Is DeMarcus Cousins abandoning his strengths?
To say Cousins has undergone a dramatic role change in the NBA would be somewhat of an understatement. At the college level, Cousins was a dominant player in a variety of ways, utilizing his massive size, strength, and length to punish the opposition on the glass and finishing around the basket, the primary reason why he was able to be so productive. In the NBA, he’s reverted to many of the habits he showed in high school, trying to be more of a finesse player than a dominating post presence...
Looking at Synergy Sports Technology’s quantified statistics paints an accurate picture of the story. At the college level, Cousins took just 24 jump shots on the entire season, whereas in the NBA he’s already taken 156. As a percentage of all his field goal attempts, Cousins is shooting jumpers four times more frequently in the pros, and it’s coming at the expense of post-up moves and shots around the basket.
While Cousins’ drastic change in shot selection is incredibly harmful to his efficiency, with his eFG% dropping from 56% to 44% this year (the NBA league average is 49.7%), it’s equally if not more harmful to other areas of his game... All things said, Cousins has gone from a player who dominated in a handful of areas at the collegiate level to a player who struggles to be above average at anything in the pros.
It’s clear that Cousins hasn’t been the kind of low-post presence in the post that he was in college. As Treutlein mentions, Cousins is less effective down low when he does get the ball there, is coming out to the high post to catch the ball instead of sealing off down low and waiting for the pass, and has been far too content to settle for jumpers at the NBA level.
Cousins is clearly talented -- consecutive 20 + point games against the Lakers, Hornets, and Celtics don’t happen by accident. And he’s still only 20 years old. However, he has been going through some serious growing pains in the NBA, and he may need to go back to the low post more to have success in the future.