Ton of Talent

Editor’s note: Pistons.com continues its series of draft profiles with a look at Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins, one of the players who could be under consideration when the Pistons pick at No. 7 in the June 24 draft. Next: first-round sleepers.

Joe Dumars knows it’s not likely that he can sit at No. 7 in the NBA draft and have DeMarcus Cousins fall to the Pistons. He also believes it’s not impossible.

“I’ve seen it happen before,” he said last week, as preparation for the draft got down to its final stages with visits for candidates at No. 7 lined up. “A lot of talented guys – Paul Pierce dropped to 10th, I think, Amare Stoudemire dropped. You’ve had some talented guys drop before. History tells us that it can happen.”

There is also the possibility the Pistons could be motivated enough by Cousins’ universally acknowledged talent to marshal their resources in an effort to move up the assumed three spots that would be required to ensure the opportunity to grab the Kentucky freshman.

In a draft rich in big men, Cousins is either 1 or 1A alongside fellow freshmen Derrick Favors. Yet while Favors is a virtual lock to go second or third, what has propped the door ajar to the possibility that Cousins could fall to seven are questions about his maturity, attitude and conditioning. Reactions to those issues seem to run the gamut from NBA personnel executives, with whispers that some wouldn’t take him at any spot in the draft and others dismissing the concerns as nothing beyond typical youthful indiscretions.

This much is clear: Cousins has immense talent and he puts up numbers every time out.

He didn’t get heavy minutes at Kentucky, averaging under 24 per game, for a variety of reasons – starting with the fact that two teammates, fellow big men Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton, are also likely top-20 draft picks – but he was arguably college basketball’s most productive player in the time John Calipari granted him.

Cousins averaged 15.1 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots per game for the Wildcats, who figure to have five No. 1 picks in this draft, including top pick John Wall.

Cousins’ agent, John Greig, has been banging the drum that his client merits strong consideration to bump Wall out of the top spot, and Cousins agrees.

When asked at the NBA draft combine if Wall or Evan Turner should be the No. 1 pick, Cousins said Wall and when asked why, he said, “Because I know what (Wall) can do.” When asked why he thought he should be the No. 1 pick ahead of Wall, Cousins answered, “Because I know what I can do.”

A little of everything and a lot of most things, basically. Cousins has huge, soft hands, is an instinctive scorer, can play with his back to the basket or facing up, shows surprising ability to put the ball on the deck and is a massive presence defensively. Cousins measured out at 6-foot-10¾ and 292 pounds in Chicago with a wing span of 7-foot-5¾ that matched Larry Sanders for second behind Hassan Whiteside’s 7-foot-7.

The number that caused some scouts to cringe was Cousins’ body fat, which measured 16.4 percent, the combine’s second worst, despite Cousins saying he’d been working hard at dieting since Kentucky’s season ended, eating salads and seafood only. Yet Cousins hardly evokes memories of some of the NBA’s more memorable flabby players – Oliver Miller, Robert Traylor, Mike Sweetney – and has never been described as lumbering. He wouldn’t come to the NBA as the first college kid with an affinity for Big Macs and a need to better understand nutrition.

His combativeness could be another story. National TV cameras caught Cousins twice heatedly engaged with Calipari during Kentucky’s loss to West Virginia in the NCAA regional title round, which breathed new life into season-long suspicions that Cousins could be challenging to coaches and troublesome for teammates.

“That’s been the question the whole year,” Cousins said when pressed by reporters at the draft combine, “my so-called red flags. I’m misunderstood a lot. I tell (NBA executives) the truth. I’m not that type of guy.”

No one seriously questions whether Cousins belongs in the discussion with Turner and Favors on talent alone for No. 2 behind Wall, but Minnesota, which holds the No. 4 pick, seems unlikely to draft him. If the Timberwolves – armed with the 16th and 23rd picks as well, and just as likely to move up to grab Turner as down – keep their pick at No. 4, most believe they’ll take Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson.

That would leave Sacramento and Golden State standing between the Pistons and Cousins, and while Cousins was scheduled to work out for Sacramento over the weekend, there are rumblings that he will refuse to work out for Golden State. With Sacramento believed leaning toward Monroe going into the workout, it’s not inconceivable that Cousins could fall to the Pistons.

If that were to happen, the Pistons would be getting someone who would offer an immediate boost on both ends.

“I produce,” Cousins said when asked his strength. Though he played mostly with his back to the basket at Kentucky and is expected to do so in most conventional NBA offenses, he has shown a surprising assortment of moves and a nice touch off the glass.

“You saw a lot of back to the basket this year because that’s how I was told to play,” he said. “But there’s a lot more to my game than just that.”

Cousins is an aggressive offensive rebounder and a physical player, befitting his size, yet he has light feet. Even though Wall’s presence and Kentucky’s deep roster limited his opportunities to show a dominant streak, Cousins stayed engaged even when the ball wasn’t finding him. In a win at Georgia in which he attempted only three shots, making them all, he finished with six blocked shots.

When Kentucky needed more from him, he generally responded. In a win over in-state rival Louisville, Cousins dominated: 18 points, 18 boards, two blocks and three assists. He racked up seven straight double-doubles at one point of the SEC season, including a 16-point, 14-rebound effort in just 17 minutes of a rout of Arkansas.

It’s a tantalizing resume Cousins puts out there – exactly why, if the Pistons stay put at No. 7, that his availability rates as a long shot. But not as an impossibility.

"Metro PCS Pistons Draft Special" premieres at midnight this Sunday on WDIV-TV 4 and will air on Fox Sports Detroit at 7 p.m. June 21 and 10:30 p.m. June 23. The show will be hosted by Eli Zaret with a special report from George Blaha, and contributions from Pistons.com's Keith Langlois.

Langlois will also host a pre-draft chat on Thursday, June 17 at 11 a.m. to discuss the upcoming draft and answer questions from Pistons fans.