The addition of DeMarcus Cousins added to the pressure of winning now. But after three straight losses and with only 22 games left in the season, do the New Orleans Pelicans have enough to make it to the postseason?
The word “playoffs” has been thrown around quite a bit since the New Orleans Pelicans swindled All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins away from the dysfunctional and inept Sacramento Kings.
Rightfully so — with the luxury of added talent also comes the burden of added pressure.
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The allowance for time and patience quickly dissipated once the Pelicans brought Cousins into the fold. The idea of “winning now” was further exacerbated by the departure of the Pelicans’ 2017 projected lottery draft pick – though protected for picks one through three.
The goal for the team was cemented. The plan was in motion. It’s playoffs or bust.
The New Orleans Pelicans undoubtedly now have the best frontcourt in the NBA (maybe history). Anthony Davis (28.1) and Cousins (27.6) are averaging more than 27 points and 10 rebounds per game, have guard-like passing skills and block shots at a high rate.
Add into the mix Jrue Holiday (who was playing well before the All-Star break) and it’s easy to see why expectations for the remainder of the 2016-17 season skyrocketed.
All that sounds good. What we’re forgetting, however, is that outside of those three pieces, there just aren’t enough guys on the team who give me confidence in saying this is a playoff team.
The New Orleans Pelicans have added a monster of a talent in Cousins.
But you have to remember, unlike how Lou Williams can seamlessly transition into what the Houston Rockets were already doing because of his specific skill set of scoring, the Pelicans have to reconstruct a big part of their offensive and defensive schemes on the fly for Boogie while trying to stay competitive in the West — with a limited roster.
In acquiring the talent that they did, they also gave up (and in some cases, were lucky to get rid of, see: Tyreke Evans.) what little depth they had.
They now find that the side effects of their acquisition of Cousins is that it produced a super thin backcourt – one that was already thin due to the inability of Dell Demps to identify what a decent wing player looks like.
Seriously. Look at the roster. Omri Casspi broke his thumb in the first game and was waived by the team not too long after. Prior to that, they waived Terrence Jones and signed Hollis Thompson to a 10-day contract six days ago.
Jarrett Jack pulled up a day later and Reggie Williams a day after that. And these dudes — who just showed up like this was a pickup game — are getting HEAVY minutes.
Two guys the Pelicans signed in the offseason that were getting major rotation minutes in Langston Galloway and Jones are now gone and the other two are E’Twaun Moore and Solomon Hill.
Tim Frazier is a great backup point guard to have on a rebuilding team, but not a team that’s competing for a playoff spot. Sorry, but this isn’t a playoff roster. Not yet.
It’s the reason why Davis can average 35.3 points and 10 rebounds while Cousins puts up 23.3 points,13 rebounds and 4.7 assists in their first three games together and the Pelicans still lose all three contests.
It certainly doesn’t help that Holiday is currently off his game; shooting 28.9 percent from the field, 14.3 percent from three, turning the ball over 5.3 times a game while boasting a minus-12.7 plus/minus and only scoring 10 points per game since coming back from the All-Star break.
The expectation of getting to into the playoffs was a bit premature and maybe even far-fetched — even with the Pelicans only being 3½ games behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth spot in the West.
Since the trade, the Pelicans are falling short of those playoff expectations. They have dropped the first three games since acquiring Cousins.
Prior to Cousins’ arrival, the Pelicans posted a 102.3 offensive rating per 100 possessions; which has dropped to 95.8 in the three games since. Their defensive rating has gone up from 104.7 to 112.9 during that same span.
Also since the trade, the New Orleans Pelicans rank 26th in points per game with 97.3. 27th in FG percentage at 42.2 percent (hint: AD is shooting 48.2 percent and Cousins is shooting at a 51.2 percent clip. Something tells me they may not be the problem).
The Pelicans are second-to-last in the league in three-point percentage at 25 percent and 24th in rebounding (even with both big men pulling down 10 or more a game. 20th in assist with 20.7 per game.
The New Orleans Pelicans have once again mortgaged assets with the intention of “winning now”. After taking chances in past on mediocre talent (which I wrote about here) it would seem Dell Demps and Co. have finally hit a home run with the acquisition of Cousins.
But it’s going to take a little time. The New Orleans Pelicans are not a finished product by any stretch. And there are far too many kinks to be worked out. The Pelicans currently don’t have any knock down shooters and lack offensive flow and consistent ball movement.
Once Boogie goes out with foul trouble (something that will happen often) coach Alvin Gentry is forced to insert lineups such as Frazier, Moore, Thompson, Donatas Motiejunas and Alexis Ajinca; which he did in a tight game against the Oklahoma City Thunder a few nights ago.
The Pelicans ultimately lost their third straight in as many games.
And while I understand that with 22 games left, the clock is ticking and the Pelicans’ brass is desperately hoping to gain access into the postseason this year so they can gain early momentum in the inevitable Cousins sweepstakes after the 2017-18 season.
But while that’s important, it’s just as important that they show him that this franchise is smart enough to see the bigger picture and are heading in the right direction with the idea of working towards a culture of sustainable success.