Following this past Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans, a mysterious man in a suit briefly had DeMarcus Cousins by the ear, presumably letting the center know that he had just been traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. Just like that, the competitive landscape of the Western Conference and the NBA as a whole shifted. To what degree that shift will impact the Pelicans’ chances of making it to the postseason and advancing into the later rounds is still to be determined.
For now, New Orleans sits two and a half games back of the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. Given the Portland Trailblazers’ big trade deadline move is Jusuf Nurkic and the Nuggets seem intent on also shipping away Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler by the Feb. 23rd deadline, even a Pelicans team that now lacks depth and has to quickly find a way to get Cousins and fellow star forward Anthony Davis on the same page shouldn’t have a problem cracking the top eight. The Phoenix Suns are also looking to rebuild as .P.J. Tucker looks to be on his way out of the desert.
While it would be borderline crazy to anoint New Orleans a super team and assume they’d challenge the Golden State Warriors or even the San Antonio Spurs for the right to play in the NBA Finals this spring, the team is setting itself up for a promising offseason and a chance to follow the present-day trend of building a super team in The Big Easy. Reports are already swirling that the team isn’t going to have a problem offering point guard Jrue Holiday a ‘near maximum contract’ to keep him long term. Throw in the fact there are sure to be some fringe superstars and proven veterans looking to join Holiday and the team’s two big men, and fans could be in for quite a Western Conference Finals showdown in 2018.
The rumor mill has already begun to swirl around names like the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul, an impending free agent who played for the New Orleans Hornets during their short stay in the city not too long ago. While other reports suggest Paul has already verbally agreed to stay in Los Angeles, though nothing is official yet, and they’ll be plenty of talent looking to sign with the Pelicans should Paul opt not to leave the Clippers.
At the moment, no one knows what the future holds for New Orleans. What is certain in the present is that Pelicans fans finally have a reason to root for a team who has done nothing but struggle since its inception, despite the fact the man known as much for his uni-brow as he is for his play on the basketball court is arguably the most dominant big man in the game today. The good news is, now fans will be seeing double, with Davis and Cousins dominating the paint as the regular season stretch drive begins. It’s a nice change of pace for two franchise players who haven’t tasted the thrill of victory too often at the NBA level.
So much for playing small ball.