Last week, the Pelicans made one of the biggest NBA trades in recent memory by acquiring star big man DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins is one of the most controversial players in the league, as he leads the league in technical fouls this season with 18, but he is in the minds of many the best big man in the NBA.
However, I think Cousins is currently the best big man in the NBA; and the Pelicans are pairing him with another super star in Anthony Davis in an effort to create the twin towers in what is now a guard centric league. While it will be difficult, perhaps even impossible for most teams to matchup with the two star big men, I do not think that this move will make the Pelicans significantly better.
This move does not drastically move the needle for the Pelicans in my opinion because they did not fix any of their weaknesses. The Pelicans lack consistent guard play and three-point shooting. While Cousins is a solid three-point shooter for a big man, shooting a career high 35 percent from behind the arc, he is not someone that you can rely on to be your best shooter. Cousins is a great player, but he has a similar skill set to Anthony Davis. Both Cousins and Davis operate in the same area of the floor. It is going to take a while for them to figure out how to play together on offense without running into each other, and that is assuming they can ever get to that point. Cousins’ contract only lasts until the end of next season. If the Pelicans were not having major success, who is to say that he would not just leave next offseason? The Pelicans needed guard play to compliment Anthony Davis, but instead they acquired another big man who plays a similar style. Cousins is ultra-talented, but I just do not see the fit with these two.
The other major problem I have with this trade is that now the Pelicans cannot afford to get a premier player in free agency this offseason. The 2017 free agent class is loaded with stars. All stars Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Kyle Lowry and Gordon Hayward are all expected to be free agents this offseason; and all of those players, except Griffin, would fit better alongside Anthony Davis than Cousins does. The Pelicans have two bad contracts on their books right now; they are paying forward Solomon Hill 12 million a year until 2020, and they are paying big man Omer Asik 11 million a year until 2019. Those two players are not worth anywhere near what they are being paid, and because of that, those players are virtually untradeable pieces that take up cap room and will prevent the Pelicans from being major players in free agency. The Pelicans will likely have to overpay to keep inconsistent point guard Jrue Holiday on the roster this offseason. If they let him go, the Pelicans will open up next season without a starting point guard. The Pelicans need to upgrade their guards and wing players, but they do not have the money to get a premier player at those positions.
While the acquisition of Cousins certainly makes the Pelicans more interesting, more talented and perhaps slightly better, this move does not make the Pelicans a real contender in the Western Conference this season. Adding a top 10 player in the league is never a bad thing, but the Pelicans already had a player like Cousins on their roster. New Orleans did not fix any of their weaknesses, and in today’s guard and three ball centric NBA, it is hard for me to see the Pelicans making any noise in the playoffs with their current roster.