All told, losing the Western Conference Semifinals in five to the Golden State Warriors was not the worst way to end the New Orleans Pelicans season. The Pels were overlooked in the preseason, being picked either just outside of the playoffs are even at the bottom five teams in the Western Conference by reputable media outlets.
Still, things could have gone better. More specifically one thing. I am of course talking about the health of C DeMarcus Cousins.
The University of Kentucky product had a brilliant year before going down with an Achilles’ tendon rupture, putting up a line of 25.2/12.9/5.4 paired with 1.6 steals and blocks anchored by rather efficient shooting numbers. Cousins had developed an excellent two-man game with fellow All Star F Anthony Davis. When they were both healthy, they had begun playing brilliantly together.
Both played a huge role in their 115-113 win over the Houston Rockets back in the month of January. Cousins, however, was the best overall player on the court that day, having put together his third triple-double of the season, scoring 15 points to go with 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Davis was the primary scorer, scoring 27 points alongside 11 rebounds as well as five assists and steals. Simply a brilliant pair of performances from the best two big men in the NBA. A duo of bigs have not consistently performed that well since the brilliant San Antonio Spurs pairing of C David Robinson and F Tim Duncan from the early 2000s.
Suffice to say, Cousins is a key component of this team. He is also up for free agency, with his contract expiring. Fortunately, Cousins seems to be all in on the Pels. Despite being injured, Cousins decided to come back into the Pelicans film room the day after his injury. Heck, he even was able to do what fellow injured superstar SF Kawhi Leonard was unable to do in the playoffs, according to NOLA.com Pelicans beat writer Will Guillory:
Source: DeMarcus Cousins will be in New Orleans for Game 3 tomorrow at Smoothie King Center. He's traveling with his doctor/physical therapist so he won't miss a day of rehab
— Will Guillory (@WillGuillory) April 19, 2018
To be honest, why would he want to leave New Orleans now? In the playoffs, the Pelicans looked to be just one piece away from contending. G Jrue Holiday broke out and proved that he is as good as his contract says he is. G Rajon Rondo showcased why “Playoff Rondo” is still certainly a real thing. F Nikola Mirotic had a brilliant stretch through the end of the season and into the playoffs starting in place of the injured Cousins.
Yes, while the Alabama native was sidelined, the team grew into its own and threatened the legendary Warriors. With Cousins, before their growth, they defeated the top seed in the west in the Rockets. Put both together and some magic may just happen. The sparse bench even gets bolstered by Mirotic once Cousins laces his sneakers back up, therefore stymieing the Pels biggest mark against them. If this happens, the NBA would have a new team at the top in legitimate contention. Hopefully the powers that be in the Big Easy keep Boogie in a Pelicans jersey. All we can do is hope they choose wisely.