Fantasy Hoops: Boogie and The Brow no longer elite as teammates?

ByJohn Cregan ESPN logo
Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I don't care what else happens before Thursday. I don't care if the only other deal is P.J. Tucker for cash.

DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans already makes this trade deadline huge. Seismic.

But fantasy-wise? There isn't a lot of history to compare this to. Twin Tower pairings like Cousins and Anthony Davis don't happen that often. This is a video game trade. A Don Nelson-grade mad scientist experiment. A statistical collision.

Let's take a look at who wins and loses.


DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C New Orleans Pelicans and Anthony Davis, PF/C, New Orleans Pelicans

This isn't like Durant to the Warriors. In pure basketball terms, the Warriors simply upgraded at small forward from Harrison Barnes. Durant filled a need. Durant's fantasy value has actually risen this season.

On the surface, Cousins combining with Davis doesn't fill a need. It doubles down on overlapping roles. Watching the Pelicans struggle before today, did you ever think adding Boogie could be the answer?

Three big men are currently posting first-round fantasy value: Davis, Karl-Anthony Townsand Cousins. All three players have been generating elite value because they have been unquestioned No. 1 offensive options. Put two of them together, and you have a true Twin Towers situation.

A true Twin Towers combination occurs only when you have two dominant players capable of playing center who are options 1A and 1B within their offense.

The reason you're going to hear a lot about Hakeem Olajuwon-Ralph Sampson and Tim Duncan-David Robinson in the coming days is because true Twin Towers pairings are rare. Rare because there simply aren't enough healthy, dominant centers to go around. (Look at the difficulty the Sixers have encountered putting any combination of Jahlil Okafor-Nerlens Noel-Joel Embiid on the court.)

I'm not saying Cousins' and Davis' value will suffer because of a historical lack of success with Twin Tower pairings. It has worked (twice). And if you take a closer look at their styles and stats, you'll see that their games are compatible.

Dominant centers tend to dominate in four fantasy categories: points, rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage. Cousins and Davis have three of those areas covered.

So why the hit in field goal percentage? It's a good reason: versatility. Both players generate a lot of their offense outside of the paint: 23.6 percent of Davis' shots are from deep 2-point range, and 14.7 percent of Cousins' shots have been 3-pointers. Cousins has turned himself into a bona fide 3-point shooter, hitting 1.7 3s per game at a decent 35.4 percent clip. He's also having a career year in true shooting percentage at 56.7 percent.

There's a good chance this pairing will boost both players' field goal percentages. Spacing is going to force them to play more of a high-low game. Cousins will get plenty of looks in the post, and Davis will get his requisite huge gobs of pick-and-roll possessions. Davis should get closer looks in midrange space: He's demonstrably better from 10-16 feet than from further out.

To me, the most underrated aspect of Cousins' fantasy portfolio is his assist production. He's averaging 4.8 assists per game. Jrue Holidaywill siphon off some of those. But the bigger picture is that Cousins is a creative passer who can facilitate from anywhere on the court.

So why the projected drop in fantasy production? There just isn't enough ceiling available in efficiency to make up for the anticipated loss of volume.

If fantasy history teaches us anything, it's that combining superstars leads to an aggregate drop in possessions. Add in the fact that both players tend to occupy similar space, and history says you're looking at a 10-15 percent drop in volume-based stats across the board.

Cousins' usage rate is a career high 35.8. Davis' usage rate is a career-high 29.6. Both players are going to lose possessions. Both players are going to lose rebounds and block opportunities. A small bump in field goal percentage isn't going to make up for it.

Prediction: Davis will finish the season in the 8-10 range on the player rater, and Cousins will slide into the 13-15 range.

Jrue Holiday, PG, New Orleans Pelicans

Holiday is having a career year, much of it due to an increase in scoring. He's averaging a career high 13.5 field goal attempts and 4.0 3-point attempts per game. Even if Holiday's 7.5 assists per game holds, Cousins is going to take away some shot attempts. Holiday should be due for a slight downgrade.


Darren Collison, PG; Tyreke Evans, SG/SF; Willie Cauley-Stein, C; Buddy Hield, SG/SF, Sacramento Kings

Any player who lands on the Kings' roster in a post-Cousins rotation is going to see a boost in numbers. Cousins' 35.8 usage rate just left the building, and 20.3 shots and 34.4 minutes per game just went up for grabs.

If Collison isn't traded, he has the most to gain. He's also having a good year in 3-point production, averaging 1.2 per game while shooting 42 percent. Collison could average 16-20 PPG, 6-7 APG, and 1.5-2.0 3-PPG the rest of the way.

Evans gets a big boost in fantasy value. If he can stay healthy, he'll be the No. 2 option on offense and should return to his 2012-13 numbers (15.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.4 SPG).

Cauley-Stein is the most intriguing add. After a slow start, Cauley-Stein has found his footing over his last 10 games, averaging 10.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 0.8 steals per game (in just 18.0 MPG). He should start at center in place of Cousins and see his minutes push 30 MPG.

Sacramento has some depth at shooting guard, but Hield is the centerpiece of the Cousins trade. He'll get a second opportunity to start at the 2 and find the consistency that eluded him in New Orleans.