The Next Big Thing
Pelicans trade a masterstroke that will transform the franchise
What a weekend! Pelicans forward Anthony Davis had an All-Star MVP showing in front of the home crowd and New Orleans shined in the week-long international spotlight leading up to the game. And just as All-Star festivities were wrapping up news broke that the Pelicans had made a trade for Demarcus Cousins, a 26 year old, 6’11” center, who has averaged 20.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game over the course of his seven-year NBA career.
Cousins, appropriately nicknamed “Boogie,” is a three-time All-Star (2015-17), two-time All-NBA second team member (2015, 2016), and Olympic gold medalist (2016-Rio).
In the deal with the Sacramento Kings, the Pelicans got Cousins and 6’9” small forward Omri Casspi in exchange for shooting guard Buddy Hield (the Pelican’s 2016 first round draft pick and sixth overall pick), shooting guard/small forward Tyreke Evans, guard Langston Galloway, and New Orleans’ 2017 first and second round draft picks.
For the past several seasons – so far this one included – New Orleans has been fluttering just outside of playoff contention. This trade should lift the Pelicans into the thick of the playoff race.
Anthony Davis has been New Orleans’ star, and has expectations of being among the NBA’s most elite talent. He was the Pelicans’ first pick (sixth overall) in the 2012 NBA draft. Primarily a power forward with some time at center, too, Davis is a four-time NBA All-Star and 2012 Olympic gold medal winner. But more often than not it hasn’t seemed like he’s had the help needed to get the Pelicans into the postseason.
Not any more. A player almost equal to AD has been added to the roster.
Davis is currently fifth in the NBA in scoring with 27.7 points per game and sixth in rebounds – 11.9. Cousins is currently fourth in scoring – and a tenth of a point better than Davis – with 27.8 per game and 11th in rebounds with 10.6. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (31.1 points, 10.5 rebounds) is the only other NBA player averaging more than 25 points and 10 rebounds a game. Cousins was the Kings’ first pick (fifth overall) in the 2010 NBA draft.
Many prognosticators think the combination of Davis and Cousins will push the Pelicans into the thick of the playoff race. The top eight teams from each conference make the postseason. The Pelicans (23-34) are currently 10th in the Western Conference race, 2.5 games back of eighth-place Denver Nuggets (25-31) and 24.5 games back of the conference leading Golden State Warriors (47-9).
The pair are already calling themselves “Fire & Ice,” for Cousins’ fiery demeanor and Davis’ collected personality.
The pairing is also setting the Pelicans’ ticket office aflame, as the team has, overnight, become the hottest show in town.
“Saying there has been a significant increase would be putting it mildly,” said Mike Stanfield, Pelicans and Saints vice president of sales. “I compare it to the way it was in 2006 when we signed Drew Brees and got Reggie Bush. This has the same writing on the wall. The ticket office has been electric. This thing has really taken off.”