DeMarcus Cousins has refined post moves
It is rare that a college freshman enters college basketball with strong footwork in the post to beat defenders. In high school (and possibly even AAU to an extent), they have ruled on the height, strength and athleticism to score in the paint. However, in college, they come up against players just as strong as themselves but they often don’t have the footwork necessary to develop strong post moves.
DeMarcus Cousins came into his freshman year with a variety posts developed to beat defenders in the low post. This skill is rare for a college freshman, so let’s take a look at how refined Cousins was at a young age. We have a few clips from their Sweet 16 matchup against Cornell and their elite 8 game versus West Virginia.
In this first clip, we see Cousins matching up against 7 footer Jeff Foote. He catches the ball after receiving a slight bump from Foote which knocks him off the block. This bump puts a bit of separation between the two players, which Cousins smartly recognizes. He quickly pivots to face the basket (and his man) which gives him an advantage.
He takes one dribble to the middle and once Foote over-commits to block off the paint, Cousins quickly pivots on his right foot for an easy open layup. Cousins worked quickly before the double team could come and cut off his path to the basket. He was able to recognize the situation and trust his footwork to get him an open layup.
This next move showcases a move nearly every basketball player has in their arsenal, the pump fake. The thing that makes this move useful is that Cousins once again recognizes the situation and picks the correct move to utilize. He also shows his ability to finish strongly with a 7 footer in his face. (We don’t need to talk about the travel that may have occurred as he slides his pivot feet).
Now in a vacuum this move is not that impressive but by combining it with all his moves as well as recognizing his awareness, this simple move shows us just how great Cousins is in the post.
This is the third video from the Cornell game and the third different move Cousins shows. Here is a screenshot right when Cousins catches the ball on the block:
You can see him taking a peek over his shoulder to read the defense. He knows he has Eric Bledsoe (38% from 3) in the corner, so there is likely not a double team coming. He reads that the defense is overplaying him just a half step to the middle of the paint. He explodes off of his pivot and makes a quick spin move, takes one dribble and slams it home. I often noticed that he would ‘hook’ his defender when he made this move (and did not get called for it very often). In this example, his arm stayed at his side, which shows he has shown some improvement over the course of the season.
This was one of his go to moves over the season and you can see why: it is lethal. He has an dynamic first step and if defenses try to force him to the baseline to cut off his options, he will make them pay.
This last clip from the WVU game does not highlight a great post move by Cousins but shows another aspect of what will make him a great post player in the pros: his hands. John Wall does not deliver the perfect pass (as it is at Cousins knee height and not directly at him) but Cousins snatches the ball and finishes strongly in one athletic move.
The defenses in the NBA will put a lot more pressure on the entry pass to the post making the pass more difficult and therefore, more prone to poor delivery. Cousins has shown he is nimble enough to handle the tough passes while still maintaining his balance to finish strongly. There are very few other qualities you need in a capable, professional post player.
Let’s quickly contrast Cousins with two other college post players: Baylor’s Josh Lomers (undrafted senior) and Ekpe Udoh (6th pick- senior in age, junior in eligibility).
In the first clip, we see Lomers being defended by Omar Samhan. Samhan has cut off the middle of the lane and forcing, nay, daring Lomers to drop step back to his left hand. Lomers either does not recognize the defense (he does have his head down) or does not feel confident in his left hand.
Either way, Samhan plays solid defense on Lomers and forces him into a tough shot with his right hand. If Lomers would have recognized the defense and simply pivoted to his left hand, he would have had an open layup.
Now onto the Udoh clip. He is facing a defender of similar size and weight in Ben Allen, but you did not hear David Stern (or Adam Silver for that matter) call his name in the 2010 NBA Draft. Udoh’s problem in this move is where he catches the ball. Let’s compare where he starts on the block versus where he catches the ball:
That is not a great start to a post move when you expect to play back to the basket from 12 feet. The disadvantages are at least two-fold: If you make a quick move you still need a dribble or two to get to the basket and the defense has plenty of time to help if you beat the primary defender.
In this case, Udoh makes a decent move (comparable to Cousins in the first video above- they probably learned it at the same big man camp) but there is one major difference: the area where they catch the ball. Cousins catches the ball on the block and when he pivots, he beats his man to the basket. Udoh catches the ball almost at the foul line and when he pivots to the right hand, he is too far away from the basket to attempt a hook shot. He is then forced to pass the ball cross court, missing an opportunity. If he would have caught the ball on the paint, he could have attempted a shot from close range. His decision to take a few steps toward the ball proved costly.
This is the difference between Cousins and other players and what makes him elite: he has the total package of skills. He has great hands, posts in a favorable area, recognizes the defense and has a variety of moves. He will be an elite player in the professional world as he continues to improve on his already superior skills.