Monty’s Rotation: Taking a Shot in the Dark

We’ve had three seasons now to try to figure out how Monty Williams likes to manage his rotations, so with that amount of data in our corner you would think we might be able to project his plans for all the new pieces. After hours of looking over New Orleans five man units and his substitution patterns for the past three years, I can honestly say that I have no idea what Monty’s rotations will look this year.

Okay, maybe “no idea” is a bit harsh and overdramatic. I have some idea. I know defense will be a priority to start halves and I know that his point guard will be in the top two on this team in minutes. I know that he wants to bring shooters off the bench, and that he will ride the bigs who are hot that game. But that’s about it. Honestly, this can go any number of ways and there will be so many variables, including: injuries, matchups, hot and cold hands, and specific game situations.

But this is my attempt; my crack at projecting Monty’s regular rotation. Assuming that everybody is healthy, that the other team does not have any glaring mismatch problems, and that nobody is hot or cold (but rather their normal selves), I could see Monty’s rotation going down like this:

Starting Lineup: Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Anthony Davis, Greg Stiemsma

This lineup sets the defensive tone early with two guys who can prevent ballhandler penetrations, incredible length at the forward position, and a big body who can block shots at the rim. Offensively, this unit might have a little trouble with spacing and probably will rely heavily on pick and rolls (or pops) with the guards and Anthony Davis. However, if they can get into transition, which is entirely possible due to the steals and rebounds this unit can produce, they could be deadly on the offensive end as well.

7 Minute Mark: Ryan Anderson in, Greg Stiemsma Out

Lineup: Holiday, Gordon, Aminu, Anderson, Davis

Anderson comes in a couple minutes into the game, much like Dell Curry used to back in the 90’s for the Hornets. He immediately improves the spacing offensively, and also increases the Pelicans chances for an offensive rebound as well. Davis shifts down to center, giving that defender a new look. Over the first five minutes, the opposing teams’ center was able to cheat off Stiemsma and/or stay by the rim, but now Davis’s improved jumper will force him out of the paint. Aminu stays in, for now, to help Davis on the defensive boards – not Ryan Anderson’s strong suit.

3 Minute Mark – Enter Evans for Gordon, Morrow for Aminu

Lineup: Holiday, Evans, Morrow, Anderson, Davis

This lineup is pure offense, with the Pelicans looking to close the quarter strong against the opponents tired first unit or inferior second unit. The best teams in the league steal quarters in the last few minutes and this unit will help the Pelicans do that. Morrow and Anderson are, far and away, the Pelicans two best shooters, and Evans is their best isolation player. Holiday takes the role of facilitator in this unit, and Davis cleans everything up around the rim. Normally, this unit might have trouble getting stops or boards, but again, they will be playing against tired first units or inferior second units. So, for this short stretch, that issue should be minimalized.

2nd Quarter Starting Lineup:  Rivers, Evans, Morrow, Anderson, Smith

The entire second unit kicks off the second quarter with two ball handlers surrounded by three fantastic shooters. Tons of pick and pop potential with Rivers and the two bigs, while Evans can isolate or post up and either take his shot or make the defense collapse and kick in to a shooter. Defensively, the Pelicans should be great on the perimeter, with Rivers and Evans hounding ballhandlers, but rebounding might be a bit of a problem. But again, this will be against second units most likely, so if everybody contributes in that area, that weakness should be minimalized.

9 Minute Mark – Gordon in for Morrow

Lineup: Rivers, Gordon, Evans, Anderson, Smith

The Pelicans lose some shooting, but they put three guards on the court that can get out and run in transition or create for themselves and others in the half court. The perimeter defense should be fantastic as well, as those three can all pressure the ball and even switch on everything because they are all versatile enough to guard multiple positions. Again, rebounding could be a problem, so the guards will have to chip in to help Anderson and Smith.

6 Minute Mark – Davis in for Anderson , Holiday in for Rivers

Lineup: Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Davis, Smith

Holiday, Gordon, and Evans are all  together on the court for the first time with this lineup. The guards are all capable of creating for themselves and others, while Davis and Smith provide good kick out options on the pick and pop. They also can clean up any misses by a guard who takes the entire defense with him on a drive and misses the shot (Kobe Assist). Defensively, this unit should be fantastic, as the guards lock down the perimeter, Smith gives all out effort and energy, and Davis controls the paint and the glass.

3 Minute Mark – Stiemsma in for Smith, Aminu in for Evans

Lineup: Holiday, Gordon, Aminu, Davis, Stiemsma

The Pelicans go with their starting lineup as they set a physical tone going into the half. Again, the spacing won’t be as good as several other units, but this should be the Pelicans best defensive unit, giving them the ability to prevent any runs at the end of the first half by the opposing teams’ starters.

2nd Half Starting Lineup: Holiday, Gordon, Aminu, Davis, Stiemsma

Starters give that same physicality and defensive presence to set the tone for the second half.

6 Minute Mark – Anderson in for Stiemsma

Lineup: Holiday, Gordon, Aminu, Anderson, Davis

Again, we see Anderson come in to space the floor, pulling the bigs away from the basket. Expect either Davis or Aminu to be running the baseline in every set this unit runs, as backdoor cuts and lobs should be available with all the focus the defensive has to give to the guards and Anderson behind the arc.

3 Minute Mark – Evans in for Gordon, Smith in for AD, Morrow in for Aminu

Lineup: Holiday, Evans, Morrow, Anderson, Smith

Two excellent three-point shooters and one of the best mid-range shooting big men in the league open up the floor for Evans and Holiday. They would likely take turns as the ballhandler in this lineup, or Monty would call sets for the guy who has the biggest mismatch. This lineup is perfectly suited to allow Evans to operate in the post – one of his skill sets that was incredibly underutilized in Sacramento. Evans was his most efficient in the post, as he got fouled nearly 40% of the time he was on the block last season. If the opposition covers him with a two-guard or a frail three, they can run their entire offense through him down there.

4th Quarter Starting Lineup: Rivers, Evans, Morrow, Anderson, Smith

The five-man second unit starts off this quarter, just as they started off the second. Again, we can see a lot of Evans in the post, Rivers working pick and rolls, and Morrow or Anderson can completely change the game or put it away if they get hot here and knock down a couple of three’s in a row.

9 Minutes RemainingDavis in for Anderson

Lineup: Rivers, Evans, Morrow, Davis, Smith

After a quick breather, Davis comes in at the TV timeout and plays for the rest of the game. In this unit, he looks to get out in transition and suck the defense into the paint, as Morrow trails and bombs away from three. In the half court, there should be a lot of space for the guards to operate, while Davis and Smith clean up any misses.

5 Minutes Remaining – Holiday in for Rivers, Gordon in for Morrow, Anderson in for Smith

Lineup: Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Anderson, Davis

The ‘Big Five’ take the court for the first time in the game, overwhelming the opposition with a plethora of weapons at their disposal. Anderson, Holiday, and Gordon will be incredibly fresh at this point, and Davis should get easy buckets at the rim due to this units ability to run, get to the rim, and space the floor. The ball should be constantly moving, as the three guards all take turns playing on the ball, while the other two are more than capable playing off.

Monty can play the hot hand with this lineup, or he can expose certain matchups, as very few (if any) teams in this league have three good perimeter defenders that can match up. Also, this unit has five guys who can all hit their free throws, so if the Pelicans are in the bonus or the opposition is fouling late, that is a huge advantage. Again, the weakness with this unit is on the glass, so the perimeter guys will have to do their part to make sure that the opposition is one and done.

How the Minutes Break Down

Anthony Davis- 36

Jrue Holiday- 35

Eric Gordon – 32

Ryan Anderson – 27

Tyreke Evans – 27

Al-Farouq Aminu – 21

Jason Smith – 19

Anthony Morrow – 16

Greg Stiemsma – 14

Austin Rivers- 12


Of course injuries are bound to occur, so that will increase the minute averages for most of these players over the course of the season, but in a game where everyone is healthy, I expect ten guys to play and the minutes to break down somewhat like this. Davis and Holiday are shoe-ins to get the most minutes, while Evans and Anderson should be able to remain fresh throughout the season while providing as big of an impact as a starter does on most teams. On other teams, these might be 34 or 36 minute guys, but here they can provide the same impact in 27 minutes.

Rivers and Aminu probably got less minutes than most would project, but I fully expect Morrow to be the surprise of the season, as his shooting will open up so much for this offense. Stiemsma gives the Pelicans what Dell wanted from Lopez when he signed him last year – 12 to 15 minutes of solid defense and rebounding, while Jason Smith gives the Pelicans steady spurts of energy, hustle, and leadership throughout the game.

The key here, as usual, is Gordon. In my simulation he gets 32 minutes and provides the Pelicans with another major offensive weapon. If he misses game, that adds minutes to Holiday, Evans, and Rivers in all likelihood, and perhaps Aminu and Morrow as well. It also changes roles for some of the guys and makes the second unit a little weaker, as Rivers or Morrow would likely start in his place so Monty could continue to bring Tyreke off the bench.

The offensive firepower in every unit is nothing short of amazing, but the rebounding has to be a concern. If Aminu or Davis is off the floor, this is a below average defensive rebounding team. In the stretch where both are off the court, everybody will have to do their part to ensure New Orleans is not utterly destroyed on the glass.

But every unit can run, they can all shoot, and they can all get to the hole. The potential is here for the Pelicans to be one of the best offenses in the league, and gone should be the days of those seven minute stretches where New Orleans score two points. Every unit can score in multiple ways, meaning that at the very least, this should be an incredibly interesting team to watch this season.

11 responses to “Monty’s Rotation: Taking a Shot in the Dark”

  1. i think Morrow will be use this way only with bad teams/only defensive wings(Memphis is one), but against Miami Houston SA no way in hell they can hide him in D. For the rest i agree this should be a top 10 O team easily and a lot of fun!

  2. That’s pretty much how I’ve been running on 2k14. I play Rivers a bit more, but 2k seems to think he’s Russell Westbrook. I think our big five will get a bit of action in the first half if we take a big lead. Why not throw as many points on the board going in to halftime.

  3. I agree the Pelicans should be interesting to watch.  I’m so juiced about the season and look forward to some aggressive play calling and to seeing AD emerge as the All-Star he is bound to become.  I also look for another All-Star season for Holiday also.  I am desperately hoping that Gordon will bounce back to form – after all I believe he wants to prove himself.

  4. Despite our newly found depth at guard, I’m pleasantly surprised to see Brian Roberts not part of this predicted rotation. I can’t deny that he can put the ball in the basket, though. Fortunately, I like the idea of having a guy like that stowed away on the bench if the main guys are cold one night; he can come in for a few minutes, score a ton of points, then sub out before the opponent even knew what happened.
    Also, the lineups with both Anderson and Morrow sound really fun to watch, especially the one proposed for the 3 minute mark of the 3rd quarter. I can already picture Evans and Holiday penetrating and kicking it out to our marksmen behind the arc.

  5. I love those lineups and rotations…just turned on the radio and hear Evans hurt his ankle pretty bad???

  6. I think Jason Smith will get more minutes.  He is a skilled offensive and defensive player and gives a boost at “attitude” when he is in there.  I also think that Rivers will get more minutes in the long run just because he is too improved to stay on the bench.  His defense is much improved and nothing makes Monty smile like someone willing to hustle on defense.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.