A dozen years ago, Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie transformed the Sacramento Kings from an NBA laughingstock to a perennial title contender by taking a few sizable risks. He selected perceived problem child Jason Williams seventh overall in the 1998 NBA Draft; traded the team's best player, Mitch Richmond, for the enigmatic and discontent Chris Webber; gave 30-year-old Vlade Divac a massive long-term contract; and convinced European star Peja Stojakovic, whom he drafted in 1996, to come over to the NBA (just ask Timberwolves GM David Kahn about how easy that is to do). Did Petrie just do it again?
A week after dealing 22-year-old Spencer Hawes for the defensive-minded Samuel Dalembert, the Kings selected DeMarcus Cousins with the fifth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. The 2009-10 SEC Freshman of the Year and Associated Press All-American selection averaged 15.1 points on 56% shooting from the field, 9.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.0 steals in 23.5 minutes per game in his lone season for the Kentucky Wildcats. He recorded 20 double-doubles and ranked second in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (19.6).
Cousins' developed offensive repertoire, which includes a variety of post moves as well as a feathery outside shooting touch, impressed the Kings during his recent workout in Sacramento. The 6'10'' 290-pound center presents an intimidating inside presence and has the physical tools to be a dominant force on both ends of the court. One of the most NBA-ready prospects in the Draft, he exhibits an incredible combination of size, strength, and quickness, demonstrating phenomenal footwork and body control while establishing himself on the block and seamlessly finishing at the rim.
"Actually, I didn't [know the Kings would draft me]," he said after being asked about his accommodating wardrobe choice, a royal fuchsia shirt and purple and gray tie. "I had the suit made long [beforehand], but I'm ready for the moment, I guess you could say."
Yet, while Cousins was one of college basketball’s most efficient players, the 19-year-old has also raised multiple red flags about his maturity and ability to control his emotions. He's simultaneously been praised for his fiery competitiveness and perceived as a potential head case after repeatedly clashing with coach John Calipari at Kentucky. It remains to be seen if Paul Westphal and the Kings coaching staff — who didn't put up with Joey Dorsey's "clownish behavior" last season — will be able to command enough respect to keep Cousins motivated and play up to his full potential.