This past week saw a rise in the total number of injuries that have impacted this season, which will have a great effect on teams in playoff contention. On Friday, Demarcus Cousins tore his Achilles tendon. The following day, Andre Roberson ruptured the patellar tendon in his left leg. Both players will be sidelined for the remainder of the season, leaving their respective teams to come up with solutions.
Neither the Pelicans nor the Thunder has space to make significant acquisitions at the trade deadline. According to The Ringer, the Pelicans have the seventh-highest payroll at $118.5 million and will need enough space to resign Cousins who becomes a free agent next year. Similarly, the Thunder, which has the third-highest payroll at $130.1 million, needs to consider that Paul George’s contract expires at the end of the season. These teams will likely rely on their current rosters to fill in for the absences of Cousins and Roberson.
New Orleans has relied heavily on a core group of players comprised of Cousins, Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. Cousins’ absence during Sunday’s game against the Clippers shifted the workload to the two remaining leaders, especially Davis, who played the entire second half and 41 minutes in total. This may become an issue going forward. Cousins was contributing a lot of playing time, which likely played a factor in his injury. On top of 112-103 loss on Sunday, Davis, who has a history of injuries, will be at a higher risk of getting hurt while facing heavier demands from the team. The Pelicans also lack depth, and without Cousins have the smallest starting lineup. The starting lineup on Sunday lacked size, with Holiday and Rajon Rondo playing point guard, E’Twaun Moore at shooting guard, Dante Cunningham at combo forward, and Davis at center.
The Thunder, by comparison, is in a much better position to handle the rest of the season without Roberson. With Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams still healthy, the starting lineup remains largely intact. Roberson averaged only 26.6 minutes per game and had a usage rate of 8.7. Oklahoma City will miss Roberson on defense, who played an integral role in shutting down opponents on the perimeter and is partly the reason the defense is tied for 5th in the league. Roberson, who usually matched up with the best player on opposing teams, will pass his responsibilities onto George. The problem will come with finding a replacement to assume George’s role of guarding the second option. Coach Billy Donovan gave the task to Rookie Terrance Ferguson, drafted 21st overall, during Sunday’s 122-112 win over Philadelphia. The rookie has some potential, though he is still adjusting to the league following a year after high school in Australia. His three-point percentage is 29.2 on 2.1 attempts per game and is slightly undersized at 6-foot 7 to guard bigger perimeter players. Fortunately, if Roberson does not work out, Coach Donovan has more options on the bench such as Jerami Grant or third-year Josh Huestis.