With a decent record at 28-23, the New Orleans Pelicans have been able to hold onto a spot in the ultra-talented Western Conference playoff picture. However, the DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis experiment is on hold with Cousins out for the year with an Achilles injury.
Because of this injury, the Pelicans have become very active at the trade deadline and have acquired Nikola Mirotic in a four-player trade with Chicago. Let’s break down all of their recent actions surrounding NOLA and their move to bolster their lineup for a potential postseason run.
Losing DeMarcus Cousins
Cousins’ injury is devastating, cutting his career-year short. Cousins was voted an All-Star starter and was a underrated MVP candidate averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.
Unfortunately, It’s worth noting that many players who’ve suffered Achilles injuries haven’t been the same player after their injury. The list of players includes Kobe Bryant, Elgin Baylor, Patrick Ewing, Dominique Wilkins and Wesley Matthews. While current Achilles operations are likely better than the procedure Baylor had in 1970, players continue to struggle after this injury. There is a very real chance Cousins won’t be the same player he was before his injury.
To make matters worse, Cousins is a free agent. While the 1-2 Combo with Davis has been great, there is a chance Cousins will want to go to a bigger market like Los Angeles or Boston.
Cousins’ injury does hold a huge red flag, and teams should really be careful if they want to sign him to the long-term max deal he will command this summer.
Trading for Nikola Mirotic
The Pelicans needed another strong player before Cousins went down, but now they desperately needed someone to help carry the load with Anthony Davis. It’s likely Mirotic will play the 4 and Davis can be moved to center. With Mirotic’s strong perimeter play, he could form a great combo with him on the outside and Davis on the inside. If they can keep Cousins after this year, Mirotic can play behind the two of them as a great sixth man or at small forward in small spans. However, playing him at the 3 exclusively seems unlikely.
In addition, this trade shows Davis, the face of the franchise, that they want to compete and win now. The sense of urgency of the franchise demonstrates that they are building around Davis, and the trade rumors will die down at least until this summer.
Trading away their first-round pick and Omer Asik
While getting rid of their first-round pick is tough to swallow, especially in the talent-stocked draft class this season, the Pelicans are forgoing building for the future and are going to try to compete now. With that being said, their pick wasn’t going to be within the top 10 picks, so it’s questionable how valuable the pick is.
Davis is still only 24 years old and hasn’t hit his prime yet. Mirotic is 26 years old, Jrue Holiday is only 27 years old and Cousins (if he re-signs and can return fully healed) is only 27 years old. The Pelicans do not need to build for their future, because their future is now.
As well as getting Mirotic, they were able to unload Omer Asik’s terrible contract onto the Bulls, which has been a major clog for their payroll. Asik may be the most overpaid player in the league, with three years left of a five-year, $57 million deal. He has averaged 1.3 points per game in the 8.6 minutes he plays.
To be blunt, Asik, is terrible and getting rid of his contract while receiving an efficient player like Mirotic is like trading garbage for gold. They threw in backup guards Jameer Nelson and Tony Allen, who are both way past their prime and weren’t really helping the team reach the playoffs.
The Pelicans’ front office has been very active at the deadline, and while missing out on Greg Monroe hurts for a team that could now use another center, they can seek solace knowing that Mirotic, Holiday and Davis should be enough talent to keep them in the playoffs this year.
If they can hold all the pieces together, they could be a real force as their core develops better chemistry and heads into their prime. They aren’t a real threat in the West this year, but they could be in the coming years.
Feature image from ClutchPoints.com
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