The most intriguing debate heading into Thursday's NBA Draft is the debate about DeMarcus Cousins.
Will he be the Rookie of the Year?
Will he be a headache?
Truth is, it won't surprise me if Cousins turns out to be both. The guy is an awesome talent and uneven personality whose reputation is well earned. My guess is that he'll put 18 points and 17 rebounds on somebody in the first month of his NBA career and cause general managers who passed on him to cry, then two months later be caught on camera arguing with an assistant coach, at which point those same general managers will be thankful they passed.
And that's probably how Cousins' career will go.
Lots of nice moments surrounded by lots of shake-your-head moments.
So the question the Nets (picking third) and Timberwolves (picking fourth) must ask themselves is whether they'd rather have Cousins and his issues, or Derrick Favors, Wes Johnson or Greg Monroe, because it's not close in terms of talent. On talent alone, Cousins should probably be the second pick (behind only Kentucky teammate John Wall) and perhaps the No. 1 overall pick. As much as I've criticized Cousins' demeanor, I've never questioned his ability. He's big and strong and skilled, and he was the most dominant force in college basketball last season. I love his potential, but I'm scared he'll never be able to get out of his own way. That's the dilemma. That's always been the dilemma.
And yet I still wonder how much it should matter.
I still really do wonder if we care too much about character.
I mean, I just watched the Lakers win an NBA title with a player who has been accused of rape (Kobe Bryant), a player who ran into the stands to punch a fan (Ron Artest), a player who once demanded a trade from the team that drafted him (Pau Gasol), and a player who married the worst Kardashian just weeks after meeting her (Lamar Odom). Again, those are our world champions. Meantime, the Indianapolis Police Department believes Zach Randolph could be a drug kingpin, and he's an All-Star. Dwyane Wade has gone through some kind of crazy divorce and may or may not be a terrible father, but he's a pretty successful basketball player. Carmelo Anthony once told criminals not to snitch on other criminals, but I'd take him on my team. Tyreke Evans was the driver of a car that carried a murderer away to safety, but he was also the Rookie of the Year.
I could do this forever, but you get the point.
Character matters, sure.
But nothing matters in the NBA more than talent.
You don't win or lose with good people and bad people.
You win or lose with talented players and untalented players.
So I'd take Wall ahead of Cousins and I might -- let me stress might -- take Turner and Favors ahead of him, too. But there's absolutely no way Cousins -- a 6-foot-11, 280-pound forward who averaged 15.1 points and 9.8 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game as a freshman -- should go any lower than fourth in this draft, absolutely no way Cousins should be selected behind Johnson, Monroe or anybody else not named Wall, Turner or Favors because you don't pass on a potential All-Star unless you're getting a potential All-Star in his place.
There are only four prospects in this draft who project as potential All-Stars.
- John Wall
- Evan Turner
- Derrick Favors
- DeMarcus Cousins