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Demarcus Cousins expressed happiness and excitement at the press conference Wednesday morning where he officially announced himself as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans. However, fantasy owners of the star center and his new superstar teammate, Anthony Davis, are left pondering how the move will affect their future value.
Entering All-Star Weekend, three players in the NBA averaged 25+ points and 10 rebounds; Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, and Demarcus Cousins. With Davis and Cousins now joining forces in New Orleans, it is fair to question if they will be able to maintain their elite production while sharing the floor.
Although the two big men are dominant individually, fans like Greg Reiss ’19 wonder how the two-big approach will work in today’s NBA. “I really think it is the most talented frontcourt we have ever seen, at least since Tim Duncan and David Robinson. Does that mean I think that will translate to the team being good? No it does not,” he says.
The modern NBA values small ball in a way that is unmatched throughout the rest of league history. The 2015-16 Warriors won a record 73 regular season games with their best lineup, which featured 6’7” Draymond Green playing center. By putting 6’11” Cousins next to 6’10” Davis, the Pelicans are zigging when the rest of the league is zagging.
Although Anthony Davis has played the majority of his minutes at center throughout the 2016-17 season, he has experience as a power forward, and actually logged more minutes there in his first three NBA seasons than he did at center, according to pro-basketball reference. I presume Davis will move back to playing the majority of his minutes at power forward with Cousins in town, a move that should allow him to flex his elite athleticism and scoring ability with much of the defenses attention diverted to his teammate.
While the NBA world has been waiting for an improved three-point shot from Davis since he joined forces with former Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry two seasons ago, he is taking just 1.6 attempts per game so far this season. It is fair to anticipate this number modestly rising with Cousins drawing defenders into the paint, but the real value will come if Davis can improve on his .306% rate of hitting three-point attempts.
It is reasonable to expect a slight dip Davis’s 27.7 points per game with Cousins 27.8 points per game now being accounted for, but it is just as reasonable to expect an uptick in his assist numbers as he will be able to feed the beast beneath the basket. He is averaging just 2.2 points per game as of now. I do not anticipate a change in the excellent 2.5 blocks per game from Davis, as Cousins has recorded similar block numbers to the teammates Davis has been playing alongside all year.
I am hesitant to predict a fall in the rebounding totals for the two stars, who are averaging 10.7 and 12 rebounds per game respectively, as both players have recorded double digit rebounding numbers in each of their last four seasons.
Like with Davis, I anticipate a slight fall in the total scoring output from Cousins. However, averaging 4.9 assists per game this season, Cousins has matured into one of the elite passing centers in the NBA. With a more talented supporting cast, less attention from the defense, and a superstar sharing the floor, I anticipate Cousins’ career high assist number to only grow as the season goes on.
Fantasy owners of Cousins and Davis can expect a dip in the points per game from their superstars, but should expect other aspects of their game to flourish and improve as the two talents play off of one another. I do not foresee either player regressing from being a top-ten fantasy play on a nightly basis.
De’angelo Russell, Point Guard, Lakers: With the NBA world, myself included, distracted by the Demarcus Cousins blockbuster, the Lakers trade of Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets went relatively under the radar. With Williams’ 18.6 points and 24.2 minutes per game off the floor, Russell owners should expect an increase in both minutes played and points scored by the second year guard.
Buddy Hield, Shooting Guard, Kings: Averaging just 8.6 points per game in 20.4 minutes, Hield has barely set the world on fire through the first half of his rookie campaign. While Hield has drawn comparisons to Steph Curry for his ability to hit the three, his .396% from beyond the three-point arch on four attempts per game has failed to support the hype. That being said, the Kings clearly see potential in Hield, as he was the centerpiece of the trade involving Demarcus Cousins. With an anticipated rise in minutes and shots per game, it is safe to assume Hields’ numbers will only go up in the second half of his rookie season.