The State of the Rotation

Sifting through what Monty Williams has said(and not said) to the media the past couple days, I think we’re pretty close to a preliminary rotation.  Here’s what I think Coach Williams is hinting at – and I have my own thoughts, of course.

The Starting Lineup

PG: Chris Paul – There’s not much to say here.  The only commentary about Paul from the coaching staff is that they want to limit him to no more than 36 minutes a game.  We’ll see.  Both Bower and Scott said as much, and he still played closer to 39 minutes or more.

SG: Marco Belinelli – For some, this is stupidity.  For others, this makes sense.  I tend to fall into the latter category.  Monty Williams has stated over and over that he needs more from Marcus on the defensive end.  In fact, I think it’s a conditioned response for him now:

Reporter: What about Marcus Tho-
Monty Williams: Defense!  More defense!

I don’t disagree.  I’ve been chopping up video of the Hornets games last year for a little movie I’m trying to construct, and Marcus was absolutely abysmal on that end of the floor.  Regardless, there could be four things going on here.

  1. Monty Williams thinks the SG with the starting line-up only needs to be a spot up shooter next to Ariza and Paul.  Keeping Marcus as a 6th man explosive scorer off the bench is a better use of his talents.(This is my personal take on Thornton and the team)
  2. Monty Williams doesn’t at all intend to start Marco Belinelli, and is using the threat of not starting pre-season and training camp to motivate Thornton to pick up his game, with Thornton “earning” the position by the end of October.
  3. Belinelli has been way more impressive than anyone expected, and Monty feels Thornton’s defensive issues completely negate his aggression.
  4. Monty Williams has been infected with Byron-itis, has built a doghouse, and is introducing Thornton to it, setting up Hornets fans for months and months of sphincter-tightening frustration.

SF: Trevor Ariza – Peja was finished last year, prompting Scott to move him to the bench.  While that didn’t work out, I full expect it to stick this season with Ariza around.  The only way I see this position being filled with Stojakovic is if Ariza is moved to shooting guard because Belinelli doesn’t work out and Williams wants to keep Thornton in a sixth man role.  As for comments the coaching staff have made about Ariza, they appear to focus on his defense and versatility.  I hope they are combining the two, and mean his defensive versatility, because I sure don’t consider him that versatile an offensive player.  On offense, I want him to run the floor, cut to the hoop without the ball, and otherwise, stand in the corner.  For threes.  No dribbling in traffic!

PF: David West – I actually find West’s position with the team to be the most interesting.  Monty Williams has been careful to talk about how the team is Paul’s and David’s, but he’s also called West out a couple times for his defense.  When he says, “A lot of people blame West for his defense in the paint, but that defense has to start on the outside too,” he’s not giving him a pass.  He’s calling him out, albeit gently.  I think West is in an evaluation period with Williams and Demps, and should he prove to not be putting in the effort defensively, I’m betting he’ll appear right next to Peja on the list of “Players most likely to be moved by the trade deadline.”

C: Emeka Okafor – There isn’t really any other option here, and trading him isn’t likely.  Monty Williams knows this, and that’s why he’s been much more outspoken about a need for defensive intensity from Okafor, unlike he has been with West.  Okafor needs to anchor the middle for this team to do any sort of damage.  We’ll see how that works out.

The Bench

PG: It appears Willie Green has locked up the backup position at the point.  Color me surprised.  Every statement out of training camp has indicated he is leading the charge as the backup point guard and relegated DJ Strawberry and Mustafa Shakur to purely end-of-the-bench roles.  I won’t lie.  I worry about Green being able to pull this off.  He’s been a swingman for 95% of his career.

SG: We’ve already touched on Thornton, so next I’ll talk about Quincy Pondexter, who is only nominally a SG.  I don’t think you should expect to see him much, particularly early on in the season.  Right now, he’s the fifth swingman on the team, behind Ariza, Stojakovic, Belinelli and Thornton.  Without injury or Peja/Bellinelli falling completely out of the rotation, I think we can count on him being brought along slowly with an eye to next year.

SF: As for Peja Stojakovic, I have no idea what to expect from him.  I cringe every time someone mentions the thought of using him as a stretch four.  That tells me two things:  Either Monty and everyone else have lost their minds, or Monty doesn’t really have a substantial role planned for Peja, so when people ask about him he responds with, “Oh, he’ll get a few minutes backing up Ariza . . . and maybe I’ll play him a little at the 4 in certain situations.”  Maybe he just wants to let the old, extremely expensive veteran down slowly.  That second theory is supported by the fact that there have been multiple reports that the Hornets are shopping Peja aggressively.  Not much point in planning around him if you plan on getting rid of him soon.

PF: Joe Alexander and Pops Mensah-Bonsu are reportedly fighting it out for the backup power-forward position.  Since neither of these guys are optimal or have over-lapping skill sets and attributes, I’d rather the Hornets just keep both for match-up purposes.  If the Hornets are getting killed on the boards, use Pops.  If they are facing a stretch four, use Alexander and his athleticism to try and keep up with him.

Oh, and yeah, Darryl Watkins is also in camp.  No, I haven’t heard anyone suggest he’ll make the team.

C: Aaron Gray and Jason Smith will be the back-up centers for the team.  Like Alexander and Mensah-Bonsu, but even more extreme, this is a battle between Power vs Finesse.  Of course, Gray isn’t that powerful, and Smith hasn’t shown a high level of Finesse, but you get the idea.  I don’t think either of these guys will lock down the backup center position for at least a few months, and early on the substitution pattern will be driven by match-ups.  I wonder if these two guys will end up hanging out and going to bars together.  Jason Smith can reel in the ladies, and Aaron Gray can . . . well he can be the wingman.

What starting line-up do you want to see?

46 responses to “The State of the Rotation”

  1. I know Quincy is 1 of 5 swingmen on the team and a rookie, but seeing him play in that open practice game, he made some pretty solid plays and was pretty impressive at times. I’d be surprised and disappointed if he didn’t get a run here and there especially if he performs well in the preseason. He seems to bring a lot offensively and defensively, and we know how monty loves his defense and hustle. Behind ariza, he seems to be the best defender of that group. I think he might get minutes at the 3 as an alternative to peja off the bench, he’s a little short but is strong and athletic.

    • I agree. I really hope to see Quincy get some time. I can just envision both he and Ariza bottling guys up. In summer league he was good at getting to rim and drawing fouls too.

    • agree… anyone remember him shut down john wall when monty put q on him in the 4th quarter of summer league

      • I do! I was there. After the game Monty seemed happy that he was “capable” of guarding 1’s, 2’s or 3’s. He made sure to point out that he wasn’t saying he could do it already, but only that he has the capability.

        He’s good about not letting his players’ heads get too big.

      • That reminds me, Hilton Armstrong and Sean Marks are trying out for the Wiz. IDK their chances of making the team, but I do know it’d be funny to see those two go head to head against Gray and Okafor…

  2. Crazy idea, not directly related to this post. When Niall did the site update last weekend, he said for us to suggest new and groovalicious things to bring to the 2-4-7. Well here’s my crazy idea.

    Since we’re in the Truehoop Network, when a name like Darryl Watkins comes up, is there a way to link his name to his ESPN player profile page so folks can read up on him. Just a crazy thought.

    • I wish it was that easy. We don’t have any direct access to ESPN’s go platform. If we were to do that, we’d have to manually insert links for every player.


  3. Okafor – West – Ariza – Thornton – Paul is the best lineup right now! I don’t care who gonna play the first 2 minutes of a game. It would be great if Belinelli challenges Thornton for playing time at the 2-guard spot. I’m really looking forward to see the new guys in a real game!

  4. @F******-apparently that’s what’s been going on. There is supposed to be this fierce battle between Belinelli and Thornton for that starting 2 guard spot. I keep thinking Belinelli will get it because Monty keeps talking about Thornton and his defense (I don’t know that Belinelli’s defense is all that better though) and Monty once said something about it’s not so much about who starts games but about who finishes them.

  5. If Thornton loses the starting spot because of his defense, then why would Belinelli get the start for the same reason? Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t Marco’s defense been pretty porous up to this point as well? I would say Thornton’s athleticism, if nothing else, should give him the slight edge in the D category.

    • @MaxALM-this is what I’m questioning. I don’t know all that much about Belinelli to know enough about his defense but I don’t think I ever heard much about his defense being great, or even all that good.

    • It’s may not be that Belinelli is better suited for guarding other shooting guard’s, but maybe he’s just putting more effort into it. Thornton may be so concerned with his offense that he’s not even giving a damn on defense. If this is the case, I hope Belinelli does get to start. Honestly, Thornton does a lot better when he’s not on the floor with CP3. He just feels more free to be himself apparently. Belinelli is probably more serviceable as just a shooter with the starters.

      • As talented as given players are, one of our major shortcoming in the last few years had been the lack of defense output, when the whole team is considered altogether. Even with Scott’s slow-paced half-court sets, we had trouble with contain and challenges… which is hard for observers to not question our defensive effort and intensity.

        The team would be remiss to not make a public/actual push to up the D, and that this philosophical change oughtta be reflected in the line-ups. Otherwise, what’s the point of getting a new house?

        I love the wiz-kid generations of coach/GM teams emphasizing a pre-requisite of D effort, or building teams with that as a primary criteria. As blue-collar as our parts are, I had often felt our team identity was a growing misfit. I wouldn’t feel bad about any missed opportunities for those players who do not shell out on D; and Thorton, as much as he is fun to watch on O, was kinda a matador coming back the other way.

        Paul obviously is a motor, but the other key player, WEST, has been pretty… lazy on D 90% of the time. I am guessing here, but his attitude more than likely is a bad influence on young players. So…what’s the problem with sending a strong message that if you can’t take the grunt work seriously, you don’t deserve a starting spot? It’s not like we have the personnel to do it like the Saints or the luxury to slack there.

        Let’s be real… so many factors have to break our way for the bees to even be in the conversation of top-5 in the conference. That we cannot even get anywhere close to maximizing those within our control has to be at the forefront of our proposed solutions. Remember those Yao-less rockets firing up their fanbase? Yeah, we’re nowhere close to being that homey, cute girl that just tickles you with her energetic self, but more like a washing-up recent-grad whose reminiscing of the good run of attention as a sophomore just kills a little bit of your soul every time you had to hear about it.

  6. What about belinelli playing 5 minutes of point guard a game?? I have read that he has experience at the position and doesn’t turn the ball over. I think that he is a better option than willie green and it gives minutes at the 2 for pondexter. I hope we actually use are only first round pick this year…

  7. What about a CP, Ariza, Peja, West, Oakafor lineup? That would have a lot of length and firepower. Green, Thornton, Q-Pon, and maybe a twin towers Smith and Grey as the B-squad? I’m surprised MT isn’t going to start. Is Belli really that much better on D? I actually think it will/should(?) break down like:


    Sigh. I hope some vet teams (Denver) blow it up, and some up and coming teams (Memphis) take a step back this year.
    Ho Gornets!

  8. A different take on the Thornton-off-the-bench:

    In the good time, Pargo came off the bench for Mo, but Pargo usually finished the halves. Pargo and Mo split the minutes. Monty could be setting up something like that, where Marco and Marcus get split time.

    Another possibility is that he’s got the idea that he can construct different `teams’ when need be. Teams go small, go big etc. and it doesn’t raise an eyebrow during a game. Maybe he figures the starters for a team that shoot from outside with West and Emeka underneath for dumpoffs or rebounds, with a bench team that is more creative and aggressive with the guards trying to get to the basket since that seems to be what both Willie and Marcus do well, with Marcus and Peja providing the 3 point threat that Marco and Ariza provide among the starters, along with Paul who just does everything.

    I don’t have a problem with Marco starting in theory. As long as the team plays well and Marcus gets his minutes, I don’t care.

    • Right on. Jason Terry is, and has been, the best guard on the Mavs for the last 3 years or so. Ginobilli is the best player on the Spurs. Neither of those guys start. Thornton isn’t as good as those guys, but he can fill a similar role on this Hornets team coming off the bench as a scorer and energy man.

  9. Boy oh boy this looks like a mixed up year! I guess we will have a much better idea how this team looks after the first regular season games.
    I hate that damn dog house.

  10. my opinion is that monty is just challenging him. everyone and i mean every expert is expecting marcus to have a great 20+ ppg season. he will be an amazing offensive talent and he works hard on defense his size just gets him. also it is likely that monty wants him coming off the bench to be jason teryy jamal crawford type player to be a BEAST

  11. PG- Paul
    SG- Peja
    SF- Ariza
    PF- West
    C- Okafor

    Thornton can come off the bench with about 2 minutes in the first and third quarters and play until 2 minutes left in the first half and and play the rest of the way in the second half after coming of the bench

  12. CP3

    6th- MT5
    7th- Peja
    8th- W. Green
    9- Gray

    9 man rotation with Pops and Pondexter getting minutes depending on matchups. The bigger question to me is who are the 5 that FINISH the game if Peja is having a good night from deep? When he is on, you almost have to have Peja out there to spread the court in spite of his defense and other offensive limitations. And CP3 and West must be out there as well, so that leaves two spots for 3 guys- Emeka, MT5, and Ariza. Do you take Emeka off the court and go small? Do you take Ariza out and have horrible wing defenders? Or do you sit your most dangerous all around weapon in Thornton?

    As I said, if Peja is on, it is a good problem to have but it is a problem nonetheless.

  13. The thing about putting Thornton on the bench is it only matters at the beginning of the 1st quarter. He’ll most definitely be on the court a lot during the final minutes of close games and will very likely get 30ish minutes per. And with his explosive scoring, he won’t need to play a lot of minutes to rack up 17+ points per game either.

  14. Bellinelli’s defense looked better than Thornton’s during the open practice, I thought. I know I didn’t mention this in my earlier comments (so it might seem a bit ex post facto based on this thread) but I really thought that Marco looked like he was purposely putting in extra effort on D. That doesn’t mean that he is a good defender, but he seems to be trying.

  15. I truly believe that Marco Belinelli has a better IQ for the game than Marcus Thornton. Please, YouTube his games against the Bucks, Blazers, Lakers, Bobcats, etc… He’s a better passer, shooter, ball-handler, and play-maker than Marcus Thornton. Marcus does really well with scoring, but that’s it! Belinelli’s and Thornton’s defense are probably the same, but you need an SG like Belinelli in the game in order to maximize CP3’s abilities and energy. Marco is an SG with PG skills. He has never been given the chance to play, nor has he played with a backcourt-mate like Chris Paul. Case-and-point, Marco will flourish playing alongside CP3, and Marcus will continue to struggle when he is on the floor with him.

    I keep hearing Coach Williams refer to ‘players that fit well together’. Someone mentioned a few posts ago that Marcus Thornton plays better when he and CP3 aren’t on the floor together, which is very true judging by his production last year when Chris was out due to injury versus when he was in the line-up. The Jason Terry / Ginobli factor is huge for MT5 where he can provide that explosion off the bench, and still feel like he is a starter for this team.

    So, the backcourt rotation is cut-and-dry; STARTERS: SG-Belinelli / PG-Paul … BENCH: SG-Thornton / PG-Green.

    The frontcourt isn’t as simple. The Starters should definitely be PF-West / SF-Ariza / C-Okafor, but as someone mentioned before, the substitutions should be made based on need and game-time strategy. Therefore, the Hornets should keep both PF-Alexanader / PF-Mensah-Bonsu … SF-Stojakovic / SF-Pondexter … C-Gray / C-Smith, and utilize all of them for match-up purposes.

    In essence, the only bench players that should expect to play every night is Marcus Thornton and Willie Green.

    The last two roster spots, if their are any more added to make #14 and #15, should go to C-Watkins and PG-Shakur (or Pargo if he is re-signed after this month based on progress with his knee).


    • I don’t agree with this at all. Marcus may be the smartest basketball player on the team along with Paul. His grasp of when to cut to the hoop and slash is a huge reason why he’s effective. He just finds the right spots going to the hoop, without the ball.

    • PG – Chris Paul need I say more
      SG – Marco Bellineli replacing the shooter that Peja once was as a starter with MUCH better defense
      SF – Trevor Ariza great 3rd or 4th option, skills perfect complement to CP3
      PF – David West very good when he rebounds (or plays Dallas), Ariza really helps his weak defense
      C – Emeka Okafor – good within 6 ft of the rim on either side

      i really hope W. Green is not the backup PG, (i’d personally rather M. Shakur) and if Q Pon can hit the three (like his open shot last night) he should get good minutes at backup SF behind Ariza

  16. I’m flying from Oregon to to NOLA on Sat. and my brother-in-law just hooked me up with tickets to see the game. I know it’s only preseason, but I can’t wait to see all the new Hornets out there. Our starting 5 at the start of last season was CP3 – MoPete – JuJu – D-West – Okafor.

    Whatever Monty decides, there is gonna be a whole lot more potential in this year’s crew (or should I say krewe).

  17. What do u guys think about this?
    Starting Rotation:


    I think our starting lineup will be good on the boards…

    And then having west and thorton coming off the bench will be crazy explosive on offense..

    What u guys think about that?
    (and if someone else already stated this, sorry i didnt read the comments.)

    • I think that this is really creative, and don’t forget Peja’s offense of the bench too. However, the interior foot speed of Gray and Okafor together would be worse than West and Okafor. I guess any team with Gray starting is going to be pretty bad. I think Okafor would be a good 4 with a more defensively dynamic 5, like healthy Ty, or a Noah type player.

  18. I think Belinelli should be looked at as the starting SG , not just to optimize Thornton’s talent , but maybe more importantly to allow for defensive versatility on the perimeter. Maybe not his person versatility per-say but a more versatile team defense better allowing switching between he and Ariza depending on matchup, I envision it against a Ginobli/Jefferson, let Ariza play the stopper role.

    Defense will come first
    but Thornton will get his shots , and could certainly start some games or become a starter . But I think defending the 2s and 3s in a division where you face Ginobli/Jefferson , Mayo/Gay you need to give the best defensive looks you can.

    also can Bonsu play some center ? I mean how big is he , I watched the open practice and he played big , you can’t be much shorter than okafur…. who by the way I think will step up become that first couple years in the league okafur.

    also is anyone been made any more confident in our PG rotations ? if so plead the case i’d like to understand. Still gotta think their looking for something to help in the Peja trade.

    p.s. watch highlights from the pacers preseason game

  19. Who has been one of the most dreadful bench scoring teams in the league? You guessed it, our beeloved hornets! If Marcus develops into an explosive scorer as predicted, coming off the bench seems like a no brainer to me. Adding scoring, stability and energy in that role is much needed for this franchise! Our starters have always been able to compete when healthy, but our bench has been an Achilles heel for years. Let’s see this situation play out before we start jumping to any rash conclusions. I like the idea of Marcus playing extensive minutes from a 6th man role. Maybe it’s a spark this team has been looking for!

  20. Looking back over the recent NOLA stint, which is about to become the second longest stable period in terms of location in franchise history at a whopping 3 seasons and 1 game, we’ve seen quite a few incarnations of this team. There have been come constants (CP, D) and some changes (Bobby Jackson, Tyson, Emeka).

    One constant had been that our bench was closer to 3rd-best-group-of-5 than a 2nd-best-group-of-5 when looking at the best in the NBA. We’ve had bright spots, but as a whole we’ve yet to have a decent big man on the bench. If you are stocked up on anti-depressants, try figuring out who the best backup big we’ve had is. Ely? Bowen? Hilton did have that one game in Denver. Marks was likable. Step back in from the ledge . . .

    Pick on Pargo and Mo all you want, and their shortcomings are well-documented, but we’ve been able to get something from the guards and the 3. Posey had his day. Rasual. Even Devin. Yes. Devin Brown. Daniels handed Chris and a not-larger-deficit or larger-lead compared to when Chris handed him the Paul on a few occasions. The ceiling on our backup bigs has been below the typical Devin Brown night as far as I can tell.

    Now, however, we finally have a brand new crop of bigs, and with them lies our real hope for hope. One of these dudes needs to work out, in my mind, for us to really be viewed as a team complete enough to really compete in the playoffs.

    The odd are that one of these jokers has to work out, right? Gray, Alexander, Smith, Pops, Watkins. Figuring Watkins draws the short straw, we have a group of veritable last-chances. Gray, last-chance or not, is in the league for 2 years unless the CBA says otherwise, so work out or not, he’s probably staying (who’d take him if he didn’t unless it was in the Peja deal), so we really need to get value from him. At least he’s cheap, especially by the foot. Same for Smith, but he’s on a 1 year deal for $2, double Gray’s salary, and could be moved more easily.

    That leaves Alexander and Pops as our wild cards, both at the 4. Poor D West. It’s been noted that the Songaila-Brackins trade may have traded uncertainty at the 1 for uncertainly at the 4, and, relative merits aside, this is qualitatively true. Hopefully Willie-at-the-1 is better than Songaila-at-the-4 and that Smith develops now and not later or never, which is the fear. But poor D West. Without a trade, our playoff hopes, real hopes of advancing, lie in these two unknowns. Yeah?

    That being said, I’m looking for that Peja trade to target a 4 or 4/5 Duncan-light-to-skim type, provided it’s not used on Carmelo, maybe with a player or two, and cap relief (I’d rather a 4 and some guys to try in place of our camp guys who don’t pan out come January). Emeka is here for the next couple of years, so going after a 4 makes more sense with D potentially walking.

    It’s also possible to see D West shipped out for a longer term 4, yeah? Depending on if they get a sense if he’s resign or not and how he plays under the new regime. He has a player option next year, but couldn’t they have offered him an extension already? Like Denver and Carmelo? But they didn’t.

    A Peja and D package is looking more realistic to me. Get back a 3 and a 4 with a couple years on the contracts?

    I sort of went off there, didn’t I? I guess I got the fever! 32.5 hours to tip-off!

  21. did you know that joe alexander is the fastest 6’7″ or taller player ever timed at the nba combine? since he can also jump out of the gym, it would be nice to see him on the floor with chris paul…there isn’t a 4 in the league as fast end to end

  22. Raptors fan wading in, just thought I’d give you some info about Marco:
    – Marco is an underrated defender. The Raps were BRUTAL defensively last year, but Marco is fairly active and 82games bears this out. Marco was +77 (coincedentaly, and rather wierdly Thornton was -77) for his position. He’s got good hands, decent lateral, and can be fairly pesky
    – That said, he could get caught up on screens a lot and lose his man when overplaying for the steal.
    – He’s not a good shot blocker nor does he take many charges, but he’s solid and usually gets a hand up.
    – He can also play the PG in a post and defend against some of the more average PGs.

    I liked Beli and thought he really had his moments with us, but where he really aggravated us was his shot selection and his offensive decisions in general. marco only plays one way: difficult. He can make the most impossible of shots while missing the gimmes, he will gleefully hoist up shot after shot while finishing 1/16 one night while going 9/10 another, and he will make the “best pass I’ve ever seen!” and follow it up with a “why did you go 1 on 4 and then hoist up a fadeaway 3 falling out of bounds with 17 seconds left on the clock?!”


    • he’s a talented player who hasn’t really had the consistent minutes or coaching to smooth out his game…hopefully he will get both of those things in nola

    • thanks for giving us some info on marco, really appreciate that.

      hopefully as he gets more experience he makes smarter decisions and makes those gimme shots. but from what you say i think i’m going to like him especially with CP3 as his point guard.

      best of the luck in toronto.

  23. I fully agree that the fit is better with belli starting and marcus off the bench. A pure shooter like marco really punishes opposing dfenses when paired with a gifted creator like chris. Think pejas amazing shooting % three years ago when his body was relatively intact.

    As for our bench which has been pitiful, we’ve always needed someone who can generate some offense & create their own shot. Scary to think pargo’s been the best we had in that department. Of course i’d hope to see marcus finish most games, excepting when marco’s got the hot hand.

    As for the bigs I’m surprised noone has mentioned using oak at the 4spot. I’d love to see pops or joe step up and grab some minutes but we all have to admit that’s a shaky prospect. If gray is our best option off the bench then bring him in for west paired w!ith oak @ the 4. They’d certainly rebound better than what we’ve had. Maybe bring smith in to pair with oak as another shooter to stretch the d. Bring west back in to give oak a rest then back to the starters. oak can guard a 4, he’s clearly better than anyone off the bench, why not let him earn that big contract?

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