Time for a Change in the Starting Lineup?

After the injury to Eric Gordon, Coach Monty Williams untimately settled on a Pelicans starting lineup of Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Luke Babbitt, Anthony Davis, and Omer Asik. The prevailing idea, here, was to find a way to still effectively space the floor for guys like Tyreke and Jrue to have room to get into the paint and create lots of open looks. Sure, you sacrifice a bit defensively, but with no true small forward on the roster, Williams wisely decided to prioritize offense from the position and make concessions defensively.

Unfortunately, things haven’t really gone as planned for the Pelicans with this unit. After last night’s victory over the Spurs, this Pelicans 5-man group is now the most used lineup for the team, and the results are less than ideal. In 151 minutes, they are getting outscored by 9.4 points per 100 possessions; from a league-wide perspective, it would give the Pelicans the 6th worst offense and 4th worst defense.

The good news: help is on the way. Assuming his rehab continues on schedule, Eric Gordon will hopefully be back on the court some time in January, at which point the Pelicans will almost certainly return to the excellent Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Davis-Asik starting lineup that has outscored opponents by nearly 12 points per 100 possessions in 145 minutes this year (the 6th best 5-man lineup in the NBA with at least 140 minutes played). Until then, though, it may be time for Monty Williams to consider a change to the starting lineup.

Give Coach Williams credit – after the first six minutes of the first and third quarters, he largely abandons his new starting lineup unless Babbitt has the hot hand. However, the Pelicans often find themselves having to climb out of a hole created by that group, and there may be a way to fix that – a starting lineup of Holiday, Rivers, Cunningham, Davis, and Asik. Don’t get me wrong, this group probably won’t score at a top-10 rate. But you know what? Neither did the lineup with Babbitt and Evans in it, as the offensive efficiency with the current starters is pretty much Charlotte Hornets-level. However, this unit should be a total menace on the defensive end, as it features what are arguably the Pelicans’ five best defensive players.

To be clear: the idea here is not to cut into Tyreke Evans’ minutes, but merely to redistribute them until Eric Gordon returns from injury. A completely reasonable gut reaction would be that Evans would not be happy about going back to the bench, but if the coaching staff can sell him on it being a temporary move until Gordon returns, then he may buy in. Also, while Evans should still play every single crunch time minute, think about the spacing he would have with a second unit featuring Salmons, Babbitt, Anderson, and Ajinca (assuming Monty sticks with his current 10-man rotation). The floor would be his to do as he pleases, and while the defense would be pretty rough with this group, they would mostly be playing against opposing second units, so the offense that it brings should be more than enough to get by.

Being realistic, the chances of this change occurring are somewhat slim, purely because it would create entirely new rotations for the team, and I don’t think Coach Williams wants to make a total overhaul to both units. He has no problems switching one player out with another (Withey for Ajinca, Fredette for Salmons, etc.), but it seems like he tries to stay away from massive changes as long as his hand isn’t forced by injuries. Still, a potentially excellent defensive starting lineup of Holiday-Rivers-Cunningham-Davis-Asik with a monster floor-spacing second unit of Evans-Salmons-Babbitt-Anderson-Ajinca may help the Pelicans in the short-term as they wait for Gordon to get healthy.

What do you y’all think? Make your case in the comments!

8 responses to “Time for a Change in the Starting Lineup?”

  1. I like any lineup that decreases the amount of minutes the Pelicans play without Evans or Holiday on the floor. I think any time Jrue is out, Evans needs to be in and vice versa.   Until we find a true backup PG, that is….   Evans has shown he can distribute the ball and create without Jrue.  
    I also like Cunningham as a defender and floor spacer, but I think he fits better with Anderson than does Babbitt.    I like him and Anderson with Davis, with either Tyreke or Jrue or both.  Babbitt’s biggest problem is lack of unilization.  More passes his way and a more decisive 3-point shot would help.   However, I don;t think he and Anderson together would be a good defensive idea….

  2. Nooooo!!! I hope not.
    Tyreke off the bench is a total different player.
    I hear your numbers…..but I dont think thats the answer at all.
    E.G. needs to come off the bench. …until he gets flipped for some nice Role players.
    Since he went down….the team has been better. More defined roles.
    He should be fighting Austin Rivers for minutes not Tyreke.
    Gordon n Rivers dont work well together. …until 1 of them are gone (which is sooner rather then later) the team will be 1 piece away.
    Team needs: 1.Backup Center (energy Big ) Andray Blatche, Brandon Wright types.
    2. Backup PG….maybe Russ Smith soon
    But a true floor general type
    3. Starting Sf….Not really top priority because of the core in place.
    4. Different starting C…..Asik is a good get…and does a good job….so its not a priority to replace….but can upgrade there too. He’s not as good of a shot blocker then I thought. Teams dont fear Asik….Davis can sure use a guy they fear back there with him. (Roy Hibbert, Javale Mcgee)
    Low maintenance(dont need plays called for them similar to Asik)..High block shots

  3. Haha…I said 1 piece away…but named 4.
    Dont think a the other parts are going to be hard to get.
    The Pelicans are just Hamstrung with E.G.
    Once that one piece is gone….the team will be soo much better

  4. NOEngineer Yep. Babbitt/Anderson is likely a disaster.
    The problem, as Mason points out, is the 10 man rotation. More specifically, that Monty likes to play starters with starters and back ups with back ups. I would love to see some more staggering of Holiday and Evans (and Gordon when he returns). There are intriguing 2nd unit possibilities, but there needs to be a legitimate NBA guard on the floor. Anderson cannot carry a unit on his own.

  5. I still think the guards have to make more of an effort to pass to Babbitt when Babbitt is open for the corner 3 pointer.  There is no point in playing Babbitt, let alone starting him, if players don’t pass him the ball for his bread and butter 3 point shot.  That is the “tweek” I expect to see.  Three point shooting, especially from the corner is Babbitt’s strongest NBA skill.  Babbitt shoots over 50% from 3 point land: that’s why he plays.    Getting Babbitt 5-6 more 3 point shots per 100 shots could erase the 9 point deficit for the Pelican’s current starting line-up.  Another “tweek” could be telling Babbitt to reduce his shooting from inside the 3 point line, where he shoots only 42.7%.  Finally, playing games against weaker teams, which is about to happen, should improve all Pelican’s lineups compared to other teams.

  6. mvpmb10 There aren’t any Centers in the league who feel that way. McGee is a regular on Shaqtin a fool. We don’t need him, even if he played for free. I agree on the need for a backup PG. But, how can you say we DON’T NEED A SF…..please enlightened us.

  7. mvpmb10 I agree, EG is a disaster. The sooner he is gone, the better the team will be. He is definitely not “Mr. Clutch”. I’m sick of his crunch time shots clanking off the rim. Although Rivers is improving, he’s still not a starter by any stretch of the imagination and I don’t see his ceiling being much higher. I wish his dad would take him off the Pels hands.
    That really says something when your dad doesn’t want you. Lastly, the Pels need a real head coach, they’ll never go anywhere with Monty in charge……

  8. @pelicansaints
    Didn’t say we dont need a sf….not a top priority with the what we have in cap space right now.
    What kinda of SF are you going to get?
    Once that E.G contract is up…can get a Quality Sf.
    Who are you going to trade to get a SF?
    Dont really want to give up on this squad yet…n break them up.
    So…Starting SF isnt really the top priority at the time….but is a need.
    Can Dell flip E.G for a starting sf?..that would be amazing. ..but not holding my breath on that.

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