Pace-and-space and guard-heavy play are, for the most part, what leads to success in the NBA these days. So excuse the New Orleans Pelicans if they are going to try something markedly different this season.
All-Star big men DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis get a full season together starting tonight (8 ET, NBA League Pass) against the visiting Memphis Grizzlies. And to Cousins way of thinking, the Pelicans can catch teams off guard with a low-post oriented attack in 2017-18, writes William Guillory of The Times Picayune:
New Orleans has constructed a roster that features Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, a duo that averaged a combined 55 points in 2016-17. The Pelicas know that having a pair of big men with that type of explosiveness is a rarity in NBA.
The field in the Western Conference is as tough as ever, but the Pelicans believe their unique identity will help them make a push for a playoff position.
"I was always a guy that tried to do things a different way," said Cousins. "I think we can surprise a lot of people. I think we can set a new trend in the league; it's exciting. It kind of takes us back to the old style of basketball that a lot of us are accustomed to.
"Of course, it's going to come off as a weird thing with the whole 'small-ball' era, but I think we have a chance to make some noise with it."
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry says that the Pelicans will need to establish that they can keep their two All-Star big men on the court even when teams try to combat them with smaller, faster lineups.
"We want to utilize (Davis and Cousins) and have them on the floor as much as we can," Gentry said. "Our two best players (are) big guys and we've got to figure out how we can play with them on the floor when we play teams that are going to play small lineups."
Cousins becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of of the season, and while it's still unclear what his plans are for the future, finding success in 2017-18 will undoubtedly put the Pelicans' in the best position to lock down the three-time All-Star long-term.
"I'm extremely excited. It's a big opportunity for a lot of different reasons," Cousins said. "We've got a very talented team with a great chance of making some noise this year...It's a big year for a lot of us. I'm just excited to get it started."