The Pelicans' Twin Towers Project: On Offense
Evan Dyal takes an in-depth look at the New Orlean Pelicans in this six part series
In 485 minutes together Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins have a positive net rating of +4.1. Pretty good! As individuals Cousins is averaging 25.5 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 5.4 assists. Davis is averaging 26 points and 11.3 rebound per game. These are ridiculous numbers. Together they have led the Pelicans to the 11th best offense in the league. Impressive. So how have they done it?
For one Cousins and Davis are in the best shape of their lives, and the Pelicans have started to push the ball more. They are 7th in pace, and these two can create havoc with mismatches in transition. Davis is lethal in transition with his ability to runt he floor, handle and finish. According to Synergy Sports Davis ranks in the 80th percentile of all players in transition.
Davis has a ridiculous score frequency of 67.3% on a 70.8 adjusted field goal percentage. Transition is more of Davis's thing; it gives him an opportunity to get easy buckets. Cousins is more of a half court guy. He is doing more damage as a passer. He is averaging 5.4 assists per game, and New Orleans as a team is second in the league in assists per game. Cousins is 3rd on the team in assists and first in passes made per game. This guy is not selfish.
Cousins can set up Davis in transition with his ability to throw on target outlet passes. Watch this play!
Whenever Cousins gets a defensive rebound, Davis is sprinting to the other end. As soon as Cousins collects this Blake Griffin missed jumper, Davis is sprinting to the rim. Cousin’s delivers a great one armed outlet pass and Davis finishes with a dunk. Davis is so fast and finishes everything. When you combine that with Cousins skills as an outlet passer you have a lethal combo.
Here is the problem though he is turning it over 5.3 times per game. A horrible mark and a big reason why the Pelicans are 28th in turnovers per game. It is the one thing that is holding this offense back. They are sixth in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. The turnovers are a problem and are also a reason why the Pelicans are 16th in defense, even though they have improved as of late.
More on that later, but how can the Pelicans improve even more on offense? Can they reach top ten levels? A lot of that will fall on the shoulders of their two stars. Here is the good news the Pelicans dominate the paint, they are second in points in the paint per game. When you combine that with the fact the Pelicans are 10th in fastbreak points per game, the Pelicans are getting easy buckets. One area where they can improve is offensive rebounds.
New Orleans is only 22nd in offensive rebounds. Now there is a risk to this as the Pelicans give up 12.8 fastbreak points per game, which is 26th in the league. So the Pelicans should focus on getting back more, but the one exception is Cousins. Cousins ranks in the 94th percentile in offensive rebound putbacks, yet only does it 5.7% of the game. He needs freer reign to pound the glass; he is that dominant and it's worth the payoff. The same goes for Davis.
In the half court, the two are probably best with Cousins operating out of the high post. There he can use his great passing to find cutters and open shooters. It works with Davis as it gives him opportunities to cut and post up. Davis is lethal as a cutter. In the post he is stable. Both have been good in the post this year but not great.
Part of that is the limited shooting around them. The Pelicans are 26th in three-point percentage, 19th in makes and 15th in attempts. At least they are trying. Davis has helped in this area by shooting a career-high 35% from deep. Cousins has been struggling shooting only 32%, but that should go up. To make up for their lack of shooting, Alvin Gentry has to find ways every game to get their stars in situations where they can excel.
For Davis that may mean more isolations. It may hurt ball movement, but he is in the 98th percentile in isolations yet, only does it 5.9% of the time. For Cousins, they should let him be the roll man in more pick and rolls. It will help cut down his usage and his turnovers. Right now Cousins is in pick and rolls only 9.3% of the time. New Orleans should look to increase this number especially when Cousins is on the floor without Davis. He has a nice point per possession of 1.157 in pick and rolls and a 61.3 adjusted field goal percentage.
Something the Pelicans should explore more, but so far so good on the offensive end for the twin towers, how about the defense?