The New Orleans Pelicans had a very good 2017-18 season. They finished the year at 48-34 in a packed Western Conference and routed the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, 4-0. Star big DeMarcus Cousins was having another monster year (with 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game), but went down with a torn Achilles tendon in January, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Cousins and Anthony Davis were the best big man duo in the league, and were even featured in some 4-5 pick-and-rolls. After Cousins’ injury, the Pelicans didn’t skip a beat. They actually had the fifth-best record in the league post All-Star break, per NBA.com. At the time of “Boogie’s” injury, New Orleans was sixth in the West at 27-21.
On the flip side, without Cousins’ 32.4 percent usage (which was fourth-highest in the league among qualified players), there was more backcourt-centric offense. Rajon Rondo saw an increase in playmaking duties, and he responded in a big way.
Before the All-Star break, Rondo was averaging 7.5 points and 7.3 assists in 24.6 minutes per game. After it, he was averaging 9.8 points and 10.0 assists in 29.5 minutes per game, per NBA.com. Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore and Ian Clark were excelling with the Pelicans doubling down on playing with pace, too.
With mid-season trade acquisition Nikola Mirotic coming over from the Chicago Bulls, New Orleans was running and gunning even more. That paid dividends, especially in the postseason. The Pels led the league in pace post All-Star break, and would eventually lead the NBA for the year. For their third goal, they should attempt to do that again.
Next Up: Goal 3