Commentary

DeMarcus Cousins well worth risk

Updated: October 11, 2010, 11:30 AM ET
By Tom Carpenter | Special to ESPN.com

As we reach the midway point of most high school football teams' seasons, it's time to update the ESPNU 150 based off what we've seen from players in their senior seasons.

While there wasn't a lot of change in the 150, RB Aaron Green (San Antonio, Texas/James Madison) joined the ranks of five-star prospects. Green, who was a four-star prospect heading into the season, might have been the best sophomore we saw on film, but he suffered through an injury-plagued junior season and left a few questions heading into his senior season. There are no questions anymore. He's showing the feet, vision and running skills we saw on film and is just an electric runner who makes big plays. Green, who is now No. 10 in the ESPNU 150, is still undecided.

30 Questions

Will DeMarcus Cousins be fantasy's top rookie this season?

We all know the basic rap on Sacramento Kings rookie DeMarcus Cousins: He's undeniably talented, and many believe he's almost dangerously immature. A lot of people believe Cousins is as likely to throw a punch as throw down a dunk. After watching this video from ESPN.com's Andy Katz, I remain unconvinced that his personality is a detriment.

According to Cousins, he elbowed someone in response to being kneed, gave it to opposing fans in response to getting racist phone messages and argued with his coach in the process of learning the game. Getting kicked off his high school team sounds concerning, but if his story is true (that he was just a 16-year-old kid defending himself from a physically aggressive coach), then all of these things may just show a guy who plays his life out with a chip on his shoulder and a guy who's willing to stand up to those who try to take him down. Personally, I like a player with a fiery side. I'd rather have that than a rookie who is soft and afraid.

DeMarcus Cousins
Cary Edmondson/US PresswireDeMarcus Cousins had 16 points and 16 rebounds in his preseason debut.
Let's put his personality aside for a minute and look at what he has to offer from a basketball standpoint. The 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins has a 7-foot-5 wingspan and was the SEC Freshman of the Year during his lone season with the Kentucky Wildcats. He averaged 15.1 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, while sinking 55.8 percent of his shots during his 23.5 minutes per game. Take a look at his game log and you'll see a double-double machine who can block shots. Monster stat lines to the tune of 18-18-2, 27-18-2 and 27-12-3 should make your mouth water, as should a stretch of seven consecutive double-double games.

He had similar success during six summer league games, in which he averaged 14.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in slightly less than 30 minutes per contest. In fact, he double-doubled in each of the first four contests.

Just how high is his ceiling at the next level? John Hollinger's projected PER for Cousins is a whopping 16.14. Among rookies, Evan Turner (14.79) and No. 1 pick John Wall (14.68) were second and third, respectively, behind cousins in PER. Hollinger wrote:

"Cousins has the fifth-highest rating in the Draft Rater's nine seasons evaluated. (The Draft Rater goes back to 2002, as college data from before that year are too spotty to use.)

"Based on that, the outlook for Cousins is quite positive. Of the eight previous players from 2002-08 to rate 15.0 or higher, four became superstars: (Kevin) Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul. Of the other four, three have been very productive starters -- Rudy Gay, Luol Deng and Drew Gooden -- and one became, well, Mike Conley. We had another three last year, and from that trio, one was awesome (Tyreke Evans), one was good (Ty Lawson) and one didn't play a game (Blake Griffin)."

That's some mighty high upside. I took some flak for drafting Cousins over perpetually injured guys like Andrew Bogut, Gilbert Arenas and Chris Kaman in our initial mock draft, but I stand by the pick because of Cousins' incredibly high upside. Like John Thompson said in Katz's video, "You can calm down a fool better than you can resurrect a corpse." Fool is risky, and injury is risky. I'll call the risk about even and take the ultra-talented rookie fool over the constantly injured vet every time.

What can we expect from him in fantasy terms as a rookie? The Kings are being proactive by hiring Cousins' high school coach as an assistant coach to help keep the youngster focused, but their deep frontcourt poses a potential speed bump that could limit his minutes. But how good are Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and Samuel Dalembert? Last season for the Kings, Landry averaged 6.5 boards in 37 minutes, Thompson couldn't maintain a starting job and Dalembert couldn't score or stay out of foul trouble. The Kings' depth may afford them the opportunity to bring Cousins along slowly if need be, but I don't see any reason why these three pedestrian players would get in the way of the rookie if he gets comfortable quickly, especially once Evans and Cousins get in tune with the pick-and-roll.

Like many other rookies, Cousins might not give you a ton the first month or two, but I expect him to hit the glass and block shots immediately and for his offensive game to pay off big by the new year. I think for the season, we'll see something like 16-17 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.9 bpg, .490 field goal percentage and .600 free throw percentage. I'd probably have to take Wall first because he's going to have the ball in his hands from the start, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Cousins average 19-10-2 and finish the season as the best fantasy rookie. He's certainly as capable as anyone, and you can get him later in drafts than Wall.

Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

Tom Carpenter

Fantasy and Insider
Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball and football analyst, co-host of the Fantasy Focus Basketball podcast, and an NBA, NFL and NHL analyst for Insider and Rumor Central.