New Orleans Pelicans: An Early Take On DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis

The New Orleans Pelicans have acquired DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings. What’s the foundation for how he and Anthony Davis can thrive?

The New Orleans Pelicans pulled off what many are describing as the heist of the century. Though disputable, the Pelicans dramatically improved their infrastructure by successfully acquiring DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the bedrock of the outgoing package was rookie shooting guard Buddy Hield and a 2017 first-round draft pick.

Per Marc Stein of ESPN, the complete package included Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, the 2017 first-round draft pick, and a future second-round selection.

On the night that the 2017 NBA All-Star Game was hosted in New Orleans, the Pelicans added one of the participants to their roster.

Cousins comes to New Orleans with awe-inspiring season averages of 27.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks, and 1.7 3-point field goals made per game. He’s one of three players in the NBA who’s currently averaging at least 25.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per contest.

One of the other two players who’s averaging at least 25.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game will be Cousins’ new teammate in New Orleans: Anthony Davis.

On paper, Cousins and Davis have officially formed the most dominant interior duo in the NBA. They combine for 55.5 points, 22.5 rebounds, 3.8 blocks, and 2.7 steals per game, and both have been named to at least one All-NBA team during their burgeoning careers.

For as intriguing a tandem as Cousins and Davis may be, a rational question exists: what must head coach Alvin Gentry do in order to achieve optimal results with this dynamic duo?

DeMarcus Cousins: Offensive Centerpiece

The single biggest question facing the New Orleans Pelicans pertains to who gets the ball in the biggest of moments. That’s something that we as writers cannot answer, no matter what the clutch statistics indicate Alvin Gentry should do.

For the sake of building a balanced interior duo, however, it would behoove the Pelicans to utilize DeMarcus Cousins as the offensive centerpiece.

Davis is every bit as dynamic on the offensive end of the floor as Cousins. He’s a master of the high post who can attack off the bounce, run the floor in transition, step out beyond the 3-point line, and work the pick and roll to virtual perfection.

Cousins has a bigger and more durable body, however, and his emerge as the No. 1 offensive player in New Orleans would actually help Davis grow.

As previously alluded to, both Cousins and Davis are averaging upwards of 25 points and 10 rebounds per game. Davis is the more efficient of the two, but Cousins’ strength gives Gentry a natural advantage in that Boogie can put his shoulder into opponents and finish through contact.

Making Cousins the offensive centerpiece would enable Davis to pick his spots and focus more of his energy on what matters most: anchoring the defense.

Anthony Davis: Defensive Anchor

When Anthony Davis was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, no one—absolutely no one—though he’d be the offensive juggernaut he’s become. He was drafted with some knowledge of his offensive upside, but his primary appeal was on the defensive end of the floor.

With an offensive superstar who can alleviate some of the pressure of being a No. 1 scoring threat, Davis can finally live up to the hype as an elite defensive player.

Cousins is a solid defender in his own right, but Davis is a natural shot-blocker who can cover more ground than just about any power forward in the NBA. His range on defense enables him to disrupt the pick and roll, close out on shooters, and switch onto slashing guards.

True as that may be, any player who averages 20.2 field goal attempts and an additional 8.6 free throw attempts per game is being spread out too thin for optimal defensive execution.

Davis is a two-time blocks leader who currently ranks No. 2 in blocks per game during the 2016-17 season. New Orleans ranks No. 8 in the NBA in defensive efficiency, but games have proven to be tough to win when Davis has to be the focal point on both ends of the floor.

Davis will still attempt well above 15 shots per game, but the less he has to do on offense, the more he can do to help transform the Pelicans into an elite defensive team.

The Surroundings

The New Orleans Pelicans have an All-Star point guard in Jrue Holiday and a quality backup in Tim Frazier. New Orleans also has a 3-and-D player at shooting guard in E’Twaun Moroe and a $48 million man at small forward in Solomon Hill.

That’s a quality group, but New Orleans has eight players on the roster who either player power forward or center—an imbalance that must stabilize by the trade deadline.

New Orleans has taken a massive step towards becoming a perennial postseason team by trading for DeMarcus Cousins. In terms of pure ability, Cousins and Anthony Davis undoubtedly form the best interior duo in the NBA.

Without the necessary talent along the perimeter, however, the Pelicans will have a low ceiling and will task between two and three players to defeat entire teams on too consistent a basis.

No matter what comes of New Orleans’ personnel decisions, the perimeter players must buy in on defense. They’ll be asked to stay on their man and only call for a rotation when absolutely necessary.

On offense, they’ll be tasked with knocking down open shots to space the floor for the two ball-dominant bigs. Cousins and Davis being able to operate depends heavily on the perimeter players ability to create spacing.

Perhaps most importantly, Holiday and Frazier will be tasked with spreading the wealth and ensuring that Cousins and Davis receive appropriate and appeasing touches.

The New Orleans Pelicans have successfully executed a power move. The question is: are DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis a paper version or real incarnation of this era’s Twin Towers?

If New Orleans plays its cards right, it will have found the duo to lead it through the next decade.

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