The Anthony Davis-DeMarcus Cousins era in New Orleans is poised to make a lot of noise in the NBA, or “wreak havoc,” as Boogie described it. But before that happens, don’t expect the Pelicans to be anything more than what they are today: a mediocre team that’s still looking for an identity. It’s a reality that’s a little hard to come to grips with, especially for someone who counts himself as an unabashed fan of the team. But it’s also true, which makes all the momentary gushing surrounding the pairing of Boogie and the Brow a little hard to deal with, at least for now.
For those who don’t pay much attention to the Pels—and why would you, right?—the team has been a bastion of inconsistency and injury updates. Since Davis burst into the scene as an unquestioned superstar in the league, New Orleans has only made the playoffs once and you might even say that it lucked into that eight seed two seasons ago because Kevin Durant was hurt for most of the year with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But other than that, it’s been one failed season after another and this year looks no different, or at least until that bombshell was dropped moments after the conclusion of the All-Star game. DeMarcus Cousins, the towering behemoth with the balletic footwork, was traded with Omri Casspi to New Orleans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a top-three protected first-round pick, and a second-round pick.
Just as the cloud of mediocrity continued to cast a gloom in the Crescent City, a jolt of lightning broke the clouds up, ushering in the dawn of a new era in Pelicans basketball. While that may still happen, don’t expect it to happen overnight because the Pels, as presently constructed, is still a long way away from competing against the NBA’s elite.
The good news is that it now has three foundational players to build around. Davis and point guard Jrue Holiday have long been the cornerstones of the franchise, but now it also has a center in Cousins that’s widely regarded as the best in his position. All together, they make for a ridiculously talented 'Big Three' that can match up with anybody in the league. Unfortunately for New Orleans, the NBA isn’t a three-on-three league and the rest of its roster is just as bad as any roster in the league today.
We saw it in the game today against the Houston Rockets, where the Pels got trounced by a Rockets team that was led in no small part by their own newly minted acquisition, Lou Williams. The Cousins and Davis pairing proved to be as good as advertised, but the Pelicans were doomed by turnovers, sloppy play, and a general lack of cohesion brought about by the dramatic trade.
Some of the issues will be fixed as Cousins starts to get acclimated with Alvin Gentry’s system. Holiday, who was a complete liability in the Rockets game with seven turnovers and not much else, will also get more comfortable with his new center. Those parts will be ironed out in due time, and we may even get glimpses of it this season.
But the roster construction is another item entirely. That’s going to be the next project general manager Dell Demps has on his plate, starting this offseason. As presently constructed, the Pelicans don’t have depth and talent beyond the Davis, Cousins, and Holiday are in short supply. People forget that while Cousins was the main piece in the deal, the Pelicans lost three rotation players from the trade and another one in Terrence Jones who asked to be waived by the team because his minutes would be supplanted by Boogie.
That’s four players gone from a team with only one coming in its place. The other, Casspi, broke his right thumb in the aforementioned debacle of a game against a Houston and is out for up to six weeks. Cursed, we tell you.
If any of you expect to see the Boogie and Brow era to take the NBA by storm this season, you’re sorely mistaken. The team has precious little time to gel together and vault three other teams, Sacramento being one of them, for that eight and final playoff spot in the West. Is it impossible? No. Improbable? Yes.
The next big attraction in the NBA isn’t going to be unleashed until the start of the 2017-18 season and even then, who knows what the Pelicans roster will look like beyond Davis and Cousins. Holiday is a free agent, in case you didn’t know.
But watching how this team is shaped and grows from there is part of the excitement surrounding this Boogie and Brow tag team. That’s why when you lament on how mediocre the Pels could still be this season, do so while understanding that we’re not going to see the full scope of destruction that Davis and Cousins are capable of until next season.
Consider the last month of this season as the getting-to-know-you-part. But come next season, that’s when the hammer drops on the rest of the league. Fire and Ice, as Boogie Cousins calls it. Fire and Ice on the rest of the NBA.
Better take cover then.