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Can The Pelicans Zig When Everyone Else Is Zagging?
Notable Players Acquired: G Rajon Rondo, G Ian Clark, G Frank Jackson
Notable Players Lost:
The Pelicans finished last season with a 33-49 record last season, 13th in the West. The season revolved around the team acquiring big man DeMarcus Cousins at the trade deadline via the Sacramento Kings. The move came during the All-Star game, which was held in New Orleans. And Cousins was in that game. So that wasn’t awkward at all.
In his 17 games with the Pelicans, Cousins averaged 24.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game while shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from the 3-point line.
Unfortunately for New Orleans, the trade for Boogie didn’t pay off in a huge way. Before the All-Star break, the Pelicans were 23-34. After, they were 11-14. Better, but not a crazy difference.
But it’s hard to know how hard it is to form a team around two elite big men on the run with Cousins and Anthony Davis.
Davis and Cousins are both two of the top-5 big men in the league and Jrue Holiday is a solid third option who averaged 15.4 points and 7.3 assists per game. But if New Orleans wants to take a leap in the win column, the Pelicans will need someone else on the roster to emerge.
The Big Question
With a talented coach like Alvin Gentry, Cousins and Davis shouldn’t have any problem playing together. The question is who, outside of Holiday, will step up for the Pelicans to relieve the pressure off of their big three. Solomon Hill’s hamstring injury is a huge blow to the team. Candidates to step up for Hill, and the Pelicans, include newly-acquired Rajon Rondo, Ian Clark or rookie Frank Jackson.
Guard Charles Cooke spent time on the Timberwolves during this year’s Summer League play. Cooke played his college ball at Dayton and signed with the Pelicans after being undrafted in the 2017 NBA Draft.
In five Summer League games with the Wolves, Cooke averaged 10 points, three rebounds and two assists per game. He shot 44.4 percent from the field and 40 percent from the 3-point line.
I think depth might hurt the Pelicans. Rondo will be a nice addition, and so will Clark. But we shouldn’t sleep on Hill. He only averaged seven points per game last season, but he played nearly 30 minutes per game last season and shot 35 percent from the 3-point line. His absence will hurt. With Davis and Cousins, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Pelicans made a playoff run. With all the teams playing small ball, the Pelicans are hoping to force teams to do the opposite. But with so many teams in the West improving, including the Timberwolves, I just don’t see the Pelicans making a run into the postseason in 2017-18.