Monday, May 24, 2010

Let's not blow DeMarcus Cousins' maturity out of proportion

If I were to ask you to put together an NBA mock draft, odds are pretty good that you would have John Wall going No. 1 to the Wizards with Evan Turner getting scooped up by the Sixers as the No. 2 pick.

Hell, that's what 90% of the basketball-watching world would have said even before we found out the draft order last Tuesday.

Wall is the kind of talent that can change the course of a franchise if that organization uses him correctly. Think Russell Westbrook with the passing ability of Deron Williams. If he can develop a jumper and a mid-range game at some point, he could very well be in the conversation as the best point guard in the NBA.

Evan Turner doesn't necessarily have the same upside as John Wall, but few players have come out of college with the kind of all-around game that Evan Turner has. He does have his limitations -- explosiveness, perimeter jumper -- but would anyone be surprised if Turner averaged 20, 8, and 5 over the next 12 years? Those are some pretty impressive numbers.

After that, the picture gets a little murkier. Will the Nets go with Derrick Favors? Will Al-Farouq Aminu or Wesley Johnson slide up into the three spot? Is there a chance any team like a Greg Monroe or an Ed Davis enough to trade up to get them?

With all those question marks, perhaps the biggest is the biggest player in this draft: DeMarcus Cousins.

(photo credit: Fotolox)

In terms of sheer talent, Cousins is as good as any big man in the draft. He's got the height -- and more importantly the length -- of an NBA center (Cousins' standing reach is 9'5", the highest in this draft class, and equal to taller prospects Hassan Whiteside, Solomon Alabi, and Jerome Jordan). He is checking in at just under 300 lbs, but he is nimble, mobile, and has excellent footwork. He has post moves, he has a soft touch, he can rebound the ball.

While its true that the big man, affectionately known as Boogie, could drop a couple of pounds -- something that almost assuredly will happen once he hits the NBA training -- it seems like the only knock on Cousins coming into this draft is maturity.

We've all seen it. The elbow to Jared Swopshire's head. The pouting on the bench. The attitude he had with his coaches.

Let's just say that DeMarcus Cousins didn't make it difficult for people to question his maturity. And, for the record, he really worked on keeping his emotions under control during the season. By the end of the year, Eric Bledsoe was probably the bigger head case than Cousins.

Its easy to blame Cousins for his attitude and his lack of maturity, but keep this in mind: Cousins is 19 years old.


Think about what kind of dumb stuff you did when you were 19 years old. Think about the level of emotional maturity that you had when you were a freshman and sophomore in college. You never snapped at an authority figure? You never allowed your emotions to get the best of you? You never reacted poorly when things didn't go your way? Do you still act the same way now?

And I bet you weren't faced with the pressure of playing basketball on national television for a school and a state that is hoops-crazy.

At some point DeMarcus Cousins is going to have to grow up and develop the maturity that it takes to play in the league. Anyone that watched him all season long can tell you that he made some pretty impressive strides during this year alone. If he can continue that direction, Cousins has the physical tools that could eventually make him the best NBA player in this draft.

Why am I bring this up now?

Because over the weekend, Daniel Orton was quoted as saying this to reporters:
It's kind of like watching a little kid throw a temper tantrum. But it's a big little kid, so you've got to kind of control him before he gets way out of hand. He might hurt somebody, to tell you the truth. You definitely get out of the way if you can't handle him, if you can't stop him. One time I tried holding him back, and that was a mistake. I think he put a swim move on me.
Sounds like Orton really threw Cousins under the bus, right?

Well, not so much. Go to the one minute mark of this video to see the actual exchange:

Hearing Orton talk about Cousins, and hearing the context in which that quote was made, paints quite a different picture, does it not? Instead of being slightly terrified of ever crossing Cousins, doesn't Orton's quote leave you chuckling?

The bigger question I have is whether or not this kind of scrutiny is fair to Cousins. I understand that its part of the deal in this day and age. Any kid playing basketball at the high major level is going to be under a certain amount of media scrutiny. That scrutiny increases ten fold when you play at a school like Kentucky, for a coach like John Calipari, and enter the NBA Draft after your freshman year.

But it has to be difficult to grow up in the public eye. It can't be easy when teammates are getting questions about your maturity level, and their answers are chewed up and spit out by the blogs (and Big Blue Nation) regardless of the context of the quote.

You're telling me that wouldn't frustrate you?

Part of growing up is learning how to control and channel your emotions. Adults by nature are better at seeing the big picture, at brushing off small slights and focusing on the end game.

John Wall said it best:
People go through a lot of stages. I went through a stage [in high school] when I had an attitude problem, and I worked it out. That's the key [concern] a lot of people have about DeMarcus, but this year showed a lot of how mature he is.
Maybe we should all take a step beck and allow Cousins to get to that point.

1 comment:

Kyle said...

Probably the fairest article written on Cousins' maturity