When the Pelicans initially made the blockbuster trade that brought All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans, the playoffs became a big topic of discussion.
New Orleans was 11th in the West at the time with a 23-34 record. Surely the All-Star duo of Anthony Davis and Cousins would push the Pelicans into the playoffs, right?
Not quite. The Pelicans only moved up one spot in the conference standings after the trade and finished with a 34-48 record. They only went 11-14 after Cousins arrived.
It is crazy looking back at the playoff talk. The Pelicans were supposed to reach the eighth seed and challenge the Golden State Warriors with the mismatches their frontcourt had created. How would Golden State’s backcourt deal with this obstacle?
The question we should have been asking ourselves is how are these slow-paced big men going to deal with the tempo Golden State plays at? Yes, the Pelicans no doubt have the best frontcourt in the NBA. However, they still lacked production from the rest of the roster and had some team chemistry issues.
They got 52 points, 24 rebounds and three blocks per game from the dynamic duo, but didn’t get much from the rest of the team.
Jrue Holiday is a former All-Star, but put up a mediocre 15 points and seven assists last season as the Pelicans’ starting point guard.
The next highest scorer on the team was Jordan Crawford at 14 per game.
As a team, the Pelicans scored 104.3 points per game (18th) and allowed 106.4 (17th). With Cousins on the roster, they scored 106.5 and allowed 106.3 per game.
Besides the fact that those numbers are below average, Cousins did not seem to do too much for the team.
Davis and Cousins’ resumes
What has Cousins done in his seven seasons in the league? He’s a three-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA team member and has averaged a career 21.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. Something is missing though, and that is a playoff appearance.
Now I know Cousins has not had much to work with as far as teammates go in his career, but the most games the Kings ever won with him on the roster was 33.
The same can be said about Davis. He is a four-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA team member and has averaged 22.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks over his five NBA seasons. Davis has led New Orleans to one postseason appearance when they finished 45-37 in a very competitive Western Conference and were then swept by the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors. Other than that, Davis has only helped the Pelicans reach 34 wins in a season.
However, like Cousins, he also has not had much talent surrounding him. During the year they went to the postseason he had Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday as his supporting cast. It is by far the most talent Davis or Cousins has had around themselves.
Their circumstances are similar and have been difficult, but could Davis and/or Cousins just not have it in them?
Davis and Cousins are a whole lot of star power to be going 11-14 and missing the playoffs. The fact that they have one postseason birth in 12 years of combined experience is also interesting to think about. The fact that so many teams in the Western Conference boosted their talent is not going to make things any easier for the Pelicans.
The Warriors, Rockets and Spurs seem to be a lock for the top three seeds. The Thunder, Timberwolves and Nuggets will most likely finish four through six. That leaves teams like the Trail Blazers, Clippers, Grizzlies and Pelicans will be battling for the last two seeds.
How the Pelicans have improved
What has New Orleans done to get better? They resigned Holiday to a five-year contract and also added veteran Rajon Rondo. Rondo is by no means the player he used to be, but he did average almost 12 points and 12 assists per game two seasons ago when he was with Cousins in Sacramento. He assisted Cousins 237 times, which is the most he has had to one player in a season according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Davis and Cousins have also been working out together with a focus on team chemistry. The Pelicans definitely were not all on the same page considering their record after Cousins arrived. Davis told local reporters that chemistry is the biggest thing the former Kentucky Wildcats have been working on.
“He knows the things that I like to do, I know the things he likes to do, where he likes to score from, where I like to score from,” Davis said. “We know that we’re going to be two big focal points on every team’s scouting report, so we just wanted to get together and work out together and just figure out things we like to do.”
What if they can’t?
Will these moves be enough to push the Pelicans into the playoffs? They sure ought to.
If Davis and Cousins can’t gel together, that is going to be a big problem. Holiday and Rondo are also need to contribute and figure out how to get Davis and Cousins opportunities.
I’m not the type of guy to knock a player for never winning the Finals or even if they never play in the Finals. However, if Davis and Cousins can’t work together and lead this team to a postseason birth, that is a problem and going to put a damper on their legacy should they continue to miss the playoffs.
Featured image by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
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