The DeMarcus Cousins trade to the Pelicans was a dramatic and frankly shocking event that happened seven days ago. In those seven days the Pelicans were pushed to the front of the 8th seed class by the experts. The x’s and o’s in a Warriors playoff matchup were debated. The Demarcus-[Anthony] Davis duo was canonized as the next great big man punch that was going to shake up the West. The Pelicans were going to _____ (fill in the blank).
Not much discussion though was had about what the Pelicans were not going to do, specifically win a game in the short term and lose ground to Denver in their playoff chase. Yes, if the Pelican’s only added Cousins there would be something significant to talk about. But the Pels gave up all of their perimeter scorers. So what if Cousins and Davis drop 70 points a night? Without guard help they are back to where they started, no man’s land.
This is the dirty little secret about the NBA. While it promotes stars at every opportunity, it is the role players, 99% of whom make up the league, that are its bread and butter. You need players with specific skills who are consistent in what they do best.
The problem with the Pels is they traded away offense and now it is Boogie and Davis on an island. You don’t win in the NBA that way. The Warriors all everything role player, Andre Iguodala, won the Finals MVP. Miami had the Big Three but it was Ray Allen who had the three to send Game 6 of the NBA Finals into overtime. It was Sasha Vujacic and Metta World Peace who helped Kobe get his fifth ring. John Paxson helped MJ get his third title and first three peat. Stars need help.
The Pels are relying on Jrue Holiday who is in a contract year (16 points, 7 assists), Solomon Hill (6 points, 3 rebounds) who the Pels overpaid in the offseason, E’Twaun Moore (9 points, 2 rebounds), Tim Frazier (8 points, 5 assists), Dante Cunningham (6 poins, 4 rebounds). This group against OKC on Sunday scored 28 points while Cousins-Davis scored 69 points. Only one player [E’Twaun Moore] was in double figures, other than Davis and Cousins.
The problem the Pels are going to have is the problem they have had since Del Demps fired defensive stalwart Monty Williams and hired Alvin Gentry. They just can’t stop anybody and Boogie Cousins who is an average defender isn’t going to put a dent in that huge weakness of theirs. Tyreke Evans, even as a shell of the player he used to be, had the best defensive rating of any Pels perimeter player. Take him out and it is open season for dribble pull-ups or crossovers or just driving in the lane and getting Cousins out of position.
DeMarcus Cousins is who you thought he was. He is a scoring beast. He does things on the floor a big man isn’t supposed to do. He is still hot headed. Changing locations isn’t going to mean his fondness for technicals just goes away.
With Boogie you take the good with the whatever. In three games, he has been the second All-Star the Pels need. 23 points. 59% field goals. 82% from the line including a perfect 15-15 in OKC. 12 boards a game. Almost 5 assists. He is a tough matchup for any NBA team and he gives the Pels options they never had before. But it all goes a little haywire when you are expecting production from anyone not named Cousins and Davis.
Against OKC, Jrue Holiday took 9 shots, E’Twaun Moore took 8 shots. The rest of the team took between 1-6 shots. Boogie and Davis took 43 shots. That is not how you win games.
The Pels are between a rock and a hard place because on the one hand they did the tough thing, getting that second superstar. Yet they are still the hamster on the wheel running in circles.
The irony of playing OKC is that the teams are opposite one another. OKC has a superstar player and a bunch of guys who play off of Westbrook and are consistent. The Pels have two superstars but not much to play off of Boogie and Davis. OKC and the Pelicans are mirror images of each other even as the bottom line is the same, neither team are contenders.
The Pelicans knew they weren’t contenders when they made the Boogie deal but thought this is a good start. So far, they have to amend that thinking (about their good start). They have to win a game first. The schedule doesn’t get easy until the Lakers in a week. Before that it is at Detroit and at the Spurs.
The month of March will bury the Pels or allow the light at the end of the tunnel to blink brighter and brighter. However sobering it may be to hear, Cousins insertion into the organization may have little bearing on which fate the Pelicans are destined for.
photo via llananba