DeMarcus Cousins

Free Agent Deep Dive: Boogie Cousins

With all this LeBron and Kawhi drama going on, Boogie Cousins is sitting somewhere like “Uh Guys, remember me? I’m pretty good and also a free agent…”

Cousins’ next deal (and injury recovery) would be the biggest story of the summer if it weren’t for those two pesky forwards. I know some are worried about Boogie’s achilles tear. After all, it has been well reported that people do not usually return to their former self after an injury like this. Check out what The Ringer had to say about it:

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Do not fret, I have done some research and am here to reassure you that signing Cousins to the max will be a good deal. In fact, I have five good reasons.

1. The Pre-Injury Season Was Unbelievable 

Allow me to roll off some statistics that were all career highs for Boogie:

eFG% (53%)

RBs     (12.9)

2P%     (53%)

Stocks (3.2, tied)

TS%    (58%)

Asts     (5.4)

There was some legitimate MVP talk for Cousins before he went down with injury. The Pelicans were doing just fine in the West and starting to click. Not only did it seem as though Boogie learned to coexist with AD but, it appeared as though he was reaching peak form. His efficiency was the highest we have ever seen.

Pretend Cousins returns as only 85% of the player he once was, it would still be an excellent player. Look at the stats and feel encouraged that he was trending north towards more efficient basketball.

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2. Aging Well

While he is still only 27-years-old, Boogie has been aging the way you would want a monstrosity of a center to age.

This is important to monitor as his achilles tear will certainly impact part of his game. Still, this year’s stats show that an achilles tear may not have as large as an impact as once thought. Boogie has relied less on his burst than ever before, and his shot selection shows it.

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Woah. Look at all the lines and arrows and highlighting. Let me explain this to you. This year Boogie took 37% of his shots from 0-3 feet and 34% of his shots from three. More importantly; however, is how he has taken less mid-range and short-range shots. Cousins takes only 4.1% of his shots from 10-16 feet6.9% of his shots from 16 <3 feet, and 17% of his shots from 3-10 feet. Overall, Cousins is spending more time right at the rim or behind the arc, and less time shooting from spots that provide the least value.

How does this mesh with his ruptured achilles, and therefore presumable lack of burst?

Cousins has maximized his point value by taking shots from the most efficient spots on the court. This will neutralize the physical limitations his achilles tear will have on his game. Boogie also spends a lot of time with the ball in his hands. In fact, Cousins had the ball in his hands for 2.59 seconds on average, second for the center position behind Julius Randle. What does this mean? Cousins does not rely heavily on things that require much burst, such as alley-oops, backdoor cuts, and pindown actions. He is a methodic, ball handling big who has a style of play an achilles tear may not disrupt.

3. Achilles Tear? Boogie Can’t Jump Anyways

Surely, this tear will limit Boogie’s verticality. His ability to elevate may shrink by 3-4 inches. Fortunately, this will not be a big factor for Cousins, as he can’t jump anyways!

Cousins had one of the worst max verts for centers in combine history (27.5) inches. FiveThirtyEight reported that Cousins is always among league leaders in players getting blocked. When asked about it, Cousins responded that it was “because I can’t jump.”

So here is the point. Boogie’s verticality was a negative factor for him before the injury. Will potentially losing a few inches on his vertical really have a major impact on this non-jumper? I think not.

4. Style of Play Mitigates the Impact of an Achilles Tear

Ah, it is finally time to get into the meat and potatoes of this discussion. Who is Demarcus Cousins? What is his style of play?

Boogie has never relied on quickness to score buckets. Contrarily, he has relied on bullying his opponents with his size. What makes him special is not his quick feet but, his nimble feet. Trust me, there is a huge difference. Cousins moves like a ballerina from someone his size. Watch him utilize his strength and nimble feet in this gif.

Boogie nimble and strong.gif

Does he blow by anyone? Nope. Instead, he actually slows down to use a nifty crossover to get past Denzel Valentine. Then he initiates contact with Bobby Portis, which creates the separation he needs to get his shot off, despite having limited lift. The guy is a physical beast who moves like Jerry Rice. An achilles tear will take away from his quickness; however, it won’t stop plays like this from punishing opponents repeatedly.

When he has a favorable mismatch, Cousins will pick on the little guy until he gets a good shot. Check out him flinging around the 210 pound, muscular David Nwaba like he’s a 6th grader. After watching the film, I was surprised at how often Cousins plays bully ball. Yet, he has the soft touch to make opponents pay.

boogie bully.gif

Here is one more for you. Does Cousins simply blow by Nurkic? Negative. He simply bumps him out of the way, ignoring the fact that Nurkic is literally 280 pounds! Would a torn achilles disallow Boogie from doing this against just about every other center in the league?

Boogie Nurkic.gif

As Cousins ages, he will rely more on the DHO (dribble handoff) game. He does this a bunch, as it utilizes his big frame for screen setting. Cousins has turned into a masterful popper on the DHO, and buries sagging defenders from beyond the arc. This part of his game should be unaffected from the injury.

5. What other Options do the Pelicans Have?

I know. I hate this rationale too. But, it is a fair question to ask.

New Orleans has not been known for attracting too many free agents. To acquire talent, they have traded for their other stars or starters (Boogie, Holiday, Mirotic.) As GM Daryl Morey is fond of talking about, teams must up their risk profile to beat the Warriors. The NBA is all about acquiring top-end talent; talent that can take you to the finals. If not Boogie, then who?

At his best, Cousins is an MVP candidate, All-NBA center and top-10 player in this league. He is a matchup nightmare for teams, and when engaged, even plays a little defense. His offense is good enough that it makes up for his defensive deficiencies, allowing coaches to leave him on the court versus small lineups. We will have to wait and see if his leash gets shortened as teams single him out during postseason PnRs.

The injury concern is a reasonable aspect to consider. I get it. Yet, Boogie’s game has never relied heavily on a quick first step and burst, something an achilles tear seems to impact the most. Yes, defensively he will probably get even worse. Thankfully, he has Rondo, Holiday and AD to help him through this part of his game.

The Verdict

Give my man the max. It is a risk, but one that New Orleans has to take. Their window is now. They do not have any promising young assets, picks or future cap space. Place your trust in perhaps the most untrustable man in basketball. He’ll be good for it.

Disagree? Tell me why? @Mattesposito_

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