As the NBA trends smaller and faster, common perception dictates that two true big men should never share the floor; some teams thrive with zero-center lineups. The New Orleans Pelicans stand out from the pack by playing two star bigs together: Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Lineups with those two can thrive together because they are special:
Both Davis and Cousins can shoot, pass, and create off the dribble like guards. So as long as they give each other room, the tandem can work beautifully. That means living by one rule: only one big man in the paint at a time.
This is particularly deadly on fast breaks, where Cousins can take his time — or even bring the ball up himself like a point guard — while Davis books it into the paint. If the defense isn’t ready to help, Davis can catch the ball and go to work. If the defense collapses, Cousins is open for a trailing three:
And in the halfcourt, Pelicans can go into a deadlier HORNs set— each big on either elbow— better than almost anyone in the league:
From this set, New Orleans can have one guy roll and the other pop to the wing. They can have one big man screen for the other, or they can go into a high-low between Davis and Cousins or a giant pick-and-roll for an all-big-man alley-oop.
The options are endless. Most teams are better off staying small in the modern NBA, but with two truly special big men, the Pelicans can play big without playing slow.