When the New Orleans Pelicans lost DeMarcus Cousins to injury, Anthony Davis looked exceptional and entered the conversation for league MVP.
Jrue Holiday has impressed, especially in the postseason, and the team is currently up 2-0 vs. the Portland Trail Blazers. Cousins, a player who could earn a maximum contract as a free agent, would cost the team quite a bit. While an unbelievable talent, there is an argument that the squad might make more sense financially with Davis and cheaper shooters.
During the season, New Orleans had a higher net rating when Davis plays with Nikola Mirotic (who was traded to the team after the injury to the star big man) than their net rating when he played with Cousins. While Cousins will likely earn around $27.1 million next year, Mirotic has a cap hold of $12.5M.
The Pelicans were outscored by opponents by 2.9 points per 100 possessions when Davis and Cousins were on the court with Holiday as well as E’Twaun Moore and Rajon Rondo.
But New Orleans outscored opponents by 16.8 points per 100 when Davis was on the court with the same group but Mirotic instead of Cousins. This was the fourth-best net rating among all five-man lineups (minimum: 200 minutes) in the Western Conference.
This unit has a remarkable net rating (+35.3) against the Trail Blazers in the postseason, though just a two-game sample size. Among all lineups that have appeared in more than 16 minutes together, this is currently the second-best in the NBA.
New Orleans has typically played very well when Davis is surrounded by shooters. When he played alongside Moore and Ian Clark, for example, they outscored opponents by 19.4 points per 100.
They also outscored opponents by 14.5 points ber 100 when he appeared next to Moore and Mirotic. They had an 11.5 net rating when Davis was on the court with both Holiday and Darius Miller. Similarly, they had a 10.8 net rating when he appeared with Miller and Clark.
Davis averaged 30.6 points per 36 minutes when Miller was on the court but just 25.8 points per 36 when he was on the bench. The big man scored 29.8 points per 36 when he appeared next to Clark and 26.7 points per 36 when the guard was not on the court.
Miller averaged 1.12 points per possessions during the season, which ranked No. 12 overall (minimum: 500 possessions) in the NBA, per Synergy Sports. He averaged 1.22 PPP on spot-up plays, which ranked No. 4 among players with as many opportunities.
He was 17-for-19 (58.6 percent) on three-pointers from the left corner, which trailed just Utah’s Donovan Mitchell among those with at least as many field goal attempts from this zone. Miller was 24-of-47 (51.1 percent) on attempts from the right corner, which was No. 5 (minimum: 40 shots) in the league.
The wing was 43-for-80 (53.8 percent) on all midrange attempts, which also ranked No. 4 overall among those with as many attempts. He trailed only top players like Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Houston’s Chris Paul.
Players like Miller will continue to succeed when they are teammates with Davis. If the Pelicans do not re-sign Cousins, they will absolutely have the cap space available to add more shooters in the offseason.
New Orleans won’t have too many options for adding more talent if they keep Cousins. But if not, they can easily keep Mirotic while also adding more shooters.