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Don't doubt Demarcus Cousins' Pelicans

CONTRIBUTOR
27 Feb 2017, 20:01 IST
NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 17:  Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans talks to DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings during the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 17, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Demarcus Cousins’ arrival could be exactly what the Pelicans need to challenge for a playoff spot

Headlines broke during the All-Star break after Demarcus Cousins was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans.  The trade left many NBA fans flabbergasted. The Kings traded away a top NBA talent for rookie Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, Tyreke Evans (who is averaging a career low after his third right-knee surgery), a future 2nd round pick, and a future 1st round pick.

The start for the new Pelicans team has been a shaky one. The team lost their first game to the Houston Rockets on Thursday by 30 points, then once again suffered a loss last night to the Dallas Mavericks (96-83).

While the team has gotten off to a rocky start, there’s no reason to start doubting the future of the Pelicans. 

The side now possess two franchise big men in Anthony Davis and Cousins. Both of these players were recently featured in Bleacher Reports’s top 25 NBA Super Star Rankings (Demarcus Cousins 11, Anthony Davis 3). 

Dual Post Scoring Threats

Both Davis and Cousins rank in the top 6 in points scored per game among qualified players this season. Having two versatile, fast big men on the floor at one time creates a match-up nightmare for opponents. It’s tough to stop these players even by double teaming them, but now that’s not really an option.

Rebounding

In recent years, the New Orleans Pelicans have lacked talented depth at the four and five positions. This has led the Pelicans to use 21 different starting lineups this season.  Despite starting in 19 games this season, Center Omer Asik has only played more than 22 minutes in five games. 

While Asik struggles to be able to play consistent minutes, he has shown incredibly efficient rebounding numbers of 16.2 rebounds per 48 minutes. Asik was never truly an NBA-calibre starter, but he’s now a very solid option for the Pelicans coming off the bench. 

They now possess two of the top 11 rebounders in the league in their starting roster, with Cousins averaging 10.7 rebounds per game and Davis averaging 11.9 rebounds per game this season. In time, the Pelicans should start dominating the glass with their new starting roster, and with Asik coming off the bench, they would be expected to not let up when the starters are off the floor.

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Spreading the floor

Previously lacking multiple stars, as well as three-point shooting threats, the Pelicans have struggled to spread the floor in recent years.  With the acquisition of Cousins, the Pelicans now have two bigs who can knock down the long ball, in addition to being dominant in the post. 

Both Davis and Cousins are shooting at least 30% from three-point land this season. Once you add players like Jrue Holiday (38% 3P% this season) and role players Solomon Hill (35% 3P%), E‘Twaun Moore (38.5% 3P%), and Hollis Thompson (35% 3P%), the Pelicans will now have five deep ball threats on the court in their starting lineup.

New Orleans Pelicans v Dallas Mavericks : News Photo
Holiday’s presence should help spread the floor

While with the exception of Jrue Holiday, none of these players are elite three-point shooters, they are consistent enough to help spread the floor. This should open up room for Cousins and Davis to make plays in the paint.

Small forward Omri Casspi (39.5% 3P%) was also acquired in the trade of Cousins to the Pelicans, but he broke his thumb in his first game in New Orleans and was waived. There’s a long shot he could be back in a Pelicans jersey for the playoffs.  This would be yet another great addition to help the side further spread the floor.

Ball Movement

Holiday has managed to have the 7th most assists per game this season, despite lacking much talent surrounding him (aside from Anthony Davis). With the addition of Cousins on the roster, we could really see Holiday’s passing start to shine.

NBA: FEB 26 Pelicans at Thunder : News Photo
Cousins averages just under 5 assists per game

In addition to Holiday as a passing threat, Cousins averages 4.8 assists per game (2nd in NBA for PF position), while Davis averages 2.2 APG (8th in NBA for PF positions).  As the new team finds its stride, look for some incredible ball movement by this squad.

Confidence Going Forward

The New Orleans Pelicans currently sit only three and a half games off playoff contention in the Western Conference of the NBA. With 25 games left in the season when the trade took place, the Pelicans clearly hoped that gaining the 26-year-old would be enough to catapult them into the playoffs this season. 

After being traded to the Pelicans, Cousins had this to say on playing with Davis, “Our games complement one another and being together I think is going to make both of our jobs easier. We can wreak havoc on this league. Will it happen overnight? Probably not, but our potential is scary.”

Davis shared the excitement too, saying over the All-Star break, “This is an unbelievable weekend. All-Star MVP and now getting Boogie.  It doesn’t get better than this”.

While it’s going to be a tough road going forward for the Pelicans this season, it’s tough to not be confident in them finishing the season in style. The now, star-studded team has almost a third of the season left to improve enough to make it into the playoffs.  The teams they’ll face also aren’t too tough as they have a middle-of-the-pack-strength of schedule to finish out the season.

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