What are the New Orleans Pelicans going to do with DeMarcus Cousins?
The Pelicans acquired the much-maligned Cousins in hopes that he and Anthony Davis could lead the team to the playoffs. That didn’t occur last season as New Orleans went 11-14 after receiving the 6-11 big man from Sacramento, including 7-10 with Cousins and Davis starting together.
Cousins did play well in his 17 games with the Pelicans in 2016-17, posting 24.4 points and 12.2 rebounds along with 3.9 assists. The 27-year-old also shot 45.2% from the field and 37.5% from beyond the arc.
Cousins will be a free agent at the end of the season. So, the Pelicans have a decision to make: trade him, re-sign him to a huge deal or let him walk at the end of the season for nothing.
There had been a numbered teams who had been rumored to be interested in trading for Cousins this offseason: Boston, Cleveland and the Los Angeles Lakers as well as the LA Clippers being among them. It is conceivable that he ultimately ends up with one of those four teams by the end of the season or another team.
But this article will look at the four best realistic trade packages, in my opinion, that teams could offer for Cousins.
Cousins posted a double-double in New Orleans opening season 103-91 loss to Memphis on Wednesday. He finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds, 7 blocks and 2 assists in 38 minutes. He also only made 9-of-21 shots from the field, including 3-of-9 from beyond the arc, and picked up a technical in the final minute of the contest. Last night, he scored 39 points with 13 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks against the Trail Blazers, and arguably he is the best big man in the NBA right now.
Philadelphia 76ers package: Jahlil Okafor, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a conditional first round pick or a couple of second-round draft picks
The Philadelphia 76ers have an eye on competing in the near future, but they need a star player to go along with all their youngsters so “Boogie” would be a great pickup. Cousins would be great either at play power forward alongside Joel Embiid or at center with Ben Simmons playing the 4. Simmons would either likely come off the bench or he could start at small forward to give the Sixers a huge frontcourt. If Simmons starts at the three position, Robert Covington would move to the pine.
Getting Okafor and Saric in return for Cousins would be great for the Pelicans.I know that a lot of people are down on Okafor, but the guy is only 21 years and he can really score as he has some of the best footwork in the game. Plus, he has shown an improvement on the boards and his shooting efficiency during the preseason.
Saric exploded during the second half of last season, producing 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 43.2% from the floor. The well-rounded 23-year old finished second in Rookie of the Year voting as he made 1.3 three-pointers a game and produced 10 double-doubles. He had a decent showing in EuroBaskets this summer, compiling three double-doubles though three-point accuracy and turnovers are a concern.
Bayless is basically a throw-in as he is needed to make the salaries work. He is a veteran point guard who has a scoring mentality that has battled injuries throughout his career. The 29-year-old has had an up-and-down preseason, however, he has shot the ball from beyond the arc well. Bayless is averaging 8.7 points while shooting 48% from the field and 41.1% from beyond the arc for his career.
Final Word: Saric is the jewel of the trade due to his versatility. While neither Saric or Okafor will be stars in the league they would improve the Pelicans overall talent and both players are under team control for the next years as well. Plus, they would benefit from playing with Anthony Davis. Bayless has two years left on his contract at $9 million a year and would be a candidate for the stretch provision.
Okafor would likely replace Cousins in the starting lineup while Saric would start at small forward, thus moving Dante Cunningham to the bench.
This deal is very realistic. Philadelphia has been looking to deal Okafor for some time and Bayless, who has a history of being injury prone, is on the roster mainly because of his salary situation. The 76ers have at least one first-round draft pick through 2024 and multiple second-round selections the next two years.
Indiana Pacers package: Bojan Bogdanovic, Myles Turner, and a first round pick
Indiana is not expected to be very good in 2017, but they are in the Eastern Conference, meaning that they are a star player away from being a serious contender. The Pacers do have a veteran-laden lineup with Thaddeus Young, Darren Collison, Al Jefferson, Cory Jefferson and Lance Stephenson.
Turner is a very promising youngster with a lot of upsides and he would fit nicely along with Davis. The 21-year-old has a similar skill set as Cousins though he not at his level as a scorer yet and probably will never be an elite rebounder... Turner, who improved in every statistical category last season, is excellent around the basket and has improved his range to become a capable three-point shooter. He is also a good passer and a definitely better defender than Cousins.
Bogdanovic is the shooter that the Pelicans so desperately desire. Bogdanovic is known as a knockdown shooter and has registered a 55% true shooting percentage in each of his first three seasons. The 28-year-old is coming off his best season in 2016-17, averaging 13.7 points along with 3.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists while shooting 44.5% from the field and 36.7% from beyond the arc.
Bogdanovic is not an elite scorer and struggles mightily on the defensive end. He did top the 20-point mark 16 times last year. Bogdanovic also had 44 games with multiple three-pointers, including a career-eight against Orlando on March 5.
Last year, Cousins led the team with 2.1 triples a game. Jordan Crawford is the team’s leading returning three-point marksman, sinking 1.9 three-pointers at a 38.9% clip despite playing in only 19 games for NOLA. Jrue Holiday, Dante Cunningham and E’Twuan Moore also made more than one three-pointer.
Final Word: This deal is conceivable especially if Indiana thinks they can be a factor in the Eastern Conference. Bogdanovic can’t be traded until mid-December, which is about when the Pelicans may start seriously considering trading Boogie.
Indiana may not be willing to give up their first-round draft choice this season, which would be okay as the Pacers own their own first rounders through the year 2025.
Dallas Mavericks package: Nerlens Noel, Dwight Powell, and Seth Curry along with future draft pick considerations
The Mavericks have had a tough time getting star players to come to Dallas. So, a trade would likely be the only way to get a major building piece. The Mavericks are currently in a rebuilding mode, so obtaining Cousins is highly unlikely. But the Mavs do have Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes, rookie Dennis Smith Jr., as well as Wesley Matthews, who has the ability to put up points in bunches when healthy. Cousins would step in for Nowitzki as the face of the franchise with Nowitzki set to retire soon.
Noel is an unique player. The 6-11 athletic center is a defensive force who is also an outstanding rebounder. He is excellent around the rim though his offensive game is still evolving. Noel will never be an elite scorer, however, he did register a 62.2% true shooting percentage last season.
Powell has improved in each of his three NBA seasons. And his game is still rounding into shape. Powell produced two double-doubles and compiled 6.7 points and 4.0 rebounds a game while shooting 51.5% from the field in 2016-17. He has expanded his game this offseason with his improved three-point shooting and has made 7-of-19 (36.8%) attempts from beyond the arc this preseason.
Curry is an outstanding shooter, which as stated above the Pelicans need, but he showed that he has more in his arsenal last year. Curry demonstrated that he could be a reliable scorer, tallying double-figures 47 times in 70 appearances. He topped the 20-point plateau 11 times including a career-high 31 points against Minnesota on Feb. 24.
Curry averaged 12.8 points, 2.7 assists and 2.6 rebounds while shooting 48.1% from the field and 42.5% from beyond the arc in 29 minutes of action. He posted one double-double and increased his assist-to-turnover to 2.04 which is up from 1.86 in 2015-16. He is also a slightly better-than-average defender recording a 0.01 defensive real-plus rating and a 15.3 PER.
Final Word: Just like the Mavs would want to secure Cousins future serves before consummating this deal, the Pelicans would have to do the same with Noell and Curry as both players are in the. final year of their contract.
Noel would take over at center since AD prefers to play the 4. The defensive pairing of Davis and Noel would send shivers to opposing teams as both players possess athleticism and length.
Powell would provide depth for the Pelicans at all three frontcourt positions. The 6-11 forward would likely compete with Chiek Diallo, Alexis Ajinca, Darius Miller and Solomon Hill for the designation as the first big man off the bench.
In the meanwhile, Curry would likely be the team’s third guard backing up both Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo though he could very well start alongside Holiday.
Los Angeles Lakers package: Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Ivica Zubac plus a future conditional first round pick
The Lakers are probably the most logical destination of the five teams listed, with the Nuggets being the most likely. If Cousins landed in Los Angeles with the Lakers, his star power would skyrocket. He would thrive unlike he has anywhere else he has been as he potentially be with the most talented team of his career with Lonzo Ball running the point and Brandon Ingram on the wing plus the other additions the team made.
Clarkson is a solid scorer off the bench who is a good distributor. Inconsistency is the 25-year-old’s biggest issue though his best years are in front of him.
Clarkson can light up the scoreboard when he heats up, tallying 20 or more points on 15 occasions. He has averaged at least 19 points per 40 minutes in each of his first three seasons.
Clarkson averaged 14.7 points as he shot a career-high 44.5% from the field last year. He also posted his highest effective field goal percentage of his career in 2016-17 at 50%.
Randle is extremely talented and very gifted on the offensive end. He improved dramatically on the offensive end from his rookie season -- technically his second year in the league -- to last year, compiling 13.2 points on 48.7% shooting from the field. He also accumulated 18 double-doubles and three triple-doubles in 74 games to increase his totals to 54 double-doubles and four triple-doubles in two seasons.
Randle also hits the boards hard, especially on the offensive end. The athletic 6-9 forward has the ability to handle ball on the perimeter and is a good passer thus making him an ideal point forward. He can score in the post and can to the rim off the dribble. However, he still needs to work on expanding his range as he is shooting 27.3% from beyond the arc for his career.
Zubac is a project though he is very skilled. The 7-1 20-year-old has outstanding footwork and did a nice job working on his physical fitness. He is a good rebounder and passer out the low post. Defensively, Zubac is a quality rim-protector.
Zubac had a nice rookie season despite seeing sporadic action last season, averaging 7.5 points along with 4.2 rebounds while shooting 52.9% from the field. His per 40 minutes stats are more impressive where he would average 18.7 points and 10.4 boards.
Final Word: I really like this package for the Pelicans as all three players are very young with tremendous upside. The biggest issues for Pelicans is that Clarkson and Randle are not good on the defensive end. Clarkson has the ability to play all three backcourt positions while Randle is mainly a power forward though he has played center often.
Los Angeles is unable to trade their first-round choice until 2020 due to NBA rules regarding trading first round picks in consecutive years.
The Lakers would probably not do this trade as they are planning on going after several big name free agents after the season, namely LeBron James and Paul George. Cousins would eat up a huge amount of their salary cap space.