An Educated Guess on the New Orleans Pelicans Rotation

Published: July 16, 2014

I have spent a lot of time (maybe too much) studying Monty’s rotations over the years. Whenever I hear vague comments and accusations thrown around, it is in my nature to want to learn more so I can be better informed. There is no accusation thrown at Monty more than, “His rotations are horrible.” Going back and watching all of the games when the Pelicans were healthy, I made it my top priority to observe his rotations and try to see what it was that got people so angry. I found nothing. In fact, I liked what he did 99% of the time.

The only thing that bothered me was that he would get far too nervous when AD picked up two fouls in the first half or had four in the third quarter, and often yanked him for too long. But other than that, he had a nice way of staggering units at the right time and was able to get his stars proper rest. I became familiar with his pattern and his thought process from watching that stretch, and now I want to carry that over here and try to project his rotation, seeing that the final roster is essentially in place.

Starting Unit


I think there is a small chance that he starts Salmons at SF so that Evans can change games off the bench, but with Asik and Davis as the second line of your defense, you can go a little small on the wings. This unit will feature Gordon heavily to start the games, as the Pelicans will look to get him off to a hot start, which should open things up for the team as a whole later in the game. Expect this unit to run a lot as well, with Davis and Asik controlling the glass and quickly getting it out to one of the guards on the break.

Substitution at 7 minutes


Salmons and Anderson come in for Gordon and Asik, as Monty often moved Davis over to center after the opposing big wore down a little bit and wasn’t as aggressive. This unit will feature a heavy dose of drive and kicks by Tyreke and Holiday, along with rim runs by Davis that should result in numerous dunks with all these shooters on the court. Keeping Evans on the court gives you just enough rebounding to allow this to work, and though Salmons did not have a great season last year, he id shoot 42.6% on catch and shoot threes.

Substitution at 2 minutes


Monty often made a substitution at the 2 minute mark, which I thought was smart because, along with the end of 1st quarter break, it really increases the ‘real-time’ minutes that a guy gets to rest for. He almost always pulled AD at this point and got Rivers into the flow of the game, rather than starting him cold at the beginning of the 2nd. This unit will feature a lot of Holiday and Anderson, often starting with the guards in a pick and roll with Asik. Asik will rim run, and if the defense sucks up on the shooters, Asik should get some easy dunks. If not, three balls will rain from the heavens.

Beginning of the 2nd Quarter


Gordon comes in and again is the focal point of the offense, with Anderson and Rivers also getting some looks. On paper, this unit looks like it can be torn apart defensively, but 9 times out of 10, the opposition will have 4 to 5 reserves on the court to start the second quarter, so Rivers hounding the ball and Asik protecting the rim should be enough to get by.

Substitution at 9 minutes


Monty almost always reinserted Davis here unless he had two fouls already. That strategy allowed AD to get close to 12-15 minutes of real-time rest, despite only missing five on the court. He does the same thing here with Evans, and more likely than not, the opposition will still be pretty reserve heavy, so look for this unit to absolutely blitz them on the defensive, which will lead to easy points on the other end.

Substitution at 5 minutes


The Finishing Five makes its first appearance. At this point, everybody will have had a chance to get involved in the game and this unit could just go on a massive run to give the Pelicans momentum heading into the locker room. Ideally, the Pelicans can be in or near the penalty and live at the line with this lineup of quality free throw shooters and/or get plenty of layups and three-point looks. And on the other end, this is where AD’s weight gain needs to pay off, as he needs to control the glass for this 5 minutes stretch.

Second Half

Rinse and Repeat for the second half.

Minutes Distribution

Anthony Davis – 38 (20 with Anderson and 18 with Asik)

Tyreke Evans – 38 (28 at SF, 10 at SG)

Jrue Holiday – 34

Eric Gordon – 34

Ryan Anderson – 30

Omer Asik – 28

John Salmons – 20

Austin Rivers – 18


Now, this is going to seem weird, but I am going to start off this final part of the piece by disagreeing with myself. The other common theme with Monty when this team was healthy was that he usually had a 9-man rotation. As you can see, I only have minutes for 8 guys when everyone is healthy. But I am having a hard time finding minutes for anyone else here. Maybe you can give Babbitt some minutes in the place of Salmons or perhaps you can argue that he will give Ajinca 4 or 5 minutes in the first half. This was actually quite common in the stretch where the Pelicans were healthy this year. A 4th big would get a couple of minutes in the first half, and none in the second half. But who do you want to take away minutes from? 38 is perfect for an elite guy like AD, and Asik and Ryno are barely getting enough minutes as it is.

The real issue here is that this team will face injuries, and when those injuries happen to Evans, Gordon, or Holiday, this team could be in big trouble. If Holiday or Gordon goes down, Evans can slide down and get all his minutes at guard, while Rivers can eat up some minutes there too, but then we are left with a huge hole at small forward. You probably don’t want Salmons getting more than 20 minutes (and some people don’t even want that many), and the options behind him seem thin. I mean, nobody wants any of the bigs to go down, but if one does, the two other elite guys can get more minutes and you have viable options behind them in Ajinca, Babbitt, Withey, and Young.

Behind Salmons at small forward will likely be Darius Miller (if he is re-signed) and maybe one of the wing players from Summer League. Going from Evans to one of those guys is clearly the biggest possible downgrade on the roster. And again, an injury to any of our three premier perimeter players thrusts one of those guys into the rotation. Or maybe the Pelicans can keep Evans at the small forward and go really small, playing Russ Smith a couple of minutes with Holiday, Rivers, or Gordon. Or maybe Babbitt can get a few minutes at small forward against the oppositions’ reserves.

As you are probably starting to see, I am beginning to reach here. But quite simply, guys have to step up. Whether that’s Darius Miller or one of the guys on the summer league team. Because injuries will happen, and if history is any indicator, they will probably happen to Gordon and/or Evans at some point in the season for a handful of games. But it shouldn’t be a surprise that this roster has a weakness – nearly every one in the NBA does.

What is more exciting to think about are its strengths. Think about a team that will have two fantastic bigs on the court at all times and at least one dynamic guard on the court with them as well. Think about lineups that can absolutely lock a team down on offense or offensive minded lineups that can drop 15 points in three minutes. With this roster, Monty can throw out either kind of lineup. He can adjust to the opposition or make them adjust to him. He has the talent to win games in a multitude of ways, and it will be fun to see just how dominant they can be if utilized properly.



  1. 504ever

    July 16, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Oh my gosh, you anticipated my one complaint in the conclusion: I don’t see an 8 man rotation or Rivers getting 18 minutes/ game with all players healthy.  I do see a 9 man rotation with another SF who allows our big three guards (Holiday, Gordon, and especially Evans) to play more at the guard spot and play Rivers less.  Who is that SF?  I was hoping CDR but it looks like we spend the Room Exception on Salmons, who I like more than most but….
    Also, I don’t see Davis averaging 38 minutes/game or Asik at 28 minutes/game.  I suggest Davis will average fewer minutes and Asik more.  But I am really nitpicking here.

    Overall outstanding work, again.  (Miss you on Twitter. Your Asik piece coming out soon?)

  2. CoReMeGa

    July 16, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Fantastic! I like the 8 man rotation because we should use a 3 headed monster of AD Ryno and Asik. I also think the starting lineup has to be as you have it. Tyreke showed that he basically has to start (helps his psyche) and Gordon would just mope around if he came off the bench.
    Although if Gordon did come off the bench he might have a decent shot at 6th man of the year!

  3. Michael McNamara

    July 16, 2014 at 10:36 am

    504ever  lite players at AD’s age tend to get 38-40 mpg. KG, Duncan, etc. all got 38-41 mins. 
    Asik might get 1-2 more, but its about right. Even in his best season in Houston, he just got 30.
    I agree with the 9 man rotation, but where do you get mins from? I mean, specifically, what lineup above changes and for how long? Kind of weird to just throw a guy in for 2-3 mins per half. Not enough time for him to get warmed up or make an impact. I know there will likely be a 9th guy. I just can’t figure out where.

  4. daThRONe

    July 16, 2014 at 10:45 am

    I’m concerned about the amount of mins for Asik. He was just angry in Houston for getting bench by Howard. Now he comes here and although he’s starting he’s essentially playing 6th or 7th man mins. Not only is he playing back up mins, but he won’t be closing out games. Given his history I can’t imagine Asik is going to be happy with the rotations if this is indeed how the mins are divided.

  5. Frederick M

    July 16, 2014 at 11:02 am

    He more than likely will have the 5th of 6th most minutes, but he won’t be close to 7th. Also, it’s not like this rotation will be used every game. Depending on matchup or score of the game Asik may either get more minutes than Anderson and/or finish game instead of Anderson. He’s getting 28 minutes this game, without be in at the end of either half. Except for when he’s in foul trouble, he pretty much will never get less than about 28 minutes. I don’t think it will be a problem.

  6. Michael McNamara

    July 16, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Got 30 mpg in his best season in Houston. Knows he is a liability at end of games because of his FT shooting. No need to worry.

  7. adfly

    July 16, 2014 at 11:32 am

    I think he would go with a 9 man rotation maybe 10. It’s a long season and with the injuries at they had at end of season (see. Gordon. Davis) they would play a little less minutes during the season. For the playoffs this would be a solid 8 man rotation

  8. bpec12

    July 16, 2014 at 11:38 am

    9th guy could be Young. A little energy boost and toughness for a short period of time

  9. Michael McNamara

    July 16, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    It could be anybody. My question is where/when?

  10. 504ever

    July 16, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Michael McNamara 504ever
    That’s the hard part, the actual line-up with a 9 man rotation.  Who is the 9th guy and under what circumstances does he play? Casspi?  Waive Casspi and sign CDR to a minimum deal (if possible)?
    That’s why Monty is the coach and we all play coach.

  11. jmbell7

    July 16, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    I really like Withey and Young, but in a meaningful game I don’t like them enough to take minutes from AD, Asik, or Ryno.
    If any changes are made, I say play Rivers less and Holiday more. Other than that, I’m fine with Babbitt, Miller, Young, Withey and Smith getting all their minutes in mop-up time.

  12. TristanBisnezzWilliams

    July 16, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Tyreke should start at the 3 spot but honestly, it doesnt really matter who starts. Its who finishes that count.
    I really hope that we resign Miller. I think he can challenge salmons for his minutes.

  13. Jason Quigley

    July 16, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Michael McNamara wow I didn’t even think of this. That makes me like everything even more. If the guys can actually stay healthy, this team has so much potential to be great.

  14. NOEngineer

    July 16, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    When: Pelicans up or down by large margin. Starters in foul trouble. 2nd night of back to back versus an easy team.

  15. voopster

    July 16, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    You sure the starting will run a lot?
    They should but not in Monty’ DNA
    can not imagine Babbitt guarding any small forwards
    If a SF can step up and consistently hit the 3 with passable D then that puts Tyreke more at shooting guard or back up point.

  16. Michael McNamara

    July 16, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    voopster The Pelicans were top 10 in pace last year before injuries. But, the “Monty doesn’t like to run” narrative is so easy that we have to say it whenever possible.

  17. soulbreaker

    July 16, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    i have my complains against Monty´s rotations but nothing specially bad or different than any other NBA coach. Now i agree with pretty much everything you said except with Gordon´s minutes, i don´t think he can play that “many” minutes and at least with our actual roster we can use him in a 28/32 min/g. 
    About the SF, i think a solution could be using 3 PGs at the same time like Evans/Rivers/Holiday or Gordon/Holiday/Smith, Evans and Jrue are big guards that get rebounds at excellent rates for their positions so with right match ups you live with that, plus they would kill the other team on the D end

  18. hugo_boss

    July 17, 2014 at 2:11 am

    Michael McNamara voopster Ding ding ding

  19. Michael McNamara

    July 17, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Agree. In games where a variable happens, all this goes out the window. But no foul trouble, no injuries, just a normal close game- I don’t know where I can find minutes for someone else and who I should take minutes away from

  20. Come On Pelican

    July 17, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    This is without a doubt the most thoughtful, relevant and insightful article that’s been written about our Pelicans in a long time, primarily because it accurately recognizes that — for better or worse — Monty Williams will be the head coach of this team for the 2014-15 season, it recognizes his preferences and idiosyncrasies, it recognizes that Eric Gordon is not going anywhere anytime soon, and it makes a persuasive argument for why this coach should vary from his traditionalist approach by starting a 6′ 6″ player at SF.  Thanks for the research and analysis and the nice read.  This Pelicans fan hopes you’re right that Tyreke Evans will start in the backcourt along with Jrue Holliday and Eric Gordon.

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