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Contrary to popular opinion, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins are superb offensive force for modern era

The New Orleans Pelicans are poised to have one of the most progressive NBA offenses around.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors ability to score points has been the gold standard in the NBA for some time now. The Splash Brothers and their teammates are best known for raining down three-pointers from everywhere on the court, but there’s a lot of other things the Warriors do well that make their offense the envy around the league.

Over the summer, Stephen Shea wrote a great article revealing the key factors of a progressive offense. Not surprisingly, the Warriors fared extremely well in all facets: shot selection, ball movement and counterattack. Stephen Curry’s crew has posted the highest Modern Offensive Strategy Scores (MOSS) in three successive seasons, simply blowing away the competition.

You know which team is poised to significantly close the gap on them?

The New Orleans Pelicans — more specifically, the Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins-led New Orleans Pelicans.

For the 2016-17 campaign, the Pelicans posted the 10th best MOSS score, finishing right on the heels of the San Antonio Spurs. Interestingly, this barely eclipsed their score from the previous season despite a remarkably different roster, but nevertheless, they are good scores and indicative of Alvin Gentry’s presence. Yet, the best news of all is that there is real hope New Orleans is about to make a leap into the top five, perhaps even the top three, of running a Warrior-like scheme.

Goodshot% avg seconds per touch secondary assists RelOSpeed
Warriors 2017 season 72% (7th) 2.43 sec (1st) 9.65 (1st) 1.12 (2nd)
Pelicans 2016 season 65% (18th) 2.73 sec (15th) 4.5 (26th) 1.12 (2nd)
Pelicans 2017 season 66% (18th) 2.66 sec (8th) 4.9 (20th) 1.10 (8th)
Pelicans Pre-Boogie 64% 2.64 sec (8th) 4.6 (24th) 1.10
Pelicans Post-Boogie 66% 2.72 sec (10th) 5.6 (12th) 1.09
Pelicans 2/23-3/18 64% 2.75 sec (11th) 5.6 (10th) 1.08
Pelicans 3/19-4/4 70% 2.68 sec (8th) 5.7 (13th) 1.09

No team is as dedicated to taking smart shots as Daryl Morey’s Rockets, attempting a ridiculous 84% of their shots last season at the rim, outside the three-point line or at the free throw line. While the Pelicans season mark of 66% lagged well behind, New Orleans made significant strides once Cousins arrived — Believe it or not, the goodshot% was highest when Davis and Cousins were both on the floor. During their 394 minutes together, the Pelicans goodshot percentage was a fantastic 72.0%. And if you believe in adjustment periods, that percentage was an even more stellar 76.2% over the superstars final seven games together.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to the goodshot% explosion, the Pelicans became a better ball movement team after the 2017 All-Star break. The average seconds per touch have always been a positive since Gentry’s arrival, but secondary assists remained a sore subject since the league started tracking them. Monty Williams’ offenses habitually ignored utilizing quick passes to get an open shot, and Gentry wasn’t able to flip the switch as well as most hoped initially. All of this seems like a thing of the past now, as the late season improvement, the emphasis on quick offensive execution witnessed in practices during training camp and Gentry outright promoting Chris Finch’ strategies, have the arrow decidedly pointing upwards.

“We want to try and develop a winning attitude and chemistry here,” said Gentry after Monday’s practice, “but the most important thing is that we’ve got to try to get to the point where we’re trying to do some of things that Chris Finch talked to them about offensively: ball movement, relocation, quick decisions and things like that.”

This is timely news because it should perpetuate the Pelicans taking advantage of their unique combination of size and speed. Too many have a preconceived notion that Gentry needs to slow the offense down and pound the ball into the post, pointing to the Pelicans disappointing W/L record with Boogie.

Nothing could be further from the truth. This isn’t a young Dwight Howard flanked by four Orlando Magic snipers, nor the former Zach Randolph-Marc Gasol Grizzlies whose overwhelmingly best attribute was waging a war of attrition in the paint.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Davis and Cousins are incredibly unique and suited to play almost any style. They’re multi-faceted scorers and decision-makers, who are both knocking on the door of being legitimate triple threats and being effective from the three most efficient spots on the floor (rim, three-point line, free throw line). If Davis’ offseason work on his ball handling and long range shooting translates even partially, opponents will have their hands full stopping one of these guys, let alone both beasts at the same time!

Go big and Davis or Cousins makes you pay with an outside jumper, a pass to an open cutter or drive to the rim. Go small and prepare for the Pelicans to live at the free throw line, among other things.

For the plan to carry the Pelicans into the postseason, the group is going to have to collectively do a better job of hitting the three ball at a higher rate than they did last season after Boogie arrived. As I’ve already written, there exists enough hope for a turnaround. However, perhaps more importantly, remember that a small ball offense involves so much more than just knocking down a high amount of triples. In fact, one could argue getting a higher degree of shots at the rim and the free throw line may be the bigger key because a team is better suited at avoiding losses on off-shooting nights and this Pelicans squad isn’t loaded with Kyle Korvers and Klay Thompsons.

With Boogie and The Brow sitting 3rd and 6th in foul line frequency and averaging the 3rd and 15th highest amount of attempts inside the restricted area, the Pelicans have a distinct scoring advantage from two of the three premium locations right at the jump. If New Orleans maintains executing schematically as well as most other highly progressive teams — and every indication is they will — and improve ever so slightly in many efficiency departments — which should be aided by an increase in the number of open looks from playing alongside a high-IQ passer in Rajon Rondo and amid an offense that emphases tons of player movement, Cousins-Davis lineups are poised to be one giant, yet noticeably modern, wrecking ball.