player to rank n the league …seem too high cuz his team dont have enuff Ws…but there isnt 5 more talented bigs

  • spit hot fiyah

    before anyone says: no way he is better than garnett, please understand that these are projections for the upcoming season

  • Bravo

    Lol and John wall was the #1 draft pick that year

  • JR

    Nice article. Love DC and think he’ll be ranked even higher next year.

  • LeroyShonuff

    He should be top ten by the end of the year but will finish in the top 20. If the sixers would have taken him, they would easily be the team of the future in the east. Boogie is a beast!!!!!! I say trade Evans to phoenix for Channing and Kendall Marshall and this team will really take off.

  • Tavoris Sinclair

    why does Griffin (who shot 55% from the field) get so much flak for his offensive limitations while Boogie (who shot 45% from the field) is praised? So what BG gets favorable calls…that still doesn’t make the ball fall in the bucket more often.

  • Tavoris Sinclair

    all of the Centers ranked below Cousins are better players. All of them would greatly improve the Kings if you swapped them for Cousins too.

  • spit hot fiyah

    hypothetically it would, if he could make some free throws. but off course it wouldn’t affect the fg % if that was your point

  • Max

    Best big in the L in 5 years.

  • spit hot fiyah

    big as in center, or pf and c?

  • JR

    If Boogie had CP3 as his point guard instead of Tyreke Evans/Isiah Thomas I’d speculate his PPG/FG% would be much better. I think BG is getting flack in this article because he’s ranked so much higher (due to market/flash) and he isn’t that much better.

  • Caboose

    This is tough. He could take a huge leap forward in the way that Dwight did. Or, (I think), he will remain where he is, a la Derrick Coleman. Either way, I can’t really complain about the ranking, he’s just unpredictable.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    To be honest I expected Slam to put him even higher.
    My issue with Cousins? – he led the league in offensive rebounds last year……and STILL only shot 44%!!!! From the field.

  • Omar

    I’d take him over Andrew Bynum.

  • danpowers

    i thought theyd have you going all out now for putting him at 28 while having kg at 32. i alrdy got my popcorn b4 i opened the article :(

  • Peter Walsh

    Good work, Tzvi…Will be rooting for this kid all year. Unfortunate for him to be stuck with an asshat of a coach and a shit organization all around. Another stat which I love: He led the league in charges taken last season.

  • Young C

    There should be a rule against a team as bad as the King having two players in the top 50.

  • KipSmithers

    Curious to see where he is a year from now.

  • justin05

    Same here. I’m a Lakers fan and I never liked Bynum. Overrated defensively because he backs down. He gets hurt when he goes for the big block or big rebound so he takes many possessions off.

  • Max


  • Datkid

    I like this ranking, but i’m not sure you can say that he’s better than guys like Marc and Z-bo already. those are proven players who have gone much farther. Even Al Jefferson has produced just as much for years. I do like that he can play both pf/c spots equally well though and in terms of potential he’s probably under ranked.

  • Tavoris Sinclair

    We can’t give CP3 the credit for Griffin’s FG%, because he was playing with a fat Baron Davis the year before-and still shot a higher percentage. Plus, Vinny Del Negro’s ineptitude almost cancels out Paul’s brilliance as a creator.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Isn’t that just from catching his own misses?

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Teddy, if it is, then he is even worse from the field than it looks. And it already doesn’t look good.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    I do think KG is better, but SLAM seems to always predict a jump for up ad comers, ever since the Derrick Rose 2010 ranking was right on the money I am not gonna get worked up about them going on a limb. I could really see DMC being a top 10 player this year…..I just could also see him being a huge headache who doesn’t add any real value to the kings THIS season, so…I dot really have a point to argue at 28.

  • Slick Ric

    I see him being an all-star this season.

  • Slick Ric

    I concur, Players like blake become so popular that people start to actually underrate them a little because he’s so overrated in their minds.

  • RG190

    Cousins is a beast but he’s gonna benefit even more this season from it being a contract year for Reke and Robinson’s help down low. 20-10 should be easy…