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11 PELICANS

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When All-Star weekend ended with the blockbuster that sent DeMarcus Cousins from the Kings to the Pelicans, the deal was celebrated as a major win for a New Orleans franchise that desperately needed one. Then the games began, and the pairing of bigs Cousins and Anthony Davis was awkward. If the aim of the trade was a playoff push, it didn't work.

While the Pelicans were 7--10 in games with both All-Stars in the lineup, it's too early to write off their partnership after just 394 minutes, which is how long Cousins and Davis were on the floor together. With more time to get acclimated and more time for Alvin Gentry to tinker with his playbook, there's every chance this team could unlock something much better.

They have to stay healthy. Jrue Holiday has averaged 51.5 games over the past four seasons, and small forwards have failed to stay on the court for long. Tony Allen will help off the bench, but he still can't shoot. And Rajon Rondo is now in NOLA to continue his quest to become the picture they put next to the word mercurial in every dictionary.

It's a strange group. But until we see more of Cousins and Davis, it's a mix that can't yet be dismissed.

PROJECTED LINEUP

2016--17 STATS

COACH ALVIN GENTRY

(3rd season with Pelicans)

2016--17 RECORD 34--48

(4th in Southwest)

PG RAJON RONDO [NEW ACQUISITION]

7.8 PPG; 6.7 APG; 1.4 SPG; 40.8 FG%

60 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

SG JRUE HOLIDAY

15.4 PPG; 7.3 APG; 45.4 FG%; 35.6 3FG%

SF DANTE CUNNINGHAM

6.6 PPG; 4.2 RPG; 48.5 FG%; 39.2 3FG%

8 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

PF ANTHONY DAVIS

28.0 PPG; 11.8 RPG; 2.2 BPG; 50.5 FG%

23 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

C DEMARCUS COUSINS

27.0 PPG; 11.0 RPG; 4.6 APG; 45.2 FG%

BENCH

PG JORDAN CRAWFORD

14.1 PPG; 3.0 APG; 48.2 FG%; 38.9 3FG%

SG E'TWAUN MOORE

9.6 PPG; 2.2 APG; 45.7 FG%; 37.0 3FG%

C ALEXIS AJINCA

5.3 PPG; 4.5 RPG; 0.6 BPG; 50.0 FG%

• THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING

*NEW ACQUISITION

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP NEW ORLEANS

After the DEMARCUS COUSINS trade I looked at their lineup and thought, "Oh, my God, we've gotta play them? We've gotta play against that frontcourt?" But there's so much more to the game than individual talent. I think this team needs to learn how to win first. It's an identity thing. The teams above them in the pecking order clearly have that understanding.... If Cousins and RAJON RONDO are on the same page, that dynamic could click. I don't really see JRUE HOLIDAY as a guy who's running your team. So if Rondo can do that while playing with Holiday and he's also [in sync] with Cousins, that's something to fear.... The wing rotation maybe has a chance if Holiday can sustain 33, 34 minutes a game. But it's going to take a lot of development, and a lot of things are going to have to correct themselves for that to happen. There's such a lack of fear for opponents as far as these wings are concerned.... Cousins does so many things well. He can pass the ball too. ANTHONY DAVIS as a face-up shooter has become so good. But your team is not just two twin towers that are remarkably versatile. It's the integration of all that individual talent. Is it Rondo who's going to pull that off? Is he going to be on the court long enough? Is he going to connect with everyone? ... I'd love to see Davis playing with a Chris Paul type. Davis does so many things well as a finesse player. There's not a lot of power to his game. Is there enough grit and toughness? He's got such great length, but I want to see him play with a top backcourt player.

TELLING 394 STATISTIC

BOTTOM LINE

The Pelicans could be the biggest surprise in the West—or they could be fielding trade offers for Cousins by Christmas.