As our summer mainstay, Aaron's writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. Intent is to get you talking, thinking, and appreciating the myriad of wonderful folks who play in our favorite sports league. Today we continue with Corey Brewer, DeMarcus Cousins, and Derrick Rose.
You know, it's actually pretty uncanny how similar Corey Brewer is to a player I covered earlier this week -- namely the similarly named Ronnie Brewer. Beyond their last name (no relation, surprisingly), they have two big things in common. First, they both look primed to play key roles (important bench sparks, if not outright starters) for patently decent barely-below-contender teams. Second, they're both relatively rudderless on the offensive end and show virtually all their value on one end of the court. Period. I talked on Monday about how Ronnie Brewer was somewhat screwed by free agency -- as bad as he is on offense, he's a legitimately elite perimeter defender and worth far, far more than the minimum. The idea that the Knicks were able to snag him for the pittance they spent on him seems laughable to me. At a bare minimum, he should've been able to snag a salary similar to that of today's Brewer, at $3 million or so. Especially at his young age.
Regardless. All things considered, Ronnie might actually be better than Corey. On the offensive end, I talked at length about how his biggest issue was that he was misdistributing his shots -- he actually posted above-average numbers within 9 feet, he just inexplicably refused to use that part of his offensive game. Corey Brewer has a similar issue, from virtually the exact same ranges -- he converted at a slightly above average from 3-15 feet, but posted inordinately low numbers from every other shooting range on the court. Never quite in the bottom 25%, but immensely close on multiple levels. The big differentiating factor is that Ronnie distributes his shots terribly while Corey distributes his shots reasonably well -- if Ronnie stopped taking an inordinate amount of shots he can't seem to make, and Corey started actually making more of his at-rim plays that aren't uncontested fast-break dunks? They could both theoretically improve to be only <i>slightly</i> below average on the offensive end. As for defense, both are stoppers, though I'd argue Ronnie a bit more effective than Corey.
His on/off court statistics were gaudy for Denver last year, although one wonders whether that was primarily a function of his defense or primarily a function of Afflalo playing such dismal defense after the dust of his new contract settled. He's an athletic type who hawks passing lanes like a pro and is at his best outside a halfcourt, grind-it-out game. Being as he is a relatively thin and spindly guy -- at least as compared to the NBA average -- Corey Brewer tends to be outmuscled in big-time matchups and (subjectively) tends to find himself overwhelmed more frequently by sheer size than a player like Ronnie Brewer (who instead tends to lay back, keep from fouling, and rough the player up through screen misdirection and other sneaky tricks). On an everyday basis, Brewer is an excellent defender -- he fouls a lot, granted, but his value in the open court and in the passing lanes pays dividends. His problem is that down the stretch, when the game becomes more focused on halfcourt defense and scoutable matchups, he has fewer opportunities to do those things he excels at -- he becomes pigeonholed into guarding wings larger than he is, and gets lost on his coverage and outmuscled in the post. Problems. Ideally, though, having Iguodala on the Nuggets will help -- if there's any good mentor in the league right now on the subject of defense it's Andre Iguodala, quite possibly the best defensive wing the game's seen in a decade or two. I'd expect Brewer to make a small and miniature leap under Iguodala's guidance this year, on the defensive year. On offense? Probably not. But with defense this solid, you can accept a few missed shots.
Ethan Strauss asked an interesting question last night. Namely, what a re-draft of the 2010 draft would look like if you did it today. We're two years into the careers of those players -- isn't it soon enough for us to start assessing how they stacked up? The issue you quickly realize is that even now, at only two years into their careers, we really don't know all that much more than we started with. We know a few of the surprises, and we have a decent sense of most of the busts. We have a very vague, general sense of the top 3 or 4 players of the class. But we know scant few things beyond that, it's actually pretty hard to rate players within these tiers. Just look at the top four. We know -- in a very, very general sense -- that the top four players of the draft are John Wall, Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins, and Greg Monroe. Paul George, Gordon Hayward, and Avery Bradley sup among the fringes, but I'd say those four are relatively agreeable as the current "best" outputs of the draft. How do you really rank them? If you like offensive productivity, Greg Monroe is a sky above any of them. If you like defensive potential, Favors is your guy. Incredible passing? Try John Wall.
And then you have DeMarcus Cousins, the incredible dancing enigma.
Prior to Westphal's firing, it looked as though this season was set to be of the "oh, he's not very good, let's pile on him" sort. It certainly looked to be the case through a few weeks of games, with Cousins putting up absolutely anemic averages on incredibly inefficient shooting. But Westphal got fired, Smart got through to him, and many of Cousins' troubles seemed to fade into the ether. His focus improved, his defense got FAR better (more on this in a second), and his shot selection got slightly less egregious. Some big picture issues remain, granted -- if you're a center who's shooting roughly 45% from the floor, you absolutely need some more polish on the offensive end. And when you look at the locations he shoots at to get those numbers, you actually get even less hopeful -- it's not that he has a bad shot distribution profile, but simply that he's been incredibly easy to stop on the block in his career to-date. He's in the bottom 20% of all centers in at-rim field goal percentage, and quite For a player who so often brings to mind images of Webber, O'Neal, and Moses? That's not good. He should be unguardable that close to the basket. He should he a machine, scoring 10-15 points a night on dunks alone through dominating at-rim play. If he ever fully gets in shape, perhaps he will.
And let's be honest. It WOULD be pretty cool if he did that. Because quite frankly, if he ever gets that whole "producing a non-negative value on offense" thing figured out, last season he seemed to put everything else together that he possibly could. With the exception of an overly high turnover rate (primarily caused by the insane number of doubles Cousins faced this year on the block), just about every other stat you could possibly cite spells happy things for Cousins. He's one of the 3 or 4 best rebounders on the planet Earth, from either end of the court. He's a decent passer, if not an extraordinarily prolific one -- John Hollinger aptly noted in his player profiles that Cousins assists on more dunks, layups, and threes than the vast majority of big men, and if you adjust his assist percentage for assist quality he ranks high among all centers. Best of all, for Kings fans? He's -- shockingly -- developed into quite the solid defender. He was among the best at recovering on spot-up shooters when the Kings cross-matched him on long-shooting power forwards like the recent Tim Duncan or the always Dirk Nowitzki. He uses his extreme length well, posting steal rates much akin to a guard without regularly getting far out of position. He isn't exactly a bulldog in the post, yet -- one-on-one defense is still a flaw, and the varied art of defending plays rather than defending shots is still something of a mystery to Cousins. But the broad strokes to a dominant player are there.
All things considered, it's rather difficult to project how Cousins is going to acquaint himself going forward. Given his age -- he turned 22 not more than two months ago -- you have to like the upside potential here. If he works his conditioning into its logical extent, and Smart builds a better offense that puts Cousins in a better position on offense? He has some serious potential to be a game-changing type of two-way big that typifies the next generation. And luckily for him, with his age as low as it is, he stands a good shot of being one of the best big men in the league for a span of the decade to come. He hasn't quite arrived, yet. But his defense is coming and his tertiaries show promise. Two years into a player's career, we can hardly state that we know anything for sure about a player's future. That was the point of opening with Strauss' question -- it's tricky, and even though it feels like we have a large enough sample size to compare, we aren't even a third of the way to most players' peaks. We can't say, yet. And if Cousins can improve his finishing and develop his body into an adult form? Well, honestly, there are few things he can't do. Sky's the limit, wouldn't you know.
Follow Derrick Rose by inspiring a city.
I barely discussed it in the capsule proper, so I suppose I'll state it here -- Derrick Rose's 2013 season is likely to be punted. If the Bulls were smart, they'd simply sit their star out for the duration of the year and let him do the slowest, most exacting rehabilitation he could possibly get his hands on. Injuries like those Rose suffered in last year's playoffs are exceedingly rare and exceedingly harmful -- the only known truth about them is that, as with any injury, rushing back to overexert oneself immediately is just about the worst thing you can do. Rose relies on several things to be an amazing player. His ethic, his guile, his vision. But chief among them? His athleticism. The deleterious effects of a vanishing athleticism could sap his game to the harshest degree. Anything that gives him a better shot of maintaining that is something the Bulls should be doing. Period.
Still, while I've been often critical of Rose (and don't personally enjoy his playing style nearly as much as most do), I can't deny a certain overwhelming respect I have for Rose as a person. The trappings of NCAA basketball tend to turn Calipari players into pop-media "villains", as commentators snipe over their "corruption" and how they "abuse" the system. The echo chamber amplifies any and all perceived faults and slights, and in a broad sense, completely misses the point on players like Rose. The point shouldn't be that Rose falsified a test score -- the point should be a closer examination of the harsh life that pushed Rose into a situation where he'd need to. The point shouldn't be a hatred of Rose for not being whitewashed and collegian like a Hansbrough or a Fredette -- the point should be an examination of how Rose embodies the American dream more than almost anyone on earth could hope to. In pursuit of that message, I decided to go the somewhat odd route of approaching Rose's life and legacy through the parallel lens of James Joyce, the broader city of Chicago, and the trappings of fame. Let me know if I succeeded.
Derrick Rose was born on October 4th, 1988. It was a calm day, with temperatures in the high 40s and a slightly nippy wind. This calm was antithetical to the situation the boy was thrust in. Unlike Joyce, Rose all but skipped the younger "prosperous" stage of life -- his father walked out on the family before Rose was born, and as a child, Rose was left to be raised by his mother and three older brothers in the neighborhood of Englewood, Chicago. A bit of needed context: Englewood is arguably the most dangerous neighborhood in America. It features a poverty rate that consistently brushes 50%, massive gang infusions in just about every square of possible territory, and crime beyond comprehension to many. It's very hard to live in Englewood, and harder still to do so cleanly. Consider -- in a 5 month period surrounding Derrick's draft, 28 people were shot within the block surrounding the court Derrick learned the game on. Rough situation? Ridiculous understatement.
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At the end of each post, I'll be scribing riddles for the next group. Whoever gets the most right will get a shout out at the end of the next post. Tweet me your answers at @docrostov, or post them in the comments. Excellent sleuthing by Chilai and Geezer, who both got 3/3 guesses for the first time in what feels like weeks. (And to Zewo and wul.f, who piggybacked off Geezer's expert guessing.)
- This Bobcat is a welcome shooter.
- This Bobcat is a waived satellite.
- This Bobcat is a waltzing swagman.
Apologies for the lateness. The Rose post took some re-readings some of Joyce's work and research into some historical facts to properly contextualize, which obviously took a little while given Joyce's general difficulty. Not to mention a few unexpected financial oddities that arose when I returned to Vegas, as well as a swamp of things at work. Which, incidentally, is where I'm off to now, my machete primed to exact vengeance on the outcroppings. I'll be attempting to do a few extra capsules a week for the next few weeks -- I want to finish by Christmas and give myself a bit of wiggle room, and that would be the best way to accomplish that. "Attempt" and "succeed" are two different things, though, so I suppose we'll have to see. Have a good weekend, folks.
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