The Pelicans opted to zig while the rest of the NBA zagged, effectively doubling down on big men in the throes of the Small Ball Era. Unfortunately, before anybody could see whether the unconventional approach would bear any fruit, it all came crashing down in the form of DeMarcus Cousins‘ torn Achilles.
The Pels rolled the dice when they acquired Cousins at the trade deadline last season and will now finally get the opportunity to find out whether they can lock him up long term.
Since Cousins’ unrestricted free agency impacts the course of the franchise in both the short- and long-term, the fact that he’ll be sidelined, perhaps even into the 2018/19 campaign, is the biggest Pels storyline heading into the offseason.
Ian Clark, SG, 27 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.6MM deal in 2018
The Pels landed an intriguing depth piece with winning experience when they inked the ex-Warriors guard last offseason. But while he’s shown the occasional glimpse of promise on the wings, Clark hasn’t exactly put himself in position for a big payout this summer. On a frontcourt-heavy roster, there isn’t much need for a wing player who shoots 29.1% from beyond the arc, but he could be a cheap rotation piece for the soon-to-be cash-strapped franchise.
DeMarcus Cousins, C, 27 (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $63.5MM deal in 2013
Cousins’ value has changed in a few ways over the course of the past 12 months. While he was once perceived as a fickle star putting up lofty but hollow numbers for a perennial loser, he’s now a major part of an intriguing organization with enormous ambitions. The catastrophic Achilles injury that cut his 2017/18 season short will have but a little impact on his stock heading forward. Given that the relationship between Cousins and the franchise appears to be on good terms, it seems well within reason that the club would offer the max allowable and then find a way to make the numbers work. Sure, the Pelicans could take the opportunity to pull the plug on the experiment before seriously hamstringing their payroll, but it could be years, if not decades, before they have as high a ceiling as they do with Cousins and Anthony Davis on the same roster. Don’t expect the injury to impact much, except, perhaps, the list of other franchises tripping over themselves trying to poach Cousins’ services.
Rajon Rondo, PG, 32 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $3.3MM deal in 2018
It’s not often that a 12-year-veteran on a minimum contract with his fifth team in four seasons would be considered a must-add, but that’s exactly what Rondo is heading into the summer. After three seasons bouncing around the league, Rondo performed admirably alongside Cousins, a former teammate and fellow Kentucky product. The Pelicans need all the affordable help they can get and a motivated Rondo, who dropped two points and 25 assists in one of the most fascinating NBA statlines of all time earlier this season, is a bargain worth chasing. Given that the surly vet hasn’t exactly been a good fit in Dallas, Sacramento or Chicago, there may not be much of a market for the Pels to compete with.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.