The man in the middle there - the one with the killer smile - he's number four in our 9 players, 9 days series. More on DeMarcus Cousins after the jump.
Age: 20 (in August)
Weight: 260 lbs (ESPN), 270 lbs (DraftExpress)
The top four guys on my list could all be superstars. Four different kinds of superstars, but they all have that potential. If I was basing this top four on tangibles alone, meaning stats, measurements, etc, Cousins would probably be number 1, maybe 1B. He's a beast down low with the size and skills to be a dominant center very quickly at the NBA level. Why is he number 4, you ask? Well, attitude, maturity, motivation and maturity.
I've heard conflicting reports all season long, and while I may have heard enough good to outweigh the bad concerning his attitude, the thing that really worries me is his weight. I'm positive he's going to be carved out of stone for measurements and workouts this summer, but he looked heavy to me when I saw Kentucky play this season and I have concerns that he'll stay in shape when he reaches the next level. Toss in the attitude problems and, well, this guy could flame out. There's more risk involved with Cousins than the other guys in the top four. But based on size and talent, there's a very, very good chance the teams that pass on him will be kicking themselves for the next decade.
If Cousins drops to #6 the Sixers will have gotten unbelievably lucky. He slots in as a starter immediately at the five with Sammy either relegated to the bench or traded when opening night comes. The team immediately becomes built around Cousins in the half court. Jrue and Iguodala feed him, soon enough, teams realize they need to double Cousins and things open up on the outside for Jrue, Iguodala, Kapono, Meeks and anyone else who wants to shoot open jumpers.
Long term, if Cousins really pans out and turns into a 25-10-2 (pts/rebs/blks) center, the Sixers have their superstar, they have a dominant big man in the middle (probably the most dominant offensive big in the Eastern Conference) and they're left rounding out a roster, adding pieces to fit with Cousins, Jrue and Iguodala to build a true contender. If Cousins doesn't pan out, it could mean trouble for the franchise, because they will absolutely give him every single chance to fulfill his potential, possibly to the detriment of other players on the roster and the locker room. He could tear the team apart.
Cousins is 100% worth taking if he drops to #6, he's also worth trading up to get. He is the type of guy you can build a team around. I think if you get him, you absolutely have to get a coach who is going to command respect in the locker room. I'd also give serious consideration to trading Speights immediately, and probably Dalembert as well. I want this kid surrounded by a group of hard-working, no nonsense players. No bad influences on the team for his first couple years until you can be absolutely sure he's on the right track. I'd also immediately hire Moses Malone full time to be the nominal big man coach, but in reality, he'd be Cousins' shadow. He'd spend all his time working with the kid, drilling into his head exactly what it takes to turn all that talent and potential into dominance on the floor in the NBA. Most importantly, if you get a guy like Cousins with all that potential and all those red flags, I think you have to treat him differently. By that, I don't mean you bend the rules for him, I mean you hold him to a higher standard, and you give him structure. Moses plays the big brother. You hire a nutritionist. You hire a chef to live with him if you have to. You hire someone to be his babysitter when he's not on the floor. You do everything and anything you can think of to keep this kid on the straight and narrow and you make sure basketball is his life, period.
Still, he's number four for a reason. Even if all the extreme measures were taken, there's still a good chance the attitude problems flare up. There's a real chance he winds up hurting your team. I'd love to put odds on it, but I just can't. All I know is that every time I think about the upside, the downside puts a damper on my feelings.
Here's the top nine so far...
9. Ed Davis
8. Cole Aldrich
7. Ekpe Udoh
6. Al-Farouq Aminu
5. Wesley Johnson
4. DeMarcus Cousins
3. Coming tomorrow...
Here's a video of Cousins highlights. Pay close attention to his work in the post, especially the strength, the footwork and the foot speed on the drop steps from the left side of the hoop. Amazing for a guy his size.