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NBA Scouts, Executives and Coaches Consider Pelicans' Ceiling with Boogie

this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; The news of DeMarcus Cousins ’ post-All-Star Game partnership with Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans sent shockwaves through the NBA . For the first time since 2011, a superstar-caliber talent had been dealt during the season—for pennies on ...

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Old 03-01-2017, 08:30 AM   #1
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NBA Scouts, Executives and Coaches Consider Pelicans' Ceiling with Boogie

The news of DeMarcus Cousins’ post-All-Star Game partnership with Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans sent shockwaves through the NBA. For the first time since 2011, a superstar-caliber talent had been dealt during the season—for pennies on the dollar and in defiance of previous reports assuring a long-term partnership between Cousins and the Sacramento Kings.

“I think everybody’s initial reaction was surprise,” a Western Conference executive told Bleacher Report. “You heard his name being thrown around so much and nothing ever happened, and it seemed like Sacramento was committing to him long term. Then, all of a sudden, he gets traded.”

How far those ripple effects reach will depend on the success (or failure) of the newly formed Boogie-Brow behemoth in the Big Easy.

It’s been more than a decade since the league last saw such a potentially devastating frontcourt combination take shape—a half-decade if you count the last time Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum teamed up for the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It reminded me actually of the two big guys we had in Dave and Timmy and how that could be a devastating combo,” said Sean Elliott, who played next to the dynamic duo of David Robinson and Tim Duncan with the San Antonio Spurs. “And the fact that both those guys are multitalented, both of them can shoot the ball with range and play with their back to the basket, that’s just unusual in today’s game.”

So far, the results suggest a more localized effect. The Pelicans lost three straight coming out of the All-Star break by an average of 17 points per game, though not for any lack of production from their bigs. They’ve combined for 58.7 points, 23.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 4.0 steals and 2.7 blocks.

During the duo's debut, (a 30-point blowout loss to the Houston Rockets at the Smoothie King Center), New Orleans opted to play the All-Stars in separate actions—mainly pick-and-rolls and post-ups—far more often than off each other.

“They played the way they normally do,” a big-man coach who works for an NBA team said. “They had like one practice and one shootaround, so they couldn’t do much, or it was like a limited package that they had for those guys.”

By the time the Pelicans hit the road for a weekend back-to-back against the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder, Davis and Cousins were already operating in the sorts of high-low looks that scouts and executives around the NBA expected to see. Against the Mavericks, Davis rode his role as a high-post trailer around the three-point line to 27 points and 10 rebounds in the first half.

“That’s what Anthony Davis worked with before, guys who were primarily low,” an Eastern Conference scout said.

The offensive fit between the two should be a comfortable one once they feel each other out—assuming, of course, that everything is copacetic on a personal level between the two Kentucky products.

“If Boogie is, in fact, bats--t crazy, then it’s not going to work,” an Eastern Conference executive said.

Davis is already comfortable facing up from the perimeter with another big inside. And with Cousins’ ability to shoot, New Orleans can clear the lane for Davis to do damage around the rim.

A potentially strong starting point: a horns set, wherein the two bigs set up toward the top of the key and the lead guard—in the Pelicans’ case, Jrue Holiday—drives off one of the two.

“They can pop Cousins and roll Anthony Davis,” the Eastern Conference scout added, “but they’ve got to do something like that, which rotates itself into a high-low opportunity.”

The consensus seems to be that Davis and Cousins should have no trouble getting buckets. They’re arguably the two best offensive bigs in basketball, with the point-per-game averages to prove it.

“They’re going to cause so many problems defensively just because of how they can score,” the Western Conference executive said.

The more pressing offensive concern will be figuring out how to improve the perimeter play around these twin towers.

Langston Galloway and Buddy Hield—who were first and second in three-point makes and attempts among the Pelicans—are both in Sacramento now as part of the Cousins trade. They were more credible all-around threats than, say, Hollis Thompson or Reggie Williams, both of whom have quickly assumed prominent roles for the Pelicans since the shakeup.

New Orleans is now counting on them, along with the likes of E’Twaun Moore and Solomon Hill, to knock down shots.

“You’ve got to have shooters,” the Eastern Conference scout said, “and they don’t right now.”

The good news is, anyone on the Pelicans with a pulse should have ample space to launch with Davis and Cousins attracting more double-teams than Chandler Parsons out on the town.

“They both have the ability to make the game easier for the players around them,” Elliott said.

That hasn’t held true for Holiday. His first three games next to Boogie-Brow produced some ugly results—28.9 percent shooting (14.3 percent from three) with 5.3 turnovers, to be exact. The Pelicans don’t need Holiday to be a scorer, but if he struggles to drain open shots and get the ball to his bigs, they could find themselves in serious trouble, lest combo guard journeyman (and recent signee) Jarrett Jack can tap into his pre-injury self.

Whatever potholes New Orleans hit en route to scoring stability, it can count on head coach Alvin Gentry to pave a new way.

“Alvin’s such a good offensive mind that he’ll figure something out that works,” the Western Conference executive said.

Sorting out the defensive end between Davis and Cousins may be the trickiest part of the equation.

Davis has all the tools to dominate around the rim, but he'll likely have to spend more time chasing perimeter-oriented power forwards while Cousins defends the paint.

“For Boogie, he’s not going to be able to guard guys on the perimeter, and he’s not a better rim protector, either,” a Western Conference scout said. “I think defensively is where they’re really going to have problems.”

In terms of size and strength, Cousins is better equipped to body up big, strong post-players than Davis, who “doesn’t really have a trunk,” the Eastern Conference executive said. “He gets dislodged. He gets backed down. He gets pushed for rebounding very easily.”

Davis has ample length and athleticism to challenge shots around the arc. Cousins does, too, though his motor and commitment on defense remain problematic.

“If they’re able to also contain other bigs and are able to do other things due to their size and kicking out, that may make it easier for the perimeter players to defend a different strategy where you allow guys to go into the paint, where it's not as dangerous,” said Ryan Blake, a scouting consultant for the league.

Getting guys to jell on either end of the floor is tough enough with a full training camp. The Pelicans will have far less than that to integrate the volatile Cousins, whose skills and preferred spaces on the floor overlap with those of their incumbent star. Just 22 games remain on New Orleans' schedule, and Boogie is suspended for the next one after notching his league-leading 18th technical of 2016-17 season in Oklahoma City.

“I know everybody around the league that plays fantasy basketball in their minds thinks it should work right away, but it doesn't always work out that way,” Elliott said. “It takes a little bit of time to build chemistry.”

It also takes more than a couple of marquee characters to stage a successful basketball show. For all that Davis and Cousins do, they can only fill two out of five spots at any given time and can’t spend every minute on the court.

“It’s not about two guys,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s about how the group comes together and how the pieces fit, how people establish themselves in their roles, how much they love playing together, how mentally tough a group can be. It’s a lot of those things. You can’t just say, because of these two guards or these two big men, it’s all going to work.

“There’s a lot of things that go into becoming a championship club. There’s no one formula; that’s for sure.”

From where they stand now, the Pelicans have a long climb ahead before they can so much as picture Larry O’Brien Trophies in their sleep. They’re four games back of a playoff spot in the West, with five teams to leapfrog. Even if they get into the playoffs, Boogie and the Brow would likely have to contend with the Golden State Warriors in the first round.

“But any time you’re in a playoff series and you face players of that talent, it’s not going to be an easy series,” the Western Conference executive said of the Pelicans All-Stars, “just because those guys offensively are so great.”

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats and salary information via NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and listen to his Hollywood Hoops podcast with B/R Lakers lead writer Eric Pincus.

Read more New Orleans Pelicans news on BleacherReport.com

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