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Starters in name only

They say it's only important as to who finishes, but it might be time to start fretting over who is on the floor at tip-off.

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Over the last several weeks, you might be surprised to learn two players from the starting lineup are spending less time on the court than three reserves. Yep, Omer Asik (23.9 minutes) and Luke Babbitt (19.7 minutes) have spent more time on the bench than on the court in the last 7 games.

Ryan Anderson (32.1 minutes), Austin Rivers (25.6 minutes) and Dante Cunningham (24.7 minutes) have soaked up most of the available minutes. According to the advanced statistics, it appears Monty has made the correct choice. The reserves Net Rating (Offensive Rating - Defensive Rating) are all overwhelming stronger: Rivers (+13.1), Anderson (+5.1) and Cunningham (-2.0). Meanwhile, Asik (-14.6) and Babbitt (-18.1) easily have the worst ratings on the team during this time period.

While Babbitt's ineffectiveness isn't a shock, Asik's has probably astonished close to the entire fan base. Much has already been whispered that Asik has not plugged the leak in the dam that is the Pelicans defense. In his previous stops in Houston and Chicago, his mere presence seemed to improve the team's performance on that side of the ball. It certainly hasn't thus far in New Orleans.

Individually, his defense seems fine (47.6 opponents FG% at the rim), but when looking at it from a team standpoint, something is clearly not working. Close to 30 games into the season, the breakdowns remain numerous and plenty. For instance, if you follow David's comments, the Pelicans hard hedging continues to be a significant problem.

If the concerns are not resolved in the very near future, The Bird Writes will undoubtedly delve into this in greater detail.


Whatever the combination of issues, fantasy managers need to act accordingly. For the time being, it's wise to avoid Asik and Babbitt. When his shots are dropping, Anderson has been a grand slam, but unfortunately, that has been few and far between. Despite the minutes, Rivers and Cunningham are usually spotty plays at best. Their usage just isn't high enough to make impact that's worth a gamble.

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