Since acquiring DeMarcus Cousins via trade, the New Orleans Pelicans are off to a 2-4 start as a team, and a 1-4 start in all the games Cousins has played in. With limited opportunities to practice and learning new teammates/plays through the course of games, the Pelicans are scoring just 98.2 Points Per 100 Possessions, which is ranked 29th offensively during the last six games.
While the offense will take time to develop for the remainder of this season, the Pelicans’ defense has slightly improved with the addition of Cousins, as they’re holding teams to 103.1 Pp/100 in their last six games, compared to their season defensive average of 104.5 Pp/100 (7th).
With new players on the floor trying to adjust to their teammates, you can almost see the Pelicans working out their offense through the course of a game, as they might run a certain offensive set several times within a quarter. Using two games specifically, the Pelicans’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, I’ve broken down three observable sets New Orleans is working on installing into their offense.
HORNS: 5’s Options
This HORNS set was one the Pelicans ran several times against the Thunder to allow Cousins to become the playmaker. While the actions look simple based on the play diagram below, there’s more actions that can take place once Cousins catches the ball – players can pop out for jumpers, run back and start a pick-and-roll or dribble hand-off, or if Cousins feels he has a mismatch, he can drive in on his defender.
In five games with the Pelicans, Cousins is averaging 23.0 points, 15.2 rebounds, and 4.0 assists. Being that Cousins is so talented with the ball in his hands, he can make a number of decisions as the quarterback with this set.
1/5 Spread Pick-and-Roll
Against the Spurs recently, the Pelicans ran this 1/5 spread pick-and-roll set between Jrue Holiday and Cousins. With Davis spreading the floor in the corner, Cousins can either dive on the roll or pop out for the open jumper.
As you’ll see in the clip below, with Cousins’ ability to drive against fellow big men, he’s able to take defenders off the dribble and drive in with the layup for contact.
5’s Options at Elbow
The Pelicans once again made Cousins their quarterback in this offensive set, as he would establish himself at the elbow, and with Davis in the corner, Cousins would make the decisions of whether to pass, drive or shoot.
With Holiday screening for Davis in the left corner, Davis can cut and either attack or pass out to an open shooter, while Holiday can catch a dribble hand-off from Cousins to try to run another pick-and-roll possession if nothing was there on the initial action.
At 25-38, the Pelicans currently sit 13th in the Western Conference, but they’re still just 3.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets to try to claim the eighth seed. Whether the Pelicans make the playoffs or not this season, it’ll be interesting to see what the Pelicans’ front office can do this coming summer to try to build a roster that fits the playing style of Cousins and Davis for a whole season.