This was originally supposed to be a “please don’t trade for Jahlil Okafor” piece. I had tried writing it one night, got hit with writer’s block and stowed it away for another day.
Oh how the turn tables have... umm... turned?
By now you know the story: New Orleans is getting three-time All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins in exchange for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a 2017 top-three protected (loooooooollllll) first-round pick, a 2017 second-round pick (via Philly), a $25 gift card to Best Buy and the right to name Beyonce’s twins.
I might have made up those last two things.
The longer I look at the package heading Sacramento’s way, the more I can’t believe this is what netted a player of DeMarcus Cousins’ God-given ability. Sacramento couldn’t even fetch another first round pick in this deal? Or maybe snag Cheick Diallo? The Celtics own three first-round picks from Brooklyn in addition to the right to swap picks this year in the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett fiasco of a trade. Garnett and Pierce are absolutely Hall of Fame bound, but KG was in year 18 and Pierce was in year 15 when Boston hoodwinked Brooklyn into three future No. 1’s. Sacramento only got one for the best center in the league who’s only 26.
Call the deal what you want: a steal, a heist, a robbery. Any of those will do really, but nothing appropriately encapsulates what the Pelicans are getting and for how little they had to give up.
DeMarcus Cousins is now a member of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Go read that again.
Only two players have averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds over the past four seasons. New Orleans has both. Since the days of Shaquille O’Neal, only two players have averaged 27 points, 10 rebounds and a block in a season. New Orleans has both of those players on their roster.
Anthony Davis & DeMarcus Cousins are the 1st teammates to average 20 Pts & 10 Reb in a season since Tim Duncan & David Robinson (1997-98). pic.twitter.com/qwY4ubZLFg— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 21, 2017
The Pelicans employ the two best big men in the league and they’re both under the age of 26. Talent wise at least, this is the best frontcourt since David Robinson and Tim Duncan. But remember: 11 years of age separate Robinson from Duncan; Cousins is only three years older than Davis. That’s not to say age is the be-all, end-all but you get what I’m saying right? I can’t remember a time when one team had unequivocally the two best bigs at the same time in their prime. It would be like if Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlin played together. Sure that analogy is a bit hyperbolic, but this is an exciting time for New Orleans.
Can this deal blow up spectacularly in New Orleans’ face? Absolutely it could. This is still the Pelicans after all and they’re hardly a model franchise. They still have a questionable head coach. They still have a confusing hierarchy in the front office. Mickey Loomis, a football guy, is in charge, but doesn’t really do anything because he lets Dell Demps do his thing — but he’s still Demps’ boss. No it doesn’t make sense, yet neither does trading DeMarcus Cousins for Buddy Hield and a first-round pick that may even be in the lottery.
And Cousins, possessing all the talent in the world, still needs to have his baggage monitored. He’s constantly getting hit with technical fouls, he’s never enjoyed success in the league and he had six coaches in seven years. Can he be a headache? Sure. Could a change in scenery be what he’s needed all along?
We’ll find out.
The turmoil surrounding Cousins and Sacramento was very chicken-and-egg-ish. Did Boogie’s craziness derail Sacramento or is Sacramento so incompetent it drove Boogie insane? For a while the answer has been “yes.” Now we’ll get a little clarity on who’s responsible for whom.
In Anthony Davis, Cousins gets something he’s never had his entire career: a peer. Someone just as talented if not more so. Cousins doesn’t have to be the guy, he can just be a guy. Not only does he have Davis, he has Jrue Holiday, who is unquestionably sure to be the best point guard Cousins has ever had the privilege of playing with in his career.
How unprecedented is this Davis-Cousins tandem? In league history there have only been five other instances where teammates averaged 20 points a game and 10 rebounds. Here are the others:
- 1968-69: Wilt Chamberlin and Elgin Baylor
- 1984-85: Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson
- 1985-86: Moses Malone and Charles Barkley
- 1992-93: Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning
- 1997-98: Tim Duncan and David Robinson.
That’s it. That’s the whole list.
What I can’t wait to see is the style of basketball New Orleans plays for the duration of this Boogie-Brow tandem. The game the rest of the league is playing has shifted to space and pace. Everyone’s trying to mimic Golden State. But here’s the thing about the Warriors: they have two of the five to ten best shooters of all time, plus one of the greatest scorers ever, plus the optimal stretch five to add an entirely indefensible dimension to their offense. The Warriors aren’t the Warriors because of the way they play, they’re the Warriors because of who plays for them.
Maybe Dell Demps realized this and decided to zig while many in the league are still zagging. Instead of trying to recreate the impossible, New Orleans is turning back the clock to when giants roamed and dominated the floor.
Think about some of the most iconic teams in league history, what did they have? Otherworldly big men. The ‘77 Blazers had Bill Walton. The Lakers had Kareem. Russell’s Celtics. Duncan’s Spurs. The Pelicans have something at least comparable to that: two exceptionally gifted big men that are monsters on the glass, can score either facing the basket or setting up down low on the block and can handle and pass the ball like guards.
This Davis-Cousins tandem has the potential to be incredibly special. Nobody has what the Warriors have and that’s fine. Now, we can say nobody has what the Pelicans have, too.