At the beginning of the 2009-10 college basketball season, former-Kentucky Wildcat DeMarcus Cousins was seen as one talented individual with an NBA-ready body, but a bad reputation to boast. On the opposite end of the power forward spectrum, there stood Derrick Favors of Georgia Tech. Scouts believed that Favors would bolt for the NBA after his first year and could make a run at the top pick based on his size and athleticism alone. Over a year later, both Cousins and Favors are likely top-five selections in the 2010 NBA Draft, but which one will go first?
He had a "bad boy" image and some skeptics said he was "uncoachable". He struggled to play with consistent desire and motivation and often coasted through games. This 6'11", 292-pound had just as much talent as any incoming freshman in the nation, but his character issues raised flags amongst college coaches. According to many recruiting pundits, Cousins was the fourth rated frontcourt prospect in the 2009 incoming freshman class- behind North Carolina's John Henson, Favors and Mississippi State's Renardo Sidney. However, Cousins may have had the most impressive season as a first-year player- in the entire nation, not just his freshmen class. He averaged 15 points (56% from the field), 10 rebounds, 2 blocks per game-all in just 23.5 minutes per game. While some look at the upside of these statistics, others may reason that his minutes were down because of Cousins' poor conditioning and foul trouble struggles. In any case, the production is undeniable.
Cousins walked into the perfect situation when he walked onto Kentucky's campus in the fall. Not only does Coach Calipari sport a career .700 winning percentage and have a reputation for developing, maturing and readying freshmen for the next level, but he is perhaps one of the few coaches that would bench a talent like Cousins, troubled with giving less than 100%. Cousins' skills were on display nearly all season long, even as he took a "backseat" to freshman sensation John Wall as "that other Kentucky freshman". He has enormous potential- a player at his size who can dominate down low, but also handle the ball in the open court, effectively pass the ball and step out and knock down shots out to 17 feet.
Even if he does have a lackadaisical attitude or baggage on the side, his combination of size and skills give him tremendous upside. There are questions surrounding Cousins' taking off plays on the defensive end of the court and his short fuse, as demonstrated by the Kentucky-Louisville game. His consistency on the floor (20 double-doubles this season) seems to be overshadowing the concerns of his work ethic and temper. It also helps that he measured in better than front office personnel expected at the NBA Draft Combine- 6'11" with a 7'6" wingspan and 9'5" standing reach. He has most definitely locked himself in the top five of June's draft.
Battling with Cousins for the rights to be the top big man selected in 2010 is Derrick Favors, a highly acclaimed freshman whose statistics and production did not quite translate to his talent and potential. Favors struggled most of the season forming chemistry with Georgia Tech's point guard rotation and fellow frontcourt mate, Gani Lawal. Even with these issues and inconsistencies, Favors managed to land back in the discussion for the top big man spot in the 2010 NBA Draft with the way he finished the season- scoring in double-figures in 11 straight games. Cousins, on the other hand, ended the season hitting double-figure points five times in nine games after hitting that barrier 22 times in the season's first 24 games. Favors impressed in most games as his athleticism was on full display- scoring in a variety of ways, dominating the offensive and defensive glass, and swatting shots away while protecting the basket.
At 6'10", 245 pounds, he is a freakish athlete, drawing comparisons to Amare Stoudemire and a leaner Dwight Howard. With his latest measurements at the Chicago pre-draft camp earlier this month, Favors stock got even more of a boost when he was measured with a 7'2" wingspan and a 9'2" standing reach, very close to Howard's actually assessment figures with similar athleticism to boast. GMs and front office personnel are salivating at the opportunity to build around this franchise player. Measurements aside, watching film on the young prospect is amazing. He can jump out of the building, finishing in a potent manner at the rim, and showing some emerging go-to moves and decent footwork in the low post. He can rebound with the best of them and has the defensive awareness and ability to protect the rim. With all of this, you can see Favors needs time to develop and polish his game, but all the while you wonder with his upside, how good can he be?
Cousins' offensive game is much more developed- displaying a dominating inside and outside game all season long, but Favors is a much better athlete and a better defender. How much did John Wall and Eric Bledsoe aid Cousins' game, while how much of Favors struggles can be attributed to the Yellow Jackets lack of a distributing point guard? Both players project to be very good players at the next level by almost every measure possible, but Favors has got to be the pick here. His late-season turnaround has shown GMs some of his untapped potential- dominating the paint and proving to be a tough interior defender. While DeMarcus Cousins can probably start right away for a handful of teams next year and Favors will probably be better suited coming off of the bench, Favors doesn't come with any character questions and has as much, if not the most upside in the 2010 NBA Draft.