In a disappointing reality of events, the New Orleans Pelicans are 0-4 in the games in which Anthony Davis and the newly-acquired Demarcus Cousins have both played in — 1-4 overall since the trade and return from the All-Star break.
With arguably (unarguably?) the top two players at their respective positions on the same team, rather than showing signs of improvement, the Pelicans seem to be moving backwards. While there is no shame in losing to clearly superior teams (Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs) and teams currently ahead in the standings (Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks), a team trying to make a playoff push needs to be able to pull off upset wins and beat teams “they aren’t supposed to beat.”
Many of us knew this Pelicans team likely wouldn’t immediately find success, but we also didn’t expect this. The problem, however, hasn’t been with Davis or Cousins. Since coming over to New Orleans, Cousins is averaging 22.3 PPG, 15.3 RPG (!), and 4.5 APG on 47.5 percent shooting from the field. Davis, on the other hand, is averaging 33.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG, and 1.2 BPG on 49.1 percent shooting from the field in the five total games; 33.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG, and 1.3 BPG on 46.5 percent shooting from the field in the four games with Cousins also in the lineup.
As with many teams who’ve struggled to live up to expectations in the past, a coaching change usually occurs as a result. That brings me to the question: Is Alvin Gentry on borrowed time as the Pelicans’ coach?
Whether deservedly or not, coaches usually get the brunt of the blame when a team struggles. Despite the fact that the Pelicans gave up much of their wing depth in order to trade for Cousins, the popular belief was that having two top 10 players should be enough to offset that. The great individual numbers of the two bigs aside, obviously, five games in, that clearly hasn’t been the case.
Gentry is known for being an offensive mastermind, a big part of the 2014-2015 championship Golden State Warriors offense that won the NBA Championship. He prefers to play fast, shoot a high number of threes, and values ball movement. However, with two big men as the focal point of the offense, that style simply doesn’t fit them, nor play to their strengths.
If the question is whether to force his stars to play outside of their comfort zone or alter his offense in order to best utilize his stars’ strengths, the answer is clearly the latter. Despite the fact that Davis and Cousins have both shown tremendous improvements in their offensive games to fit the modern NBA big man description, Gentry should still make it a point of emphasis to play through the post.
Now with two perennial All-Stars on the roster, patience will wear thin for the Pelicans front office. Cousins’ upcoming free agency in 2018 makes the sense of urgency even more prevalent. If the Pelicans don’t start winning soon, Alvin Gentry may not remain the coach for much longer.