clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

DeMarcus Cousins belongs in the All-Star Game

There was no rational reason to keep Cousins off the All-Star team initially, other than people's tired misconceptions.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: Turns out Cousins will be an All-Star after all. The Kings' center was named to replace the injured Kobe Bryant, the league announced Friday. The original column follows below.

***

Those of who have watched DeMarcus Cousins' career most closely sensed it coming. Despite gaudy stats, a reformed attitude, much-improved defense and a clear positive impact on the court every single night, Boogie was left off of the 2015 NBA All-Star roster. Throughout Cousins' career, excellence has never been enough.

Too many people in the NBA -- analysts, coaches, fans -- make up their minds about someone and never re-evaluate. Cousins caught a reputation as a knucklehead and malcontent early in his career and deserved it. All of that's over, but you wouldn't know it by the way some folks still talk about him. Even this week, as Cousins' All-Star status was discussed and revealed, you had people mentioning his propensity to argue with the referees.

Oh, Cousins is tied for 23rd in the NBA in techs? Tied with Marc Gasol, Kyle Lowry, Sebastian Telfair and, uh, Joel Freeland? Huh.

You had one prominent fool make this claim exactly five years ago.

That's the type of nonsense arm-chair assessment that's followed Cousins every minute of his career.

This is why Cuzologists suspected an All-Star snub was brewing. In an age of plentiful but imperfect data, people rely on their assumptions, and for obvious reasons, people assume the worst of Cousins, even now. There will be no rebirth until his team wins something, like Zach Randolph in Memphis. (Never mind Boogie's key role at the 2014 Worlds.) The burden of proof to convince people he is not who he was is on him, because that's how the sports world works.

But man does this stink. You've seen the stats by now: Cousins is No. 6 in scoring, No. 3 in rebounding, No. 6 in PER, No. 4 in overall real plus-minus and No. 3 in defensive real plus-minus. The Kings outscore teams by six points per 100 possessions when Boogie is on the court and are outscored by 13 per 100 possessions when he's not. If you want to go more basic, the Kings are 14-18 in games in which Cousins played and 2-10 when he didn't.

Yes, the Kings have a losing record. Look at those numbers and explain to me how they reflect on DeMarcus Cousins' performance in any way other than DAMN HE'S GOOD.

Do you think if you swapped Cousins and, let's say 2015 NBA All-Star Tim Duncan, that the Kings would be better? Duncan is a legend, but the suggestion is absurd. The Spurs are a +4/100 possessions team when Duncan's been on the court and a +4.4/100 possessions team when he has not. Duncan's defense remains elite, but he's not appreciably better than Cousins on that end at this point. To wit, Cousins roasted him to the tune of 25 points in 27 minutes in their first meeting this season. (Boogie missed the second game due to viral meningitis.)

By the way, offense matters too. Cousins has played 10 fewer games than Duncan this season, but has scored 143 more points. He's gotten those points much more efficiently than Big Fundamental. (The True Shooting percentage comparison: .560 for Cousins to .535 for Duncan.) Cousins is averaging 23.8 points per game. Duncan has scored more than 23 points once in 42 games this season. Scoring is actually pretty important in this sport, and Cousins is nearly twice as productive in that realm. Twice!

The argument for Duncan is that we should reward defense and that old-timers deserve deference. The following is not a rare comment from NBA analysts.

Neat. When they have an All-Star Game for players 33 and older, that's good criteria to consider. Until then, considering Cousins is appreciably better in several facets of the game and Duncan's equal in the others, let's be real. Duncan got in as a legacy pick from a good team and Cousins was left out because so few coaches made an effort to actually look at the evidence.

I understand wanting to celebrate Duncan, who at his sustained peak was criminally undercelebrated. But it's a disservice to Duncan and future Duncans to bestow an unearned honor on him now. And so long as DeMarcus Cousins exists, Duncan doesn't deserve this honor. There's no way around that.

Boogie will be an All-Star someday -- he's too good to be denied much longer. The inevitability of reality will catch up to even the sentimentalists on the sidelines. But he's been robbed just now, and that's worth acknowledging and lamenting, no matter how frivolous the matter may seem.

SIGN UP FOR OUR NBA NEWSLETTER

Get news, links and Ziller's #hottakes in your inbox every weekday morning.