Imagine, LeBron and CP3 joining forces with Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins in the Big Easy. Two of the top playmakers in the world paired with two of the top big men. This isn’t just a fantasy, it can be reality.
CP3 is set to test free agency waters this summer, while LeBron will be on the market in 2018. With LeBron and CP3 both entering the final stretch of their illustrious careers, this will give CP3 the chance to return to the city (NO was the Hornets back then) that drafted him and LeBron the opportunity to win a title with a third different team (not to mention his first Western Conference team) – further cementing himself in the Mt. Rushmore of Greats.
From a basketball perspective this couldn’t make more sense. The pick and roll options would be limitless. For either LeBron or CP3 to choose between AD and Cousins on a pick and roll or a pick and pop would be straight deadly. How would teams be able to guard that? Mismatches would unfold every play. Add in a shooter to the lineup to spread the floor (dare I say LeBron’s banana boat buddy, Carmelo Anthony) and they’d be just clowning the other team.
With AD and Cousins being legitimate offensive weapons in the low post, mid-range and beyond the arc, LeBron and CP3 would no longer have to carry the load of being top scoring options. Heck, they would be the third and fourth scoring options. Unbelievable, right?! That would not only lighten their workload, but also allow them to be more creative on offense.
If you’re comparing this NO lineup to the current Cavs starting lineup, AD and Cousins would both be instant upgrades to Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. And look how LeBron has been able to make those two players better since he joined the Cavs more than three years ago. Tristan Thompson has looked like a stud because of LeBron’s impressive playmaking abilities. While Love has been making threes like it’s a walk in the park. LeBron would make AD and Cousins look like Hall of Famers.
And how about CP3’s sorry Clippers team? AD and Cousins would also both easily be upgrades to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. AD has Jordan’s length and athleticism, but also has a full offensive repertoire. The Pelicans would NEVER have to worry about a hack-a-Jordan scenario with AD. While Cousins is a younger, healthier Blake Griffin. Shall I say no early playoff exits due to injuries?
With these two playmakers, the Pelicans could afford to play either LeBron or CP3 while the other rests on the bench. This would provide much needed refueling time to the both of them as they climb deeper into their 30s. Since LeBron and CP3 are both interchangeable, the Pelicans could still run similar offensive sets with either one of the players on the floor since CP3 is basically a six foot tall LeBron James.
This juggernaut lineup is much more than a one-way team. They’d be equally dangerous on the defensive end. LeBron and AD can practically guard any position (AD may be limited guarding a smaller, quicker point guard) and Cousins is a solid defensive presence in the paint. Oh, and the point god has widely been considered one of the best defensive point guards in the league for as long as I can remember.
The real question is though; will it be enough to dethrone that mega team up in the Bay? Simple answer: yes. The Warriors strength is obviously shooting, but as we witnessed in Game 4 of the 2017 NBA Finals, if the Warriors lose their touch behind the arc, they lose a majority of their identity. Sure, the Warriors are so incredibly stacked that they only need two of their four all stars to play at a high level any given night to have a 99% chance of winning. But playing against an equally loaded Pelicans team would push the Warriors to a point where they’d have to be clicking on all cylinders to compete.
Just think about the individual matchups. Cousins would give Draymond and any other big that the Warriors throw in the lineup an absolute beating. While Steph would be tasked with guarding CP3, KD on AD and Klay on LeBron. On paper, I’m putting my money on this Pelicans team.
Speaking about money… how would this work out financially for the Pelicans? The Pelicans can only stretch their beak so far before they go beyond the cap and into luxury tax territory. Below is a snapshot of the Pelicans salary cap situation ahead of the 2017 offseason (via Bleacher Report):
Guaranteed Salaries: $84.8 million
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Jrue Holiday ($16.9 million) and Dante Cunningham ($5.7 million)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Jordan Crawford ($1.7 million)
All-Inclusive Total: $109.1 million
Projected Starting Cap Space: -$8.1 million
The Pelicans have indicated that they’re prepared to offer Jrue Holiday a max or near-max deal. However, substitute Jrue for CP3, and there’s three of the four pieces of the puzzle locked in. All that’s remaining now is LeBron. We know at this stage of his career, LeBron prefers shorter term deals and if he’s willing to sacrifice money on the table (similar to KD in Golden State), then financially this could all work out. The Pelicans would have to move some smaller pieces around, such as renouncing Jordan Crawford and Dante Cunningham, but as we can see, this is definitely possible.
NBA gods, please make this happen.