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Miami Heat need a big, is DeMarcus Cousins the answer?

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Miami is finally gelling, but will the mold be strong enough to win a championship?

NBA: Miami Heat at Houston Rockets POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarcus Cousins could really help the Miami Heat win a championship. Or can he? His recent history as a journeyman doesn’t inspire confidence in saying yes. During Cousins’ last four seasons he’s been with four teams: the Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, Golden State Warriors, and Houston Rockets.

How would Cousins fit into Heat Culture? Lately Miami found success with elite defensive performances. Over the last nine games, in its 6 wins, the Heat held other teams to 95, 103, 96, 94, 110, 94 points respectively. While its losses came when Miami surrendered 112, 125 and 120 points. Can Cousins help the Heat stay locked in on defense?

Before we look at some numbers this video illustrates how Cousins helps and hinders defenses. Despite multiple serious injuries Cousins still has some valuable basketball skills.

If the Heat hang their hat on defense going forward let’s compare Cousins to other alternatives such as P.J. Tucker, Nemanja Bjelica, Andre Drummond, as well as current Heat players.

Defense Rating and Win Shares

PLAYER Drtg DWS
PLAYER Drtg DWS
Robinson 100.9 0.054
Achiuwa 101.4 0.052
Vincent 103.2 0.047
Butler 103.2 0.047
Olynyk 103.5 0.047
Iguodala 103.8 0.047
Nunn 104.8 0.044
Adebayo 106.9 0.038
Herro 112.2 0.025
Strus 117 0.013
------------ ------------ ------------
Cousins 108.5 0.033
Tucker 111.4 0.026
Bjelica 115.1 0.017
Drummond 133.4 -0.028

Over the last nine games Miami’s defense as a team has shined. The numbers for the individual players seem odd when compared to generally accepted views. However defenses in NBA often value a player who doesn’t commit costly off-the-ball mental mistakes.

As a note Gabe Vincent and Precious Achiuwa usually defend guys off the bench, while Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler take on elite players to defend. Should Cousins or another pickup join the Heat, they may be called on to counter less talented types rather than the starters. That exposes less of Cousins’ obvious flaws.

Another surprising finding comes from selected fourth quarter defense stats.

Fourth quarter over last 9 games

PLAYER Drtg DWS
PLAYER Drtg DWS
Vincent 85.3 0.361
Robinson 99.3 0.226
Achiuwa 100 0.225
Iguodala 103.5 0.187
Olynyk 114.5 0.068
Adebayo 116 0.052
Butler 117.4 0.038
Nunn 120.8 0.001
Herro 124.2 -0.035

Gabe Vincent finds himself atop the list, while Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler reside further down. Fatigue plays a big role in explaining the anomaly, especially for two-way players. Perhaps Duncan Robinson’s drop in 3-point percentage comes in part due to his expending more energy on the defensive side.

Cousins isn’t an All-Star any longer for sure. Yet if he could provide meaningful minutes to give Adebayo a breather, and prevent Kelly Olynyk or Robinson from fouling out that’s a help. Keeping the Heat healthy for the last part of the season would be a success story in itself.

Stats courtesy of NBA stats.