Is Sacramento Kings' Toxic Culture Holding DeMarcus Cousins Back

The concept of “royal jelly” is one of my favorites in sports. The idea, as coined by writer David Thorpe, essentially postulates that certain teams can augment or stifle the development of young players. Just as the queen bee of a hive receives “royal jelly,” the nutrition required for an insect to become a leader, an NBA draft pick must receive royal jelly to become a star.

The concept isn’t applied to all would-be superstars. It’s hard to screw up LeBron James or Kevin Durant, for example. Some guys are just too talented to ever get off track.

DeMarcus Cousins, on the other hand, is a different matter altogether.

We’ll never know the ins and outs of Sacramento’s skill development, but it would not be crazy to posit that the Kings are entirely lacking in the jelly department. Quick, name a thriving Sacramento Kings draft pick! Time’s up.

The last first-round Kings pick to exceed expectations was Kevin Martin, and he was unceremoniously traded to Houston for Carl Landry, whom they later didn’t retain either. You could count Gerald Wallace as an overperforming Kings pick, but he struggled for three years until he wound up on the Charlotte Bobcats.

You could argue that Tyreke Evans and Hedo Turkoglu played well in Sacramento, but the former has been getting worse since his rookie season, and the latter was far better on other teams. This seems to be a trend actually. Jason Williams, Spencer Hawes, Wallace and Turkoglu all thrived elsewhere.

While the question everyone is asking seems to be, “Are the Kings tired of DeMarcus Cousins?”, perhaps we’re not assessing how underdeveloped he is by his situation. Cousins may have a world of talent, but considering his emotional issues, you might posit that he needs a good organization. Based on past draft pick history, the attempts to move the team, general Joe and Gavin Maloof tomfoolery and many coaching changes, Cousins could be cursed by more than himself.

For all the focus on how Cousins acts, we’re distracted from how his on-court play has disappointed. Though a rebounding beast, his shot selection and touch aren’t improving since his arrival in Sacramento. If that phraseology sounds familiar, it’s because it can be applied to Tyreke Evans and many of the aforementioned Sacramento Kings picks who thrived elsewhere.

In college, under the stewardship of John Calipari, Cousins was an efficient scorer, to the tune of .558 shooting from the field. Obviously, the pros are a tougher game, but it’s been surprising to see that number dip all the way to .409 this season. How does that even happen to a 6’11”, 270-pound center?

It’d be one thing if Cousins rarely rebounded and thus was afforded few easy opportunities at the hoop. This isn’t the case, though. While his defensive rebounding is better than his offensive board work, DeMarcus is still an above-average offensive rebounder. He should be coasting to a better-than 50 percent field-goal mark on the strength of that alone.

Instead, points are difficult for DeMarcus, and DeMarcus is difficult for the Kings. If he flames out in Sacramento, people will lament the talent he’s squandering. What they’ll be ignoring, however, is that the trend dictates that talent gets squandered here. Cousins would be beating the odds to flourish as a Sacramento Kings first-round pick.

This would be the case, even if he were a model citizen. Other teams in the league, take note: If you have a strong culture of player development, Boogie could be a bargain.