Hypothesizing the Pelicans’ Rotation

With the Pelicans’ roster in what appears to be close to its final form to start the 2019-20 season, the next logical step is beginning to think about how all of the team’s players fit together on the court. Before we get into how I would assemble the rotation, a couple of necessary caveats to mention:

1) The “Starting Five” Issue: I think we can confidently pencil in 3 of the 5 starters: Jrue Holiday, Zion Williamson, and Derrick Favors. From there, it gets trickier. From a positional as well as developmental perspective, the logical move would be to slot in Lonzo at the 1 and Ingram at the 3. However, doing so presents a pretty big floor spacing problem, and I’m not too keen on Zion starting off his NBA career dealing with the entire opposing defense collapsed into the paint. While that unit should be lethal in transition, I’d have some concerns about the half court offense.

I would *start out the season* by inserting Redick into the starting lineup (Lonzo and Jrue’s size and defensive skills would allow Redick to defend the opponent’s worst perimeter player) and use Ingram as a 6th man “point forward” (being the primary initiator of the second unit) while still playing definite starter minutes & closing games. As the season progresses and players start to get more comfortable together (on both ends, but especially defensively), I would eventually switch Ingram and Redick. Given the defensive potential and athleticism of that starting five, you could make a good argument that the Pels should just live with the lack of shooting and rely on creating turnovers + a furious pace to sustain the offense.

2) The E’Twaun Moore Dilemma: Look, E’Twaun Moore is a clear rotation player as long as he is in a Pelicans uniform. You can’t reasonably cut his minutes from 28.2 per game (what he has averaged with New Orleans over the past three years) to zero. However, his playing time should be reduced given the team’s new depth – if he is even on the team by opening night. There is a very real chance that he is moved between now and the start of the regular season, and in which case, his minutes would need to be reallocated either to an incoming player or to the existing players (particularly Frank Jackson, who currently sits just outside of the rotation presented below).

With that out of the way, here are my thoughts on the Pelicans’ rotation based on the current roster:

Breakdown by Game Segment

Start of Q1: Lonzo-Jrue-Redick-Zion-Favors. Lonzo & Jrue are an elite back court defensive pairing with good size, allowing Redick to shift onto the worst opposing perimeter player.

Mid-Q1: Jrue-Moore-Ingram-Zion-Favors. Ingram and Moore enter for Lonzo and Redick. Ingram shares “point guard duties” with Jrue, then transitions to lead initiator when Jrue heads to the bench.

Late Q1: Second unit of Ingram-Hart-Moore-Melli-Okafor. Lots of size; Moore would be the smallest player on the floor at 6’4″. Hart-Moore-Melli give Ingram a ton of spacing.

Early Q2: Pels go “small” with Lonzo-Hart-Kenrich-Ingram-Melli. Rebounding will be an issue with this group, but defensive versatility is maximized while still having a nice blend of creators (Zo/BI) and shooters (Hart/Melli).

Mid-Q2: The last 5 minutes of the half feature the starting lineup with Ingram replacing Ball (Jrue-Redick-Ingram-Zion-Favors). Jrue assumes the lead ball-handler role for the end of the half, with Zion & Ingram taking turns initiating, Redick running all over the place without the ball, and Favors rim-running / screen-setting.

Second Half: Very similar to the first half rotations until crunch time.

Crunch Time: Pels go small with a closing lineup of Lonzo-Jrue-Redick-Ingram-Zion. This lineup will likely be used sparingly throughout Zion’s rookie season, but opponents tend to go small more frequently at the end of games, making it logical to deploy in that situation.


Anthony Davis may be gone, but the Pelicans arguably have more roster depth this season than at any other point in franchise history. With that depth comes options, and there is likely more than one “right answer” as far as a distribution of minutes is concerned. There are good arguments for any two-man combo of Lonzo, Ingram, & Redick as starters alongside Jrue on the perimeter. But if Gentry and his staff could sell Ingram as a 6th man who would still get the second or third most minutes on the team, that would be the direction I would pursue to start the season.

8 responses to “Hypothesizing the Pelicans’ Rotation”

  1. Wouldn’t it be best to have Hart or someone else in the crunch time lineup? Lonzo being on the floor in a close game would be two automatically missed FT’s.

  2. Trying to see why Melli is ahead of Okafor and Wood, they’re proven in THIS league. Ok you want shooting you put him over Okafor, but Wood can stretch the floor too, maybe not as good as Melli,but he does so many other things well,… he’s long, rebounds well, blocks shots and plays passing lanes because of his length, plus he’s played in this league, and he did so well i might add…You know something about Melli everybody else doesnt ?

    • I think there’s a reason that A) they gave a 28.5 year old from Europe 2 fully guaranteed years at $4M per season and B) he left Europe to come to New Orleans. I expect him to have a real spot in the rotation.

    • I think he could, particularly if Moore is moved. He’s the first person I would bump up. Just hard to find the minutes behind Jrue, Zo, Redick, Moore, and Hart – especially if Ingram plays a bit of PG with the second unit.

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