The NBA Duo No One Is Talking About (Ft. Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Pick and Rolls)
The NBA is now filled with superstar duos. We have Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, wait go back to Anthony Davis. Anthony Davis in his time with the Pelicans wasn’t surrounded by much, but he was once a duo with another superstar. #NBA #Duo
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The Pelicans in 2017-2018 had a roster that included both Boogie and Davis. Keep in mind that DeMarcus had been traded midseason in 2016-17 and so there hadn’t been much time to gel that previous season. The beginning of the 2017 season was a chance to really see what the two were made of and we did. Let’s talk about what each did for each other. Keep in mind that Anthony Davis is the jack of all trades as a big man. He can finish around the rim using his 7’ 6” wingspan and soft touch. He can post up down low and hit a fadeaway or hook, even if he doesn’t post up often because he’s just not overpowering. AD can step up to the 3 point line and knock it down, he’s a midrange assassin and has handles to get by people from the perimeter and either pull up or drive to the hole. There’s really no weaknesses in his game and so you would think just about anybody would fit with Anthony Davis, except Anthony Davis has his preferences. AD likes playing his natural position of power forward over center due to floor positioning. Over 60% of his shots were with less than 2 seconds of getting the ball. DeMarcus Cousins is a different story. Boogie is an overpowering force, a guy that likes to operate in the low post. But even with the Kings offense revolving around him, the Kings had the highest pace in the league. That means that DeMarcus was no stranger to a faster style offense so even with him being 6’ 11” 270 lbs, Boogie was able to keep up. That’s because Boogie also has handles. DeMarcus was evolving his game from the slow grinded out post game to keep up with the fast-paced, 3 point revolution, shooting 33% from 3 in 2015-16 after previously shooting 0.1 3s a game. Boogie was also a really good passer for a big man and just had natural instincts on drop passes inside the paint, or kicking it out to the open 3 point shooter.
Since DeMarcus played the 5, AD was able to slide to his natural position at the 4. Anthony Davis averaged a career high 28.1 points per game that season. He also averaged a career high 34% from 3. DeMarcus’s presence down low afforded Anthony Davis space on the perimeter where an either undersized 4 or smaller guard awaited him. DeMarcus Cousins averaged a career high 5.4 assists per game as a center, most of those assists going to Anthony Davis. A lot of those were lob passes to Anthony Davis as Boogie and AD ran an interesting pick and roll with AD as the roll man and Cousins as the ball handler. That means that both the defense’s big men are at the top of the key and so AD really has no one to contest him at the paint if he rolls and if Boogie can deliver him a dotted pass. On top of that, DeMarcus doesn’t just stay in the low post area, he’ll come out to the three point line and actually sizeup his defender which is typically the center. While he was on the Kings, he was really the only guy the defense had to focus on. With AD on the court, there’s less defensive help on the drive and so Boogie had his best driving season, shooting 52.2% on all drives. In fact, Boogie had his most efficient season ever, with a career high effective field goal percentage of 53%. DeMarcus Cousins took a career high 6.1 3s a game shooting his second highest 3 point field goal percentage at 35.4%. Davis would often get two players to attach on to him on the roll meaning Cousins got so many open looks. Boogie averaged 25.2 points that season.
There’s also a thing called rebounding and both of these guys are just, well, really good at it.
All what I said are the on-court tangibles that can be analyzed along with some on-court intangibles like timing and awareness. But what about the off-court intangibles. Davis and Cousins loved playing with each other. In limited minutes in 30 games, Cousins did average 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds and his passing ability hasn’t just disappeared. I do think he can be better than what he showed last season, but even if he isn’t, most of what I talked about with them as a duo still apply. A lot of these other duos are just purely based off of talent, but this duo is much, much more than that and honestly, we need to keep an eye on DeMarcus and Davis. But what do you think? How will DeMarcus play next season? How about the Lakers.