Cornerstone players will be a recurring theme on Second Look Sports where I look at each position in a certain sport and I choose a cornerstone player to build my franchise around. I have a couple of parameters for this selection though. I will factor in age, potential, injury history, experience, reputation and production. I think this should be a fun and interesting topic to discuss on here. I hope you guys agree.
The selection- DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
Honorable mentions- Nickolas Vucevic, DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, Gorgui Dieng, Hassan Whiteside
It is hard to find a really reliable big man in the NBA. There were a couple of good candidates for this one but Cousins clearly stands out above the rest. The 24-year old is coming into his own this season. He has always had solid production but this year, the former Kentucky product has begun playing at a completely new level. His potential is still there as well. Cousins is still learning how to have a bigger presence than he already does as a rim protector as well as avoiding turnovers. If he manages to do those two things, he could be an elite player in this league.
The thing that really sets Cousins apart from the rest is scoring ability. He is averaging 23.7 points per game this season, tied for sixth in the league among all players and tops among centers. He is outscoring Chris Bosh by almost three points per game and putting up the same number as Stephen Curry. Those are incredible scoring numbers, especially as a center. He shoots below what a lot of other centers convert but Cousins also takes several more shots per game. He is solid at the line as well. A lot of centers are liabilities in their free throw shooting, making it easy to simply foul them and make them earn their points from the line. You can’t do that with Cousins; he hits nearly 82 percent of his free throws, best among centers in the league.
Cousins is a nuisance under the basket as well. He is averaging 12.5 boards per game this year and has averaged at least 11 rebounds a game in 3 of his 5 seasons. As a distributor, Cousins is pretty adept at moving the ball around. He averages just over three assists per game, which is tied for fourth in the NBA for centers. That comes at a price though. His high usage rating (33.4 percent) might lead to great scoring numbers and a solid amount of assists but it leads to a dangerously high level of turnovers as well. Cousins has the most turnovers in the NBA this year. He is averaging four per game making him one of the few centers with an assist to turnover ratio that is less than one.
Some of those turnovers are made up for though on the defensive side of the ball. Cousins averages the second most steals per game among centers, averaging more than 1.5 per game. He is only 0.01 steals per game behind Nerlens Noel the most among centers. Cousins, while not an elite shot blocker, also has some credentials protecting the rim. He is averaging 1.64 rejections per night this year and shows some promise to keep growing. His totals have increased yearly over the past three seasons. He is also a dominant low post defender. With his 6 foot 11 inch, 270-pound frame, it is not a simple task to back down Cousins. He is rock solid inside and refuses to let players get an easy bucket in close.
So while the selection might not be perfect, Cousins is the best of the bunch. He has battled injuries but continues to come back and produce well each time. He is an elite offensive weapon, which is rare in today’s NBA for centers. He is a top rebounder and solid distributor. Cousins’ all-around game makes him a worthy selection and great player to build around. You see his total value in his incredible Player Efficiency Rating at a 24.8, which ranks eleventh in the league and second among centers. He has the versatility to fit in various styles of offense and play alongside just about anyone. His defensive prowess can anchor a team as well with his generally above average play. There is no doubting that Cousins is great and his physical tools should have him as a perennial All Star for years to come.
For more Cornerstone selections, click here.