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2017 Player Reviews: DeMarcus Cousins arrives and gives Anthony Davis a legitimate second star

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It took a couple games to get acclimated, but then BoogieBrow took flight

NBA: Toronto Raptors at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarcus Cousins plays for the New Orleans Pelicans. I can write an article about one of the best centers in the entire NBA suiting up in New Orleans without resorting to fan fiction or firing up ESPN’s Trade Machine. A search for “Pelicans DeMarcus Cousins” returns results that are not photoshopped. This trade really happened. At least for one more season #BoogieBrow is a thing in the NBA beyond the Western Conference All-Stars and Team USA in the summer. I am still pinching myself, waiting for the dream to end and reality to set in.

Of course, mere days after the trade it looked like a nightmare. The Houston Rockets, with former Pelicans Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson in tow, blew the doors off the new front line in New Orleans. Losses on the road to the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder followed along with Boogie’s first technical and a league-mandated suspension to boot. Maybe it was a nightmare.

With the playoffs odds out of reach and three straight losses in hand the national media by and large drew up the BoogieBrow obituary. It was March, the playoff hunt was nigh, and many simply did not have the time to dedicate to covering the development of Cousins and Davis together with other deadlines and story lines looming. An MVP narrative for the ages was on the horizon. In 55 minutes together Davis and Cousins posted a -11.9 net rating. BoogieBrow was dead.

Long live BoogieBrow

A funny thing happened over the next couple games. Cousins and Davis began to work a few things out. Davis did more cutting and Cousins more shooting behind the arc and facilitating. The two posted an impressive +8.5 net rating over their last ten games of the season together. Highlights were numerous.

This image exists.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Cousins best game was against the Memphis Grizzlies. With the rest of the team struggling to put the ball in the basket Boogie took on the task of schooling Marc Gasol and putting the team on his back. In just under 37 minutes Cousins had 41 points and 16 rebounds against one of the (other) best centers the entire NBA has to offer. While the near And-1 mix tape dribbling moves filled the highlights I came away most impressed by Boogie’s ability to finish around the basket. He has a vast array of scooping layups with either hand that should be impossible for a man his size. Combine that with his proclivity in getting to the foul line and the Pelicans should find scoring, especially in the clutch or during a team wide cold stretch, a little easier to manage.

41 points was the most an Anthony Davis teammate has scored when Davis has played in New Orleans. Against a playoff bound opponent, with every game critical to hanging onto a frayed thread of postseason hope, a Pelican beyond AD carried the load. DeMarcus Cousins can do that.

There are other positive things to note. In 17 games Cousins collected just one technical foul (another was later rescinded) in a Pelicans uniform. Stretch that over an 82 game season and Boogie was on pace for just five technical fouls. Consider for a moment that DeMarcus Cousins has averaged over 16 technical fouls a year for the past five seasons. I would be surprised if Cousins receives just five technical fouls next year to be honest, but if he move beyond his more volcanic outbursts one of the most glaring negatives to his game could be remedied.

As one would expect the Pelicans rebounded better and played just a touch slower with DeMarcus Cousins on the floor than off, even after the initial adjustment period. Offensive rebounds improved only slightly while defensive rebounding took a significant step forward.

Here the idea of “pace” needs clarification. With Boogie on the floor the Pelicans allowed far fewer offensive rebounds to the opponent, which would be expected to increase pace as it is measured. Additionally, the Pelicans turned the ball over more often. This should also have a positive impact on pace. However, despite rather significant increases in areas that should increase pace, pace actually dropped slightly. It may be popular to look at the marginal change in pace when Cousins is on or off the floor and determine that the Pelicans played at nearly the same pace offensively when Cousins was on or off the court. Given fewer opponent offensive rebounds and more Pelicans turnovers, it is likely that the difference in the pace of play for New Orleans is slower with Boogie than without than only the pace statistic would suggest.

With great talent comes expectations

DeMarcus Cousins ranked 13th according the ESPN’s NBA Rank last fall. Just four teams in the NBA had multiple players ranked in the top 20; the Golden State Warriors (4), the Cleveland Cavaliers (2), the Los Angeles Clippers (2), and the New Orleans Pelicans (2, Davis ranked sixth). You may notice that two of those teams have won the last two NBA Finals and the other lingers as a Western Conference contender with six consecutive appearances in the playoffs.

Cousins has lingering negatives. He complains on nearly every non-call around the basket. He loafs after such slights instead of hustling back into the play, leaving his teammates to defend four-on-five. The book on DeMarcus Cousins is thorough and many NBA teams make a point to agitate the big man. Additionally, his reputation means he rarely receives the benefit of the doubt from officials. Opponents will regularly defend him in what can be best described as a "no holds barred" method and contact against Cousins is often overlooked. A big man has not been consistently officiated this way since Shaq.

While Boogie has developed into quite the marksman behind the arc and shot 37.5% in a Pelicans uniform, he’s easily enamored with his jump shot. This is likely fueled, in part, by how he is officiated inside the paint. Despite that love of jump shooting nearly 69% of his attempts came from the restricted area or behind the arc in New Orleans; the highest “good shot” rate of his NBA career.

The Pelicans will be expected to make the playoffs next season. DeMarcus Cousins making New Orleans home beside Anthony Davis is why. Two top 20 players in the NBA suit up in the Crescent City together for the first time in franchise history. No need to pinch ourselves anymore.