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DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis surrounded by significant holes on Pelicans roster

Too many unreliable role players on offense populate Alvin Gentry’s lineups

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Soon after the biggest trade of the deadline period was announced, many immediately focused on how DeMarcus Cousins would fit alongside Anthony Davis in New Orleans. Funny thing is, that’s turned out to be the least of Alvin Gentry’s problems.

Through three games, both superstars are as dominant together as they were once apart playing for different teams.

Points Rebounds Assists FG% FGA FT% FTA Turnovers Steals Blocks
DeMarcus Cousins 23.3 13.0 4.7 51.2% 14.3 82.1% 9.3 3.0 2.7 1.3
Anthony Davis 35.3 10.0 1.7 48.2% 27.7 74.2% 10.3 2.0 1.3 1.3

No, all of the problems lie with the rest of roster. There are simply not enough role players with enough offensive talent to be considered the third, fourth or even fifth options on an average team.

Having Jrue Holiday return to his pre All-Star ways would be a big help, but it’s not fair to place all the blame on his shoulders. One should expect that either he, Big Cuz or AD are going to suffer a down night. In addition, we can trust E’Twaun Moore to try and do his part because he’s proven to be a nice complimentary scorer over the course of his 6-year career.

But glancing up and down the rest of the roster, it’s difficult to find any more reliable scorers.

Sorry, Solomon Hill, you’re missing the much bigger issue. When Tyreke Evans, Buddy Hield and Langston Galloway were traded away and the front office waived Omri Casspi (damn you broken thumb) and Terrence Jones (which is looking more and more questionable by the day), the Pelicans lost five of their nine highest usage players. That alone isn’t detrimental, but when you combine it with a remaining roster comprised of reluctant shooters who possess below average true shooting percentages, it can have damaging effects.

The other day I made mention of the Pelicans losing a lot of scoring mentality in a game preview, but there’s a better way to describe the current situation: There is a shortage of players willing to be aggressive and/or possess enough offensive talent to act as credible threats on the floor. In essence this means that the Big 3 + Moore should likely expect little to no help going forward with the current group.

USG% Points/36 TS% Career USG% Career Points/36 Career TS%
Tim Frazier 17.8% 12.2 51.8% 18.4% 11.9 49.9%
Alexis Ajinca 16.2% 10.9 49.3% 19.3% 14.2 54.4%
Donatas Motiejunas 16.1% 11.0 52.0% 19.2% 14.5 53.1%
Reggie Williams 14.6% 12.3 51.8% 18.7% 15.4 55.8%
Solomon Hill 11.0% 8.3 53.8% 13.6% 9.8 52.2%
Hollis Thompson 10.9% 6.0 39.2% 14.5% 11.6 53.6%
Dante Cunningham 10.7% 8.7 54.2% 13.8% 10.2 50.0%
Jarrett Jack 10.4% 8.6 77.3% 19.9% 14.2 54.1%
Omer Asik 8.8% 6.3 51.7% 13.7% 9.8 55.0%
Cheick Diallo 21.4% 15.7 47.2% 21.4% 15.7 47.2%

For a good reference point, the average True Shooting percentage for the 2016-17 season through the games this past Sunday is 55.1%. Only Jarrett Jack has managed to exceed that mark, but hey, he’s only played 25 minutes and all that prowess did fail to make an appearance against the Thunder.

Tim Frazier has the fifth highest Usage rate on the team, but that only places him 58th among players who have surpassed 500 minutes and average 5.0 or more assists a game per 36 minutes. Also, consider the fact that even Ricky Rubio has a higher TS% on the season. That’s a discouraging combination for Frazier and there is no question his 469-minute audition close to one year ago is looking more and more an outlier. One can hope steady minutes every game increases his comfort level and boosts production, but I’m not going to hold my breath any more.

Alexis Ajinca is allergic to Alvin Gentry. Under Monty Williams, he was well above average on offense, but for Alvin, he’s been just the opposite — an utter disaster. Omer Asik has been nearly as undependable but obviously was never a factor in that end of the floor prior to the arrival of the current coach.

Donatas Motiejunas is a player who missed training camp and half of the regular season because of contract negotiation issues. Do not also dismiss the idea that maybe there’s times his back isn’t feeling 100%.

Dante Cunningham and Hill? They are who they are: incredibly low usage players who take the majority of shot attempts from behind the three-point line. Although they essentially live on the same part of the floor as Kyle Korver, they fail to create any of his salivating gravity. Opponents don’t have to chase the “Corner Boys” around the perimeter or through screens, plus the Pelicans’ duo won’t let it fly unless they’re wide open.

As to New Orleans three 10-day contracts, Hollis Thompson is probably the best of the bunch — thanks to a rather consistent deep ball over the course of his career — but that's not saying much. He’s another epically low usage player who attempted about 60% of his shots with the 76ers last season when a defender stood 4 feet away or further. Additionally, a 1.6 free throw attempt average and a pitiful 7.3 Assist percentage during his 4 years in Philly scream one dimensional player.

Reggie Williams may seem capable of more, but realize his statistics are significantly buoyed by spending his first two years in Golden State, a points-friendly system created by Don Nelson.

Cheick Diallo gets mentioned last because he’s the rookie who is considered to be too raw by the coaching staff. They’re obviously right to a degree, but New Orleans small playoff hopes might dictate flinging an assortment of objects towards a wall and seeing if anything sticks.

Following Sunday’s loss to the Thunder, Justin Verrier related how Davis and Cousins are planning to get other guys involved in upcoming games.

Cousins said he and Davis talked after that game and tossed around the idea of getting the rest of the team involved earlier, including Holiday.

"It's well-documented that we can both play," Cousins said. "We were kind of speaking about what we can do better after the game, and I think it's going to take me and him sacrificing a little more just to get the guys around us involved. We need them to make shots. We need them to feel involved. If it takes us sacrificing for the betterment of the team, then that might be what it takes."

I’m encouraged that Boogie is eager to experiment in order to change the team’s losing ways, but who wants to break it to him that may not be a good idea? Outside of himself, Davis, Holiday and Moore, it’s difficult to pinpoint another player on the roster that is willing and able to get himself a shot when he’s not left wide open.

So, the next time you hear someone talk about how these are normal growing pains following a seismic trade or specifically that Cousins and Davis haven’t meshed yet, just as Kevin Garnett and Latrell Sprewell did Monday evening on TNT...

...please remember the truth: Don’t blame Boogie nor The Brow on the scoring side of things because nearly all of the remaining players on the roster are equipped with insufficient firepower.