Originally Posted by awwsome
I'm defensive or I just proved you wrong and misinformed?
Rim protection > wing defense and he's one of the best in the league.
There's not a way you can say they're superior when Cousins had better numbers than Marc Gasol defensively.
Based on the numbers you provided, so did Al Jefferson:
Offensively, the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins has found his stride. Last season, the 6-foot-11 center averaged a career-high 22.7 points per game — good for ninth best in the NBA — to go along with 11.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists. His Player Efficiency Rating of 26.18 ranked him fifth in the league, behind only LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, and Kevin Love. And with that, he became the first player in NBA history to post that high of a PER and not make an All-Star team.
Defensively, though, Cousins is still finding his feet. He has improved, sure, but the biggest knock on his game over the years has been how much energy he exerts on that end of the court. In short: he’s lackadaisical and foul prone when he loses focus, resulting in him falling back on bad habits. Since 2010, Cousins has led the league in fouls per game in all but one season, and the pre-draft concerns of him lacking focus and not being quick enough laterally have proven to be his downfall.
But in 2013-2014, Cousins appeared to have broken through his shell in that regard. His 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game were both career-highs, as was his defensive rating of 101, which just happened to rank him 17th in the league. Cousins also led the NBA in charges drawn, per Hoops Manifesto — essentially, a hustle stat that indicates he has a good read of plays and is willing to put his body on the line.
What it all really boils down to, though, is this:
Cousin has indeed improved defensively. It’s a fresh of breath air for the Kings, because they desperately need their franchise player to compete on both ends of the court. Cousins is getting there. The eye test proves it, as do the stats.
Cousins didn’t improve as much as we may think. When compared to other bigs, most of Cousins’ stats last season make him look like one of the better defensive centers in the league, which is simply not the case.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what went on.
Cousins’ Synergy numbers on the defensive end mirrored those of some of the best bigs in the NBA in 2013-2014. As you’ll see in the chart below, which displays how many points per possession 12 centers gave up based on five categories, he went head-to-head with a number of players, many of whom were in contention to win Defensive Player of the Year, like Marc Gasol, Tim Duncan, and Roy Hibbert.
That alone makes Cousins look like a damn good defender. If you flip through the different sections, you’ll see that he rubbed shoulders with Tim Duncan and Marc Gasol in defending post-ups, he contested spot-ups more efficiently than all but four centers, and he was way ahead of everyone in clamping down on isolations.
The only category he was worse than everyone else in a big way was defending the roll man in pick-and-rolls. But seeing as that made up only 18.5 percent of his total defensive possessions — works out roughly to be once per game — it’s not the end of the world that he still struggles in that category, especially if he’s fantastic in all the others.
Moving to the more basic stats, little changes. Opponents shot 51.1 percent at the rim with Cousins guarding them, and while that placed him eighth highest amongst the group, he gave up only 7.5 attempts per game, much lower than the majority of other bigs. He didn’t block as many shots on a game-to-game basis, either, but his 1.5 steals per game were far better than any other center. (There were only 18 players who averaged more steals per game than Cousins last season. That’s it. 18. For a 6-foot-11 center, that’s impressive.)
Graph: Rim Protection | NBA.com
However, it’s here where the praise — at least for the most part — comes to an end. As is the case with Synergy, the numbers can be skewed because a player who may or may not have been at fault in the play gets assigned the blame. So, although Cousins’ numbers are up their with the best rim protecting bigs in the NBA, his case is further proof that defensive stats fail to paint a realistic picture of a player’s ability to stop offensive players.
Note: The fact that Al Jefferson looks like a lockdown defender and Marc Gasol looks like a sieve based on all those stats should tell you everything you need to know. Despite being a much better defender last season, Jefferson was the product of a sound system and is still by no means a premier defender. Gasol, on the other hand, is one of the better defensive bigs in the NBA. He did, after all, win Defensive Player of the Year for the 2012-2013 season.
The Nitty Gritty
Cousins was, according to ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, a plus-defender in 2013-2014 (+1.86). That number, though, ranked him 28th amongst centers, trailing the likes of Marcin Gortat, Ian Mahinmi, Kendrick Perkins, Ronny Turiaf, Chris Kaman and Nikola Pekovic. And unlike the point guard position, which only had 20 plus-defenders last season, 54 centers were a “plus” on that end of the court.
In more straight forward terms: Real Plus-Minus favors bigs.
Cousins’ biggest detriment is still his focus. He has the tools to be a good defender, but not closing out on shooters properly, failing to get into a defensive stance on a routine basis, lazily reaching in to try and poke the ball away, and allowing his opponent to get deep low post position on him is what’s holding him back from taking the next step forward. And because he isn’t a great shot blocker — 40 players averaged more blocks per-48 minutes than Cousins — once he got beat, an easy look was likely to ensue.
Cousins also gives players far too much space to get a shot off when they are out of the paint. Part of that may be by design. Because he isn’t particularly quick laterally, he’s better off giving his player a step so he can recover if they take him off the dribble. There aren’t that many centers who can stretch the floor at an alarming rate, so it often pays off for him — a possible reason why Cousins was so good statistically in defending isolations.