To say DeMarcus Cousins was a revelation at Summer League is to say how far his stock had fallen.
Anyone who watched him at Kentucky knew he could dominate, but the questions about his focus and mental readiness for the NBA had him slip down the draft board. But only to number five and the Kings. Everyone knew the talent was there, and when it got put along side other NBA prospects in Vegas that talent shone through averaging 16.2 points and 10.8 assists.
Cousins was named the T-Mobile Rookie of the Year for July.
Was he better than John Wall? Not necessarily. Wall was named most outstanding player at Summer League, the week’s MVP. Wall averaged 23.5 points (tied for the Summer League lead) and 7.8 assists a game, he looked like a guy who could dominate. In transition he was nearly unstoppable.
But Wall came in with the burden of expectations — I was standing next to an assistant coach of another team at the end of one of Wall’s games and his thought was, “the guy didn’t wow me.” Wall was lightning quick, could get to the rim at will and set up teammates, but there were expectations of more for some.
Cousins didn’t have those expectations — nobody was totally sure what to expect. So he came out a big body that could set a mean high pick, and you saw Tyreke Evans coming off of it next season and started to drool. Cousins banged inside and got rebounds. He showed good footwork. He showed a midrange game. He was a beast that you could see playing in the NBA and playing well.
Well, he showed that for the first half of Summer League. His last three games saw a drop off — he was 9 for 45 shooting in those games. That may have been in part due to his conditioning, which was questioned. He seemed disinterested at times. He blew off coaching suggestions and seemed almost offended they were offered. If he got a bad call he would mentally check out for a stretch. He talked trash to opposing players and refs constantly.
There were plenty of questions asked about how focused he will be on games 5 to 75 of the NBA season. You can talk too much and coast for stretches at Kentucky and get away with it; you can do that at Summer League and still put up big numbers. Do that in an NBA game — even a dull mid-season game — and somebody will have your lunch.
The list of Summer League MVPs is a long one of names you don’t know, punctuated by a few stars. Cousins can and should be one of those stars. His skills could make a big impact for the Kings right away. But he is going to have to prove it, night in and night out. Maybe Evans (who did bring it all season last year) can drag that out of him.