Nothin' but Net: This man deserves an All-Star spot
By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Here are the vital statistics of an NBA player and you tell me he doesn't deserve to make the All-Star team.
This player, a big man, is averaging 23.4 points per game, which ranks him seventh in the league. He grabs 11.3 rebounds per game and that is fifth in the NBA.
He shoots 49.4 percent from the field, hands out 3.0 assists a night, which is a good number for a center. He averages 1.8 steals per outing and 1.1 blocks. The steals figure ties him for 10th in the league and that makes him the only center in that rarified air (the next-highest center in steals is 25th).
My man is one of three players in the league averaging at least 23 points and 11 rebounds, and one of four in the top 10 in both scoring and rebounding.
This guy's a no-brainer for New Orleans, right?
There are other factors in play.
For one, he won't win one of the three frontcourt spots in the fan vote, so take starting out of the equation.
Another problem is his team's record is not very good. That matters because coaches are going to vote him in as a reserve, and several times those coaches favor winning over individual numbers.
Coaches have to vote into the allotted spots available for reserves. Coaches vote for two backcourt players, three frontcourt ones and two wild cards. He might have a hard time getting one of the wild cards, although that's actually hilarious.
The biggest hurdle this young man has to jump over is his reputation for being something of a wild card. He's been ejected from seven games in his 3 1/2-year career.
If that isn't a dead giveaway who I'm speaking about, I don't know what is.
The man we are speaking of is DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings.
If he can't earn one of the five possible spots allotted to someone in his situation, then the coaches don't bother looking at his play or his statistics.
Popularity is no barometer of the season Cousins is enjoying. He ranked 11th in the latest All-Star fan voting behind such luminaries as Pau Gasol and Andre Iguodala.
And the new voting rules do Cousins no favors. He wouldn't beat out Houston's Dwight Howard for a center spot (nor should he), but if the reserves were still judged by two forwards and a center, than Cousins would be a mortal lock.
"It's unfortunate, but like I said, a lot of things have changed when it comes to the All-Star Game," Cousins told the Sacramento Bee earlier this week.
That change stinks for Cousins and centers in general. The switch in personnel came as a response to the lack of quality middle men in the league. If the old system was in place, who's Cousins' competition? DeAndre Jordan of the L.A. Clippers, or Nikola Pekovic of the Minnesota Timberwolves? Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans? The first two don't have Cousins' numbers and Davis missed some time with injury.
That leaves Cousins in the garbled mess of "frontcourt" player. If the fans vote holds up, the starters would be Howard, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Blake Griffin of the Clippers. Minnesota's Kevin Love is hot on Griffin's tale, but who starts hardly matters to Cousins. If Love doesn't make, he's a shoo-in for a backup spot, as is LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trail Blazers.
That leaves one spot left for Boogie Cousins. He will have to contend with coaches' propensity to vote for established guys like San Antonio's Tim Duncan or Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki. Both are having good seasons for winning teams.
"Some guys are All-Stars because their team is good," Cousins told the paper. "That's not an All-Star."
He's right, but it won't matter if the coaches go in that direction.
That leaves the two wild-card spots and this might be an easier avenue for Cousins, but only after some injured players declare their unavailability.
Kobe Bryant and Steph Curry lead the guard vote. Bryant won't play, but the backup guards will most likely be James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Chris Paul of the Clippers. Paul probably won't play in New Orleans with a shoulder injury.
If those four make the team, one of the wild-card spots will go to Damian Lillard of Portland. That last spot is up for grabs. Do coaches reward Russell Westbrook, who has missed his fair share of time? Tony Parker of the Spurs should be on the team.
So, is Cousins on the outside looking in?
Not necessarily. If the coaches don't want to reward Duncan or Nowitzki, then Cousins is next man up. If Paul bows out, maybe Cousins gets the injured spot. There's still a very strong chance Cousins makes it, but it shouldn't be this hard.
Sadly, he's made it hard on himself.
Cousins is a poster boy for craziness and his seven ejections prove it. Some of those dismissals have been for incredibly unprofessional behavior. Those ejections have hurt his team.
Cousins hasn't been tossed yet this season. Before we toss confetti and praise his professionalism, remember, he does still lead the NBA in technical fouls with 10.
But the biggest thing possibly holding Cousins back is the Kings' record. They stand at 14-23 and own the eighth-worst mark in the NBA. It's not completely unprecedented for a player with a losing record making the team. Jrue Holiday did it last year with the Philadelphia 76ers, but it's much harder.
The coaches like to reward winning above all and it should be a factor. However, can a coach legitimately ignore Cousins' outstanding individual numbers relative to Duncan's or Nowitzki's just because of team record?
Of course, but Cousins' point is a valid one. If the idea is to reward All- Star players for All-Star seasons, can a coach check Duncan's name with averages of significantly less points and less rebounds over Cousins'?
The All-Star game is about accomplishment. Duncan was an All-Star last season and Nowitzki is close this season. But neither has had the impact on their team that Cousins had. Both play with much better talent around them than does Cousins.
And here's one for the deep analytics guys, Cousins is fifth in the league with a 27.39 PER (Player Efficiency Rating). He trails only Durant, LeBron James, Love and Paul.
Cousins has been a lot of things over his brief career and not all have been good. The fact is, this season, his numbers have made him a clear-cut choice as an All-Star.
Western Conference coaches, do the right thing. Ignore the selfish, childish behavior of the past. Ignore the career accomplishments of Duncan and Nowitzki. They're close, but not better than Cousins this season.
- Rajon Rondo's return to the Boston Celtics' lineup will be nice to see, but it won't have a huge impact on their season. Rondo is a free agent after next season, and if he buys fully into Brad Stevens' plan, then they could sign him long-term. I still don't see Rondo in green after next season.
- Love that Greg Oden was able to play again. His heart has been in the game, but his body hasn't cooperated. That's very different than someone like Andrew Bynum.
- Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate the All-Star uniforms. Sleeves are ridiculous.
- Here comes the Brooklyn Nets. They're going to make the playoffs, because who would you have more faith in, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson, or the Charlotte Bobcats?
- Movie moment - I'm oddly happy that Matthew McConaughey got nominated for an Oscar. I haven't seen "Dallas Buyers Club," but he made a decision a few years back to focus on smaller, better movies than blockbuster-types. Anything to get him to stop doing romantic comedies with Kate Hudson is a step forward for us as a society.
- TV moment - Of the top-15 shows in this week's Nielsen ratings, 14 belonged to CBS. The lone holdout was the Golden Globes on NBC. That's remarkable.
01/17 13:45:37 ET