sFollowing Sunday night's snooze inducing all-star showcase, I won't give it the dignity of being called a game, the word got out that Demarcus "Boogie" Cousins had after ample rumors been traded. The deal would appear to be great fit for Cousins who won't even have to buy another plane ticket as he was dealt to New Orleans where Sunday's showcase was held, in a multi-player & pick bonanza.
While the details of the deal have been well covered, the potential implications for the league has been largely ignored.
Cousins going to New Orleans does not immediately make them a title contender, but what it does do is signify something much bigger and potentially much more impactful.
This trade shows that the Pelicans believe that the current trend of all guards and small-ball three point shooting free-for-alls does not have to be the blueprint for success.
By pairing the newly acquired Cousins with franchise cornerstone and fellow Kentucky Wildcat Anthony Davis, New Orleans has stated loudly and proudly that they believe size and post presence are still viable paths to NBA victories and glory.
Make no mistake, for this trade to even partially reverse the seemingly unstoppable all-in trend in the NBA toward small ball and 'pace-space' play as it's called, it will have to result in a championship, or at the very least impactful and memorable appearances in the conference finals. Anything less will not cause this change. That said, provided the Pelicans are able to keep Cousins beyond his 2018 free-agency date -- and you have to think they will or they wouldn't have made the trade, I for one find it very plausible that they will be title contenders within 3-years.
New Orleans will have work to do on their roster, no question, losing Galloway, Evans and the rookie Hield plus upcoming draft selections will have to be accounted for with future roster moves. The move leaves Jrue Holiday and Terrence Jones as the only players outside Davis and the inbound Cousins who average over 10-points per game. E'Taun Moore is close with 9.8.
In addition to complimentary firepower from the wing and guard spots, there's also the question of style. At the break New Orleans was in the top half of the league, (12) overall in 3-point attempts per game at 26.5. Yet they were only 17th in 3-point percentage. While Cousins has shown a proclivity over the last two-seasons for shooting, and making at a reasonable clip the long-ball, with the slightly quicker and more mobile Anthony Davis now playing alongside him, will Cousins be willing and able to scale back and perhaps all but eliminate his long-distance prospecting? If this experiment is to work, he will likely have to.
Then there is the question of coach Alvin Gentry who is most known for his time with the Suns and their 7-seconds or less offensive mentality of last decade. Is he willing to modify his approach and blend the talents of his two prodigious big men?
The good news for Gentry and his new-look squad is both these bigs are solid free-throw shooters and are mobile enough on the perimeter defensively to not be taken out of a game by small-ball lineups. This will allow the team to exploit the massive size and post advantages it's going to have every night it takes the floor. The troubles that plague other big-men and the teams that employ them around the league, such as Drummond in Detroit, Howard in Atlanta and Jordan in Los Angeles will not be what derails this experiment with a more classic team-building approach. Where this deal and ultimately it's ability to swing the NBA pendulum back toward the big men is in New Olreans' ability to build the right team and system around the two bigs. If they are able to complete their team and build a winning culture and system expect the approach and thus the value of big men to rise again.
While these and other stylistic, personnel and cap challenges lie ahead for New Orleans, what's clear is at least in the front office the organization has decided that a trip down NBA memory lane in terms of team construction is likely to yield positive results. Big men pairings are nothing new, however, in this day and age they are like vinyl records, everything old eventually becomes new again.
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