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NBA Preview: Pelicans need win against re-tooled OKC Thunder

OKC host of NBA’s second-biggest trade, netting Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans visit the OKC Thunder Sunday at 6 pm on the second night of a back-to-back after last night’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Watch it on Fox Sports New Orleans or hear it on 99.5 FM.

Tonight will be the third game of the DeMarcus Cousins era (and second after the disappointing departure of Omri Casspi, as well as second with new-but-old Jarrett Jack) and is the fourth and final matchup against OKC, with the Pels being winless thus far.

The story is all about Big Cuz and Anthony Davis, of course, but after a strong Jrue Holiday game last night (18 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists), worries now reside with everybody else, including new faces Hollis Thompson, Reggie Williams and Jarrett Jack.

Thursday’s game, an ugly loss to the powerful Houston Rockets, featured a generally positive night for Cousins as he racked up big stats and provided some nice defensive play, especially while the game was still being played relatively even. Cuz again put up big numbers last night, finishing with 12 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals; AD was a monster, totaling 39 points, 14 boards and 2 blocks.

AD as a recipient of Cousins playmaking seems to make sense, but all of the other guys can’t just stand around. Jrue’s decision-making will be THE thing to watch the rest of the year, in my opinion, but it’s understandable that he could take awhile to figure out his place.

The Thunder are also trying to make things work after a trade with the Chicago Bulls; OKC got Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott (plus a second round pick) and sent away Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow and Joffrey Lauvergne. Just as NBA twitter and national and local media have concluded the Cousins deal as a fleece, the same could be said for what OKC gained. Somehow, both trades featured trades in which the best two players involved went to the same team - unless, of course, Buddy Hield turns out to be the next Steph Curry (he did look nice in the Kings’ Thursday night win vs. Denver).

Taj Gibson immediately impacts the team’s defense - and defensive potential for the Thunder’s playoff run - while McBuckets takes all potential minutes from not only Morrow, but Kyle Singler and maybe Jerami Grant (more deserving of minutes at the 4 than the 3) and provides more spacing for Russell Westbrook.

In addition to their trade, OKC also just got Enes Kanter back from a few missed weeks due to a broken arm suffered when he angrily slammed his hand on a chair. He’ll have a new role to find with Gibson (or still-starting Domantas Sabonis) and McDermott at his side. The days of relying on 5 straight Kanter post isos is no longer necessary, even if it muddles things up in the near-term.

Also, OKC’s beloved grandfather (and former Pelican) Kendrick Perkins might re-join the Thunder since they have an open 15th roster spot, although they’re in dire need of a backup point guard much more than they are in need of a “lockerroom vet.” Hell, that’s the whole point of Nick Collison!

Let’s get the Boogie-Brow-Jrue triumvirate going, steal a much-needed win and head off to Detroit to batter the Pistons after a few days off.

Geaux Pelicans!