Stat of the Day (4/16): Cousins’ Shot-Happy Shooting Woes

*Note: With the regular season winding down, this week’s statistics will focus solely on those teams/players out of the playoff picture.  We have and will continue to cover those post-season bound ad nauseam in the coming weeks.  

Stat: Demarcus Cousins leads the league among bigs (power forwards and centers) in usage rate at 26.8.  Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Smith, and Kevin Love all rank tied for second with a rate of 26.0.

Take: A player with high usage is usually among the game’s very best at his respective position.  Consider the names like Nowitzki and Love (and even Smith to a lesser and much different extent) above, then a list of the league’s overall usage leaders.  Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook rank first, second, and third with regard to usage this season, and their – in this case, rightful – status among the NBA’s true elite is assumed based on their position at the top of that list.

It’s almostbecome a rule of thumb in the NBA: if you use more possessions than the vast majority of players in the league, you’re better and more efficient offensively than the vast majority of players in the league.  It’s cases like the one of Cousins that prevent that sentiment from becoming a hard-and-fast universality.

March 28, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings power forward DeMarcus Cousins (15) drives to the basket against San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan (21) during the fourth quarter at Power Balance Pavilion. The Spurs defeated the Kings 117-112. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

By raw per game averages, Cousins has developed into one of the NBA’s best big men this season.  He gets the Kings a much-needed 18 points and 11 rebounds every night despite being the defensive focus of the opposition, an achievement that obviously takes a wealth of talent.  But Cousins’ skills, size, and his unique combination of the two aren’t in question here – it’s his growing reputation as a potential franchise player for a Sacramento organization that needs him to become it in the worst way.

And the bad news is that Cousins’ dismal shooting numbers indicate he’ll develop into a far cry from that.

Cousins shoots just 44.5% from the field despite a solid looking stroke.  Though part of that no doubt has to do with his insistence on taking almost four long jumpers per game, he doesn’t fare much better with relation to fellow bigs the closer he gets to the basket.  Cousins shoots less than the league average for PFs in every area of the floor, and the same goes for his numbers compared to those of centers.

Just as troubling is Cousins’ true shooting percentage.  His 2012 mark of 49.8% is actually 1.4 points better than his rookie number, but still far from satisfactory.  Among the league’s top 50 players in usage this season only 10 have a worse TS% than Cousins, and just two – Smith and New Orleans center Chris Kaman – do not play in the backcourt.  And the higher you climb up the usage list, the worse it gets.  Cousins ranks 13th in usage overall and last among the players above him in TS%, with notorios chucker Monta Ellis’ mark coming closest to his but still more than a full point better at 51.0.

These numbers would spell trouble for Cousins’ future if he was a second-year point or shooting guard, so the fact that he’s a full-time PF/C only adds to the worry.  If he can’t dramatically improve his shooting accuracy as soon as next season the Kings will need to drastically altar their expectations for him.  Because if they continue to see Cousins as an offensive force for one of the organization’s future playoff teams, they’ll struggle to even get there.