This is the debut of a new feature called “Drag Race.” Patrick and I pit two players, one Piston and one non, against each other with the question in mind: Which would you rather have on your team? Age, salary, everything count. Scroll past the post, and there’s a poll for you to vote.
DeMarcus Cousins still has more upside than Greg Monroe, but it’s shocking how far the gap has closed between the two in just one season. Cousins was the consensus top big in the draft last season, while a handful of scouts were lukewarm on Monroe and didn’t feel like he lived up to his full potential at Georgetown. Here’s an example from DraftExpress in 2010:
“Monroe came into this season very out of shape, and thus took time to shed some of the extra weight he was carrying and get himself into optimal condition. For a player who already struggles with heavy feet and a general lack of athleticism, he cannot afford to give NBA scouts the impression that he’s not working that hard in the summer.”
There were dozens of reports similar to that on Monroe before the 2010 NBA Draft, which is a big reason he slipped to Detroit and lesser, but allegedly harder-working college players like Ekpe Udoh rose.
All of that is a long way of saying that in less than a year, Monroe completely wiped out just about every one of the many negative stereotypes there were about him by working hard, having a good attitude and flashing parts of his game that he didn’t show in college, specifically the fact that he became a much better offensive rebounder as a pro than he was as a college player and became much more efficient finishing at the rim as a pro.
If Cousins develops a work ethic to match his talent, he’ll be one of the game’s best big men. Monroe has already developed it, and that’s enough to sell me on him.
Greg Monroe had a better season than DeMarcus Cousins, and they’re about the same age and make about the same money. Typically, I’d take the better player in that situation.
But Cousins is the rare exception.
Cousins scored more, passed better and rebounded better than Monroe. Unfortunately, Cousins also made more mistakes than Monroe, and that separated them – last year.
A rookie big man who turned the ball over too much, fouled too much and didn’t shoot well enough from the field? Sorry, that’s not a deal breaker. He’ll have plenty of time to polish his game.
Cousins and Monroe actually shot a similar percentage at the rim, despite Cousins being burdened with creating his own shot much more often. Cousins also shot better than Monroe did at every other distance. The difference was Cousins took a higher percentage of his shots from those low-efficiency areas away from the rim.
Part of the blame falls on Cousins for taking bad shots. Some should also go to his teammates, many of whom lack scoring skills. Somebody had to shoot, so why not Cousins? His usage percentage (27.2) dwarfed Monroe’s (15.4), and if they had swapped teams, I’d guess those percentages would look very different – as would their field-goal percentages.
Cousins’ turnovers and fouls were less excusable, other than to point to his age and hope he grows out of the deficiencies.
Cousins will also likely become a better rebounder than Monroe. Monroe was a better offensive rebounder last year (13.0 percent to 10.4 percent), but Cousins was better defensively (24.4 to 20.4) and overall (17.2 to 16.5). Players’ offensive rebounding tends to peak their rookie year, which means Monroe’s advantage on the glass very well could shrink or disappear.
Plus, if Monroe plays more in the high post to take advantage of his passing ability, that would mean fewer offensive rebounds. He can’t have his assists and eat his cake, too. Or something like that.
Cousins has the potential to dominate the league. At some point, Monroe’s lack of athleticism will limit his progress. For that reason, I’d take a chance on the guy who played slightly worse last year.
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