Blogtable: Why are New Orleans Pelicans struggling since their big trade?
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
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The Pelicans made headlines by trading for DeMarcus Cousins, but two weeks later they’re only 1-5 with Cousins in the lineup. What gives?
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David Aldridge: Nothing unexpected. Bringing in Cousins totally altered everything the Pelicans were doing, at both ends of the floor. I had little expectation it would coalesce quickly. You have two big guys, both of whom expect the ball almost every time down the floor, and who expect to have room to operate in the paint. And you have a coach in Alvin Gentry who wants to play fast, something that’s hard to do with Cousins on the floor. And one of those two guys now has a regular defensive assignment of going out and guarding stretch fours, something neither Davis nor Cousins has done much of regularly. And, at this point of the season, you have almost no practice time to work on any of that. This is a long-term deal for the Pels. Cousins needs an offseason to get himself acclimated to the city and team. Gentry needs a summer to really think about how to best utilize this unusual duo. Davis needs a summer to figure out how he and Boogie fit on and off the floor. And everyone needs a full training camp and preseason together to work out the kinks. Check back with them around Thanksgiving.
Steve Aschburner: Adding a second tower to twin with Anthony Davis demands a drastic change in style, in supporting cast, in coaching, in pretty much everything for New Orleans. To do that on the fly, post-All Star break, when games come fast and practice time is scarce is asking an awful lot. Factor in Cousins’ headstrong ways and the fall-off in the Pelicans’ shooting since the break and this sputtering in outcomes makes sense to me. Coach Alvin Gentry and his players should be using what’s left of this season as an extended training camp for 2017-18.
Fran Blinebury: Have you seen the Sacramento Kings over the past 6 years? The last things DeMarcus Cousins guarantees are wins. Having said that, this was never a marriage with Anthony Davis that was going to be put together on the fly. And one more thing: the Pelicans roster is full of too many other holes.
Scott Howard-Cooper: The same thing that was giving all season: the Pelicans have a lot of holes. They were never a strong bet for the playoffs anyway and now have the added challenge of trying to win games while working in a new player who needs to have the ball a lot to be successful. The transition isn’t the only problem. The rest of the team is. Plus, based on his history, why would anyone confuse Cousins with a true solution in the first place?
Shaun Powell: I’ve never looked at this tandem through a short-term lens. Getting the No. 8 seed means little compared to the work that needs to be done this summer and next to build around the Brow-Boogie base. And so, this awkward adjustment period that New Orleans is experiencing right now is not unexpected. But if they struggle this time next year? Heads will roll.
John Schuhmann: They weren’t a good offensive team before the trade, but the Pelicans rank last offensively since the trade/break and have scored a brutal 93.3 points per 100 possessions in the six games that Cousins has played. Four of their seven post-break games have been against top-10 defenses, but they didn’t exactly light up the Lakers’ 29th-ranked defense on Sunday. Cousins and Anthony Davis have been pretty efficient, but their teammates have not. It can only get better going forward, but rebuilding an offense around two bigs is tough to do in the middle of the season, especially when you weren’t very good on that end of the floor in the first place. It will be fascinating to see if the Pels can upgrade the wings while also dealing with Jrue Holiday’s free agency this summer.
Sekou Smith: Reality has set in since the excitement of the trade on All-Star Sunday night. If you’re the Pelicans, you were hoping for better results out of the gate. But it’s going to take more time for Alvin Gentry to mesh all of these moving parts together and produce the kind of results even the most optimistic observers thought might be in store. The truth is, neither Davis nor Cousins has won big on their own. So magically expecting them to do so immediately was probably a bit far-fetched. The supporting cast not only has to be upgraded, but the Pelicans need time (something they don’t have) to properly integrate everyone into a new system that includes two dominant big men and their very unique skill-sets.
Ian Thomsen: They’re fighting a hard trend. Most of the league is veering small, while the Pelicans are going big. When you swim against the current, your stroke must be perfect — and so it’s going to take them time to figure out a blend between Cousins and Anthony Davis. It’s not like the Pelicans were playing great basketball before the trade, either: They were struggling then, and they’re struggling now.
Lang Whitaker: Threes are worth more than twos? To me, that’s the simple answer. It’s kind of ironic how Alvin Gentry helped pioneer the Seven Seconds Or Less offense in Phoenix, where they played outside in and leaned heavily on 3-pointers, but now Gentry is cursed with the blessing of having two of the game’s best post players at the same time. And besides Jrue Holiday, it feels like the Pelicans just don’t have the perimeter presence to create proper space for Boogie and The Brow to operate.
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