Column: No fun in New Orleans

New Orleans Pelicans forward DeMarcus Cousins (0) slam dunks over Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (23) center Georgios Papagiannis (13) and center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Friday, March 31, 2017. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

Two of (arguably) the best big men in the NBA and the New Orleans Pelicans aren’t going to make the NBA playoffs. Already officially eliminated from playoff contention, they have four games left to play for… nothing.

The Pelican’s big addition of DeMarcus Cousins prior to the NBA trade deadline in February was supposed to make them a unique albeit peculiar challenger in today’s guard and shooting-oriented NBA. The combination of Cousins and Anthony Davis would be a new look for the league and the pure skill of the two together was supposed to be enough for the Pelicans to overwhelm their way into the playoffs where they could present unique challenges.

Now the Pelicans are over .500 since acquiring Boogie, 13-12 since the All-Star break and have moved from No. 12 to No. 10 in the West. But since the All-Star break, Cousins has seen his offensive rating drop four points and his defensive rating drop five points. His scoring and assists-per-game have decreased.

While his decline hasn’t been terrible, he hasn’t been the boon that this unsightly roster needed.

That’s just the problem in NOLA: the supporting cast. It’s pathetic. Jrue Holiday, who was having a good season prior to the break, has regressed. Can he be their point guard of the future? He will be a free agent this summer. and with the Pelicans already locked into numerous bad contracts, he’s probably not worth what he’ll receive.

However, with a point guard loaded draft and top-10 lottery odds, the Pelicans could have been in position to find a new future. But those hopes are in Sacramento now, as they sent this year’s first round to the Kings as part of acquiring Divac.

Meanwhile, the Pelicans are also stuck with Solomon Hill, who got an exorbitant contract last offseason due to the cap increase, making over $11 million a year through 2019-2020. Hill is currently their third highest paid player and averages seven points-per-game and holds a below career average field-goal percentage and PER.

Omer Asik, another center with limited abilities, is also on the books through 2019-2020, and starting next season he will make over $10 million a year. Playing 15 minutes-per-game, in only 31 games so far, Asik is posting a paltry, career-worst 2.7 points-per-game and 5.3 rebounds-per-game—the lowest since his rookie season.

The Pelicans are searching for answers, having utilized a whopping 25 players this season. But nothing has stuck. Their roster isn’t indicative of the trends that have led to success for organizations in the modern NBA; and getting there is going to be quite a challenge.

The Pelicans are the smallest or second-smallest market in the NBA, depending on what metrics you look at. They’re currently No. 24 in average attendance.

The future of head coach Alvin Gentry and general manager Dell Demps, long-tenured NBA constituents, appears tenuous.

Nobody wants to play there. Aside from Davis agreeing to a large extension back in 2015, their biggest free agent signings were retaining solid but unremarkable scorers Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans. Not to mention they are expected to have little-to-no cap space for this coming market.

They’re essentially stuck with what they’ve got, and what they’ve got has not proven to be much of anything right now. The Boogie and Brow show might revolutionize and tear apart the NBA next season, but early indicators show the chances of that happening are slim at best. It’s time for Pelicans fans to hunker down; the 2018 draft will be here before you know it.


Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.barresi@uconn.edu.