Film Study: Is There Any D In DeMarcus?

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — In voting for seven reserves for next month’s All-Star Game, Western Conference coaches have some very difficult decisions to make.

The most interesting dilemma is what to make of DeMarcus Cousins, who is averaging 22.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks … for a team that’s 15-26.

My man Jeff Caplan did not pick Cousins among his seven reserves. Neither did Charles Barkley, Grant Hill or Kenny Smith. Shaquille O’Neal did, but it should be noted that he’s a minority owner of the Kings.

The biggest reason the Kings are 11 games under .500 is their defense. Through Thursday, they rank 28th in defensive efficiency, allowing 106.3 points per 100 possessions. It’s the third straight season they’ve ranked in the bottom three.

The question is how responsible is Cousins for the poor defense and if that basically negates a lot of his offensive production. What good is scoring 31 points (like Cousins did against the league’s best defense last week) if you’re helping your opponent (a below-average offensive team) put up 116?

Cousins’ basic defensive numbers look great. Only *five players (who have played at least 20 games) average more steals plus blocks per game than Cousins’ 2.98, but steals and blocks don’t always equate to good defense.

* The five are Anthony Davis (4.53), DeAndre Jordan (3.50), Andre Drummond (3.21), Michael Carter-Williams (3.03) and Roy Hibbert (3.02). Three of them also play for below-average defense teams.

The Kings have been better defensively with Cousins on the floor (allowing 105.6 points per possessions) than they’ve been with him on the bench (107.6). But that mark of 105.6 would still put them in the bottom six of the league defensively.

With Cousins on the floor, the Kings rebound and force turnovers at above-average rates. But the best thing you can do as a defense is defend shots, and they haven’t done that very well.

Kings defense with Cousins on and off the floor

Cousins on/off OppeFG% Rk DREB% Rk OppTOV% Rk OppFTA Rate Rk
Cousins on 52.4% 76.1% 15.8% .294
Cousins off 51.4% 75.1% 13.4% .331
Overall 52.1% 30 75.7% 9 15.0% 21 .308 25

OppeFG% = Opp. (FGM + (0.5*3PM)) / FGA
DREB% = Percentage of defensive rebounds obtained
OppTOV% = Opponent turnovers per 100 possessions
OppFTA Rate = Opponent FTA/FGA

Kings opponents have shot 66.4 percent in the restricted area with him on the floor, a mark well above the league average of 60.2 percent. According to SportVU, opponents have shot 53.7 at the rim when Cousins is there defending it, a mark that ranks 48th among 59 players who have defended at least five shots per game over 20 games.

Some of the discrepancy between the 66.4 percent and 53.7 percent can be attributed to transition defense, where Cousins is more than a little lacking. In that game in Indiana in which Cousins scored 31 points, the Pacers shot 18-for-24 in the restricted area, 12-for-14 with Cousins on the floor, and had 25 fast-break points.

Here are a couple of examples where Cousins didn’t necessarily have a chance to stop the break, but could made a much better effort than he did…

VIDEO: Film Study of Cousins’ transition defense

In the halfcourt, Synergy Sports ranks Cousins as a “good” pick-and-roll defender. Of late, he’ been sagging in the paint when his man sets a high screen. Here’s Greg Stiemsma setting a screen on Isaiah Thomas with Cousins nowhere in the vicinity, giving Brian Roberts plenty of open space to work with.


This is basically the same strategy that the Pacers employ with Defensive Player of the Year favorite Roy Hibbert, though Hibbert puts a lot more effort into using his length to keep the ball-handler out of the paint while also staying attached to his man. Cousins obviously isn’t on Hibbert’s level in regard to protecting the rim without fouling.

But the sagging strategy can force your opponent into mid-range shots, which is a good thing. With Cousins on the floor, Kings opponents have shot more from mid-range, but have also shot better from there.

One issue is that the Kings’ guards don’t stay attached to their man nearly as well as the Pacers’ guards do. Thomas is having a terrific season offensively, but he’s a little (pizza) guy who can get smushed on screens. Combine that with Cousins’ tendency to stay out of the picture, and opponents are going to have success if they have a guard who can shoot off the dribble.

VIDEO: Film Study on Cousins’ pick-and-roll defense

Against Kevin Durant last week, there was more of an effort to get up on high screens, but overall, Cousins does a lot of standing up straight on defense. He does have terrific hands though, and that can partially make up for his inconsistent effort and lack of fundamentals…

VIDEO: Cousins shows his swiping skills

And if you engage him defensively, Cousins has the ability to be a strong defender. On this play in Oklahoma City, Reggie Jackson attacks Cousins, who stays with him and contests his step-back jumper. In the second video above, we saw him strip Glen Davis in the post, and Synergy ranks him as an “excellent” post defender. Again, if he’s engaged, he has the size to block your path and the quickness to react to your counter moves.

The skills are there. The commitment is not. The Kings have worse defenders on their team, but none of them were signed to a max extension last summer.

If Cousins isn’t a plus on both ends of the floor, is he really a max player? If his team ranks 28th in defensive efficiency, is he really one of the best centers in the league?

Is DeMarcus Cousins an All-Star? We’ll find out next Thursday.


  1. Saggy B says:

    who’s your favorite “twirler?”

  2. Saggy B says:

    there’s 3 circles on the court for a reason.. (like a circus) HAHHAAHAHAAAA

  3. Ashton says:

    So when did they start caring about defense, all of a sudden because Demarcus cousins is having a breakout monster year everyone wants to pick apart him and find every reason in the world not to put him in the asg.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Allow me to voice my dissaproval of this article. John, can we please have a similar one about Harden, Love, Griffin, and even Melo, talking about how they may not deserve being all-stars? Of course not! This article is a clear attempt at writing Cousins off while in reality he deserves a spot more than say 60% of the candidates. C’mon!

  5. Chris says:

    It funny how they say Demarcus cousins isn’t an all star because of his defense and team losing record where there some all star starter with losing record and defense isn’t the greatest *carmelo* and even kyrie is on a lossing team but yet he an all star makes no sense I believe Demarcus is an all star and deserve to be on there.. The all star game is about offense not defense anyways they don’t even play defense lets get boogie on there.. Am an tired of hearing he shouldn’t be on there because he on a lossing team or defense need a better reason then that.

  6. justsayin says:

    Can we at least ditch the terrible nickname?

    He should just be Cuz.

  7. ron says:

    Shaq can be a mentor to Cous…

  8. J says:

    Should this even matter when it comes to an All-Star consideration for DeMarcus? James Harden might be the worst defender in the league and he will be on the team. Love and Griffin are both worse on Defense than Cousins. LeMarcus Aldridge seems to give opposing big men huge games on a nightly basis.

  9. RingWangerz says:

    This article is pretty baseless and manipulates statistics and video to find its point.

    Team Def. Eff. is not an indicator of an individual’s defense just like Team Off. Eff. isn’t an indicator of an individual’s offensive ability.
    Also, didn’t Cousins lead the league in Charges Taken a couple years ago and is still doing a solid job at it this year? This year he is top 10 in steals and blocks, but somehow he is still a poor defender?

  10. gm says:

    This article is a bad attempt at trying to make Cousins look bad

    • pKone says:

      Correction: It is a GOOD attempt at making him look bad 😉

      But bad defense keeps you out of the Finals, not the All Star Game. Let at least ONE team have a real center in the game!

      • Dieter says:

        I’m pretty sure Hibbert is going to be on the East team (and maybe Noah), and Howard is going to be on the West team.

  11. I’m not even a Kings fan (Warriors baby!), but Demarcus is a beast. As many have already pointed out, this article is silly for criticizing Demarcus’ defense and using that fact as a basis for denying him an All Star selection when nearly every PF/C in the All Star game has weak defense.

    Game recognize game, y’all.

    • Dieter says:

      Okay, for all of u guys who think there shouldn’t be an article about his defensive skills, I hope they will write an article about his offensive skills, because he just has a carreer FG % of 45 which ain’t great for a center, not at all. He ain’t a top 5 center in the West, so he shouldn’t be considered. Can I name 5 better centers in the West than him, yes sure: Marc Gasol, Dwight Howard, Thiago Splitter, Anthony Davis, Nikola Pekovic, Andrew Bogut, Marcin Gortat, … enough about Cousins, he had potential and maybe still has, but that’s it.

  12. Why is Cousins not an all star if Love and Kyrie are all stars?

    Is Cousins’ defense worse than Dirk, Love, or Griffin?

    Yet the man produces better offensive numbers and still doesn’t get any recognition.

    It doesn’t make sense to highlight the defense of an offensive monster of a player when already shoe in all stars have even worse defense than him…

  13. erwynn says:

    Who needs defense in the All Star Game? Its all about offense and showboating. Cousins should be in there……

  14. pKone says:

    Correct me if I am wrong, but the justification for Roy Hibbert and Dwight Howard getting Starter snubs is that when picking all star forwards, people chose Flash and Offense over defense….

    So how can not being a good defender keep one player out while two stellar rim protectors got snubbed for that very reason?

  15. DouwevanVeen says:

    Some stats actually support that the Kings are actually a better(/less horrible) defensive team with Cuz on the floor. If you watch at synergy sports, a lot of his defensive rankings aren’t even that bet. He’s 24th in the league when it comes down to post defense: allowing 0.69 points per post-up. Blake Griffin and Lamarcus Aldridge for example allow 0.8 and 0.77 points per post-up. Cousins isn’t a great pick and roll defender: 0.94 points per P&R, Blake is better in this category with 0.92 and Aldridge is horrible: a mindboggling 1.11 points per P&R.

    I’m not saying Cousins is a great defender, he’s average at best, but to make an article just to rip on his defense, while players like Griffin, Aldridge and Love are even worse. It’s pathetic. Don’t forget that Cousins has outplayed every center except for Marc Gasol, time and time again this season. He should be a reserve.

  16. Boogie doesn’t always lock in on Defense,…. BUT… he can’t afford foul trouble. Hibbert and Chandler can protect the rim because their team doesn’t need them to pull 20-10 every night. If Boogie goes for blocks, up goes the fouls and down goes the stats… It’s a lose lose

  17. chewie says:

    Farce. Firstly Im not a Kings fan. Leaving Boogie off the Allstar team would be a joke on this basis. He has torn up pretty much everyone he has played on this season. I can also remember him drawing a couple of clutch charges playing help D in the last 2 mins of games in the last month which went a long way towards winning games.

    Note, this is for an All Star game, where we want to see offense. If it was for Olympic selection, then this aspect may want to be scrutinised, but seriously, for an allstar game?

  18. Sonny says:

    If we are basing this off fundamentals lets start with dwight howards free throw percentage .

  19. Cousins average centre defender. Problem is he has no1 as a defensive force to help him! allstar game is about offence anyway and mainly 1 on 1 defence which cousins can do, he can mark his man decently. I wouldnt say cousins ball iq is thru the roof ha. He lacks alot of basketball maturity and silly mistakes, I believe because of his ball iq, which is progressively developing each year. And yes Aldridge does play better team D and defensively isnt a liability. Some players who have high amount of steals and/or blocks a game definetly can be a defensive liability because they can gamble to much on getting steals and give up easy layups/shots because there out of position when they miss getting the steal/block they went for. Im not saying this is true with cousins, but definetly some other players in nba- stat stuffers. Great defence doesnt always show up in stats i.e steals/blocks

  20. dustydreamnz says:

    I like the look of the Kings at the moment, hopefully himself and Gay are back soon. Rudy Gay looks rejuvenated in Sacramento.

  21. juaniboi says:

    defense is a reason to be an all star? really? who plays D in a all star game anyways. a guy like blake griffin who so many ppl on tv say has no post game and cant get his own shot and is overrated, will start…Cousins who is much better wont be an all star. a real shame…they need to watch cousins play to understand how great he is and will only get better.

    • justsayin says:

      People are talking smack – I dont have to watch the games for an “informed” opinion. Just like you! (in regard to Griffin)


  22. Stephen says:

    Not sure how a player that ranks top 11 in the league in steals per game can be considered a defensive liability. Yeah, he got smoked in Indiana; smarter offensive schemes know how to take him out of the game on defense, but the guy is a monster with those quick hands and basketball IQ through the roof. Obviously he’s still learning the game (watching him turn his ankle on the way to playing point center again I could only think to myself, “Man, I hope he remembers that pain next time he tries to push the ball instead of finding a guard.”) but most Kings fans are thrilled to have him, on both ends of the court.

  23. KingKaash94 says:

    Man here we go with the DeMarcus got defense discussion. Alridge, Griffin, Dirk, and Love don’t play much defense either but no one ever mentions that? They also got good post defenders next to them in Lopez, Jordan, Dalembert, and Pekovic while all Cousins has is Jason Thompson. Quit saying Cousins doesn’t play defense because he’s just as good a defender as any of the so-called All-Stars I mentioned above

    • dd def says:

      aldridge doesn’t play much d? do you watch blazer games, or are you just repeating what you hear barkley say?

    • dd def says:

      and also, did you call aldridge a “so-called all-star?” cause that’s a fool’s statement if you did.

    • Sharpie says:

      Yep but all of those guys, except Love, are above .500. Love’s team is of coarse 20-21, still a hell of a lot better than 15-26. Aldridge, Griffin, Dirk and Love are all better than Cousins. As a matter of fact as I type this the Kings are beating Indiana. Guess who is inactive for the game?? You guessed it Cousins.

    • Sharpie says:

      As a matter of fact, after watching the entire game, they should have won if not for that b.s. 3 point foul call. If there was a foul it was before he tried to shoot, when he held when George went around the screen. There was no foul on the actual shot. Anyway just look how well your team did without Cousins compared to how well they did with him. They also didn’t even have Rudy Gay. Face it, Cousins isn’t as good as you think he is.

      • Harris says:

        Cousins is a great player and his contribution to offense more than offset his poor defense.
        Face it, Kings wouldn’t have even came close if Thornton and Thomas didn’t combine for 80 points.
        To use one game as a basis to judge how good Cousins is also ridiculous.

        Face it, Aldridge is a deserving All-Star but so is Cousins.

  24. Bill says:

    I don’t have access to these types of stats or film review but I would be very interested in a similar review for Blake Griffin and Kevin Love, neither of whom seem to be be very good defenders either just based on watching their games. I can still remember Paul Milsap absolutely clowning Griffin earlier this year repeatedly blowing by him in the low post. Since Milsap isn’t exactly an all-world offensive player, that seemed pretty lame.

    Also, no one stands out in my mind as a worse team and individual defender than James Harden who is shamefully bad on defense most of the time and I am pretty sure he will be an all-star reserve.

    So, in my opinion, Mr. Cousins has a legitimate gripe if he is ultimately left off of the team but I think the “cloud” over his head is his immature behavior which coaches obviously don’t want to reward. Nonetheless, there isn’t a GM in the league that wouldn’t talk to Sac if they decided to move Cousins.

    • dd def says:

      yeah, love is known for being a shabby defender. and lack of defense didn’t seem to hurt carmelo or kyrie. neither did their win-loss records for that matter. this is the second year that kevin love has stolen an undeserved spot on the starting 5. and considering it’s a 100% offensive game, i don’t quite understand leaving someone out because of the defense that no one’s going to play come all-star game day. but i agree with your comment about cousin’s maturity: i think he’s progressed, but still has a ways to go.