Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Former 'Cats in the NBA: Cousins should make most of USA Basketball opportunity

When the FIBA Basketball World Cup begins next month in Spain, Team USA will look noticeably smaller. Kevin Love has bowed out due to a potential move to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Blake Griffin wanted to focus on next season, while LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard are sitting out for similar reasons.

Team USA is now looking at front court options of Kevin Durant, Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried and former ‘Cats in Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. That overall lack of size should definitely be a concern, as Spain still features both Marc and Pau Gasol. And, unlike the 2012 Olympics, this USA squad won’t have the ever-versatile LeBron James to play as a do-it-all power forward.

While Davis and Drummond are likely locks for a roster spot and playing time — the latter’s size is becoming increasingly valuable with each dropout — there’s a golden opportunity here for Cousins to not only land on the roster, but also shed the numerous titles that he’s been tagged with. Faried is only 6-foot-8 and doesn’t have near the offensive prowess that Cousins possesses. That leaves taller wings like Durant, Paul George and possibly Chandler Parsons to provide some depth at the 4.

We all know by now that Cousins is widely considered a hot-headed player who can leave more to be desired on the defensive end of the floor. The technical fouls he stacks up throughout the season will attest to that. But that can all begin to change with an impressive run through the inaugural World Cup, where he can provide the size that Team USA continues to lose.

Despite impressive per game averages of 22.7 points and 11.7 rebounds with the Sacramento Kings last season, Cousins was left out of February’s All-Star game by the league’s coaches. Part of that likely has to do with his reputation, but also the reputation that comes with the Kings — a team that has lived in the lottery since Cousins has been there.

Cousins’ defense continues to be his biggest on-court knock. He’s been accused of laziness on that end of the floor. However, he flashed signs of improvement last season. The Kings gave up over 3 points per 100 possessions more when Cousins was on the bench in 2013-14, per Basketball-Reference. Also, ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus statistic says Cousins was an above-average defensive player among centers in the league.

If Cousins can keep his temper in check, provide some size and defense for Team USA, while toting his versatile skill set for a 6-foot-11 player, the critics should continue to disappear.

Tags: DeMarcus Cousins FIBA Basketball World Cup

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