I don’t know if you guys heard the news or not but the Pelicans and the Kings made a trade over the weekend. Sacramento sent three time All-Star to New Orleans in exchange for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and two picks in the upcoming draft.
Lost amid all the hoopla that DeMarcus Cousins was on his way to New Orleans, Omri Casspi also joined him on the plane ride over. As you know, the small forward position has ranged from blackhole at worst to ehh not good, not bad at best. Could Casspi be a part of the solution at that spot?
One of the few criticisms aimed at New Orleans in the aftermath of the Boogie deal was the reduction in floor spacing and the team’s depth at guard. But, I think people are overlooking the fact that the addition of Casspi gives New Orleans a serviceable wing that offers some versatility who can be called on to start if push came to shove.
A good but not great small forward, Casspi enjoyed the best season of his career last year in Sacramento. He posted personal bests in points, rebounding and shooting percentages from both the floor and three-point range. Casspi played in 69 (ha nice) games and started in 21, the most for him since the 2011-12 season.
Unfortunately, this season trended downward for Casspi. He only appeared in 22 of Sacramento’s first 57 games and he’s started just twice. He’s averaging 18 minutes a night, and as a result, his scoring and rebounding numbers are down. After shooting nearly 41 percent from deep last season, Casspi’s average has dipped down to around 38 percent. The decline might be exaggerated however, Casspi’s only attempted 29 threes on the season. When he set a career best for three point percentage one year ago, he also attempted a career high 274 treys. Casspi has a decent enough stroke from beyond the arc — just take a look at his percentages from the last three seasons — it’s just a matter of if he gets enough open shots.
Rebounding wise, Casspi’s solid. Among all forwards, his total rebounding percentage is 67th from among 233 eligible players. He ranks ahead of players like Terrence Jones, Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge in this department. That number probably goes down, but that’s the price one pays when playing alongside two absolute beasts in the middle with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
Casspi is a solid enough shooter, but there are a few holes to be found. The first thing that jumps out to me is his inability to get to the free throw line and then actually, you know, make the free throws. For his career, Casspi averages less than two free throw attempts a game and only makes at about a 68 percent clip. If he’s on the floor in a crucial situation, he might be subjected to hacking.
Casspi also has a high turnover rate — like an abnormally high turnover rate for a guy who isn’t asked to carry offenses. Maybe it’s just one of those things. Casspi would also hardly be considered a plus defender, his career defensive rating is 109 and this season it’s a career worst 111.
However, before you turn sour, it must be mentioned Casspi enjoys running in transition AND he’s quite effective. Nearly 29 percent of his offense has come from running in breaks this season and he’s averaging 1.32 PPP — good for the 86th percentile in the league.
New Orleans isn’t bringing in Omri Casspi to put them over the top because that’s hopefully what DeMarcus Cousins is for. Instead, Casspi should be able to carve out a nice role for himself, thanks to his three-point prowess and proficiency in transition. He offers Alvin Gentry a different dimension from Solomon Hill and Dante Cunningham. That’s a good thing because if the head coach wants to put a unit on the floor that pushes the pace, Casspi should be his man.
Anytime you can add a player of DeMarcus Cousins’ caliber you obviously to do it. And if that deal also nets you a player like Omri Casspi, call it a nice bonus.