In a whirlwind All Star Weekend, star center DeMarcus Cousins was traded from the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, Tyreke Evans, and a range of future picks.
Cousins and trade rumors had been, for the entire NBA season, a revolving door of new teams, new deals, and new rumors of where the big man would land. Teams like the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors and more all flirted with the idea of Cousins for a trade return. Side by side with the 2017 All Star Game MVP Anthony Davis, we now look at just how the two will fit side by side in the front court and just how special the duo is.
In NBA history only five pairings of front court players have averaged 20+ points and 10+ rebounds, and these include:
- Tim Duncan/David Robinson – 1997-98
- Larry Johnson/Alonzo Mourning – 1992-93
- Moses Malone/Charles Barkley – 1985-86
- Hakeem Olajuwon/Ralph Sampson – 1984-85
- Wilt Chamberlain/Elgin Baylor – 1968-69
Cousins is averaging 27.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, while Davis is at 27.7 Points and 11.9 rebounds nightly, which would make them join this elite company as soon as they step on the floor at the same time. So what makes this duo so dangerous for the league?
Anyone who has watched Anthony Davis or Demarcus Cousins play knows one thing; they are both incredibly skilled offensive players. In an increasingly position-less basketball era, having bigs who can stretch the floor is an advantage as it is a necessity. Cousins and Davis are two of the more decent shooters among big men, and also are elite at the post and mid range areas.
Both shooting over 30% from beyond the arc (35.9% for Cousins and 30.6% for Davis), they can easily spot up outside when off the pick and roll. The upside to this is the defense either must react to them cutting strong inside on the roll or stretch out to the three-point line using their speed to get to the basket. Furthermore, their operation from midrange only helps to space Alvin Gentry’s new offense. Cousins and Davis are both excellent mid range shooters especially when assisted.
So far this season, Davis is shooting a combined 43.9% Effective Field Goal Percentage from 10 feet to the three-point line and is assisted on over 65% of his attempts. As for Cousins, he is shooting a combined 33.5% from the same distance and is assisted on 34.1% of his attempts. Noticing the discrepancy between Davis and Cousins’ Field Goal percentage and Assisted percentages, Cousins had to be a much more isolated player for the Kings, creating his own looks.
With Davis now likely to take the pressure off of him, Cousins will either get better looks off the catch-and-shoot, naturally increasing his shooting percentages or he will have better looks inside the paint of which he is finishing at over 61% — an elite mark. Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans point guard who averages over 7.5 assists per game for the season, will now have the option of dumping the ball down low to Cousins or finding Davis operating in the mid range for a catch-and-shoot jumpshot. Having excellent inside-and-out bigs will be a defensive mismatch as it further spaces the perimeter players and forces typically smaller or slower front court defenders to move out further than usual.
Anthony Davis one of the league’s best power forward defenders, period. He is quick, long, a great rebounder, and has the ability to not only block shots (averaging 2.49 per game) but to switch onto smaller wing players. His versatility in his physical attributes is matched by a high defensive IQ, consistency, and a constant engagement to his man.
Davis is posting an individual 101 defensive rating on the season, and is 4th in defensive win shares at 3.7. Davis has been the centerpiece to the Pelicans’ top 10 ranked defense and this should only be improved with Cousins. Cousins is certainly no slouch and his only question mark around this has been with his engagement to defense over 48 minutes. When locked in, Cousins is an excellent interior defender and is quite the presence in the paint.
Cousins this season is posting an individual 105 defensive rating, is top 10 in defensive rebound percentage, and has 2.7 defensive win shares. When we look at defense, and especially for bigs, we must provide context in the team’s total defense, and the Kings as a whole were terrible here. Ranked 23rd in the league, any player, no matter how good, will have his numbers downgraded because defense is so much more team-based than individual. I would hazard a guess that on the excellent Pelican defense, Cousins will not only have his numbers improve but his enthusiasm on that end would also become better as he doesn’t need to exert the same energy carrying the offensive load.
Making it work:
It is now when we then look at how the Kentucky duo would ultimately fit together and for the aforementioned reasons it seems unlikely the two won’t mesh well. Anthony Davis was looking for another potent offensive weapon to help shoulder some of the offense in New Orleans, and Demarcus Cousins was pushed out looking for a team to better respect him.
The Pelicans also feature Alvin Gentry, a great coach not only for personal relationships but also for offensive planning and making multiple key pieces work. His work in Golden State was heralded by many as well. It is expected that Cousins will play the ‘five’, Davis at the ‘four’ and together will compliment each other inside and out.
As Cousins uses his size down low and Davis uses his great shooting in the mid range and beyond. The duo may see a drop in production individually, but should see a rise in shooting percentages, assists, and more. This should ultimately correlate over to more wins for the NOLA faithful, which no one would dispute is worth it.