Consider Cousins' potential next draft day
DeMarcus Cousins had his 13th technical rescinded just prior to Tuesday's tilt with the Oklahoma City Thunder, which means he avoided an automatic suspension. He made the most of the run, racking up 32 points (13-22 FG), seven boards, two steals and a block. Cousins has lived up (and down) to all expectations after being selected with the fifth overall pick in 2010. He's been a workhorse (missed only three games in two seasons), who can score (18.1 ppg this season), dominate the glass (10.9 rpg this season) and pile up hustle stats (1.5 spg, 1.2 bpg this season). Of course, he's also proved to be a hot head (a dozen techs this season), who has poor shot selection (43.9 FG% in two seasons) and lacks focus at the free throw line (69.4 FT% for career).
It's scary to think of what he could do if he improved his field goal percentage to something more representative of a 6-foot-11, 270-pound beast. If he even just got on the good side of 45 percent, he'd have a shot at averaging 20-plus points per game. Don't forget he has room to improve when considering him on draft day in the fall.
• When teams with big playoff aspirations like the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics hook up this late in the season, it's no surprise to see a slew of reserves battling each other while the stars rest up. However, despite having absolutely nothing to play for beyond draft picks, the New Orleans Hornets and Golden State Warriors played a game of bench versus bench Tuesday evening. Myriad injuries to both teams have opened up playing time for backups. Marco Bellineli had 23 points and three steals, while Al-Farouq Aminu pulled in 11 boards for the Hornets. Charles Jenkins double-doubled (10 points, 10 dimes) and Mickell Gladness swatted four shots for the Warriors. If you're desperate for warm bodies that will play Thursday, consider the backups from these two squads. The Warriors play the San Antonio Spurs and the Hornets get the Houston Rockets Thursday. Note that Eric Gordon has already been ruled out for the finale.
• As expected, James Harden skipped Tuesday's game due to the concussion he sustained via Metta World Peace's elbow over the weekend. It would be surprising if he were to lace 'em up for the Thunder's season finale tonight. Head coach Scott Brooks spread the minutes around Tuesday to take it easy on the rest of his starters, something we should expect again tonight. With Harden out, Daequan Cook popped off 19 points with four 3s Tuesday. He could be a sneaky play Wednesday.
• World Peace has been suspended for the regular-season finale Thursday and six more games that will be served in the playoffs and next season, if necessary. Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks figure to benefit most from his absence in Thursday's game.
• Chris Paul had a typically huge game last night with 34 points (10-11 FT, 4-6 3s), eight dimes and two steals, but he tweaked his groin in the process. Since the Los Angeles Clippers are actually in the playoffs for a change, there's a reasonable chance they will hold CP3 out from their regular-season finale tonight against the New York Knicks. Keep Randy Foye (who failed to score last night), Mo Williams and even Nick Young in mind if CP3 sits or coach Vinny Del Negro limits the minutes of his starters.
• The Philadelphia 76ers wrap up their regular season with a road trip to face the Milwaukee Bucks tonight and Detroit Pistons Thursday. Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young are not traveling with the team, so you can count them out. Lou Williams is traveling, though it's not clear if he will play, so check for updates as the game nears. Look for the bench to see a lot of action, regardless, with the likes of Evan Turner, Jodie Meeks and maybe even Spencer Hawes as decent plays.
• In a battle of ugly, the Boston Celtics' bench beat the Miami Heat's bench 78-66 last night. Well, that's mostly true, as Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all skipped the game to rest for the playoffs. Will any of them play in their season finales (Celtics versus Bucks, Heat versus Wizards) Thursday? Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters he intended to use his starters then, but realistically, it will depend on their health. The same likely goes for the Heat. We'll have to check for updates as Thursday gets closer.
• Whether Kobe Bryant plays Thursday, and for how long, likely will depend a lot on how much Kevin Durant scores Wednesday, if he plays. Durant currently leads Kobe in the scoring title chase 27.97 to 27.86. Surely, Bryant wants to pass him Thursday, but considering his recent battle with a shin malady, he may not want to risk aggravating the injury if he has to play the full game to catch up. Stay tuned.