October 26, 2017, 11:10 am
There will be plenty of eyes on the Golden One Center tonight when DeMarcus Cousins visits Sacramento for the first time since being traded to the Pelicans last February.
The two teams faced off in New Orleans last season after the trade, but this reunion will be much different. Cousins was by far the biggest name involved in the swap, and while visiting New Orleans was probably emotional for Buddy Hield, Cousins had established himself as a special member of the Sacramento community during his six-year tenure with the team.
There is sure to be some acknowledgement of his return prior to tip-off and after the game, but once the games starts expect it to be business as usual for both teams.
The Kings don’t have much size beyond Kosta Koufos and Zach Randolph, and the Pelicans are likely to exploit that as much as possible. Anthony Davis is currently questionable to play, but even if he sits the team won’t have many players capable of containing Cousins in the post.
Randolph has the size to match Cousins and Davis, but he will need quite a bit of help handling either of them on the perimeter. Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein could be called on to guard Cousins at various points in the game, but this will need to be closely monitored.
While the Davis/Cousins pairing will prove to be a challenge for the Kings, Sacramento may be able to take advantage of their own athleticism and depth.
Cousins and Davis are both more effective in half-court situations, so going small and ramping up the pace may prove to be the best option for Dave Joerger. The Pelicans don’t have nearly as much depth on the perimeter as the Kings, so keeping up with an up-tempo offense could become an issue towards the end of the game.
This would be a definite shift for the Kings, who currently rank 28th in pace according to the NBA stats website. There is already evidence that this is shifting, as the Kings’ pace during Monday night’s game against the Suns would rank 5th overall.
Whatever strategy the Kings choose tonight, containing DeMarcus Cousins will still be their primary concern. Sacramento won’t be able to stop him entirely, but limiting his production will give the team a great chance at getting their first win of the season in front of the home fans.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
PG – George Hill
SG – Buddy Hield
SF – Justin Jackson
PF – Zach Randolph
C – Willie Cauley-Stein
Harry Giles (knee) – OUT
WHEN: 7:30PM (PST)