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An early look at the rotations and minutes for the 2016-17 New Orleans Pelicans

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NBA: Golden State Warriors at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans had a whirlwind offseason, chock full of moves that saw the roster add six new faces, yet many of the players are not familiar names to the casual fan. However, the new additions all bring three things to the table the team lacked to some degree last season: high iq, fantastic work ethic and an ability to defend. As David referenced on Saturday, the front office probably believes Alvin Gentry’s system will unlock enough of their offensive skills. Thus, it’s time to have a look at how the rotations and minutes might project among the various role players.

With the number of guards on the roster, it’s apparent that the Pelicans plan on experimenting with small ball, specifically three guard lineups. My thinking is that during free agency the front office promised plenty of court time. E'twuan Moore and Langston Galloway both played north of 20 minutes per game last season and both had opportunities to sign elsewhere. Its not like the Pelicans over paid for these guys either, so playing time had to be a factor to bring them to New Orleans.

Tim Frazier is the only true point guard behind Jrue Holiday, so we should figure to see him a bit as well. In an interview, Terrence Jones seemed to think he would have a significant role on this years team.

"I wanted an opportunity to play for a team that is young and defining itself, but could still compete right away," Jones told Basketball Insiders. "I wanted a larger role, where I could really compete and help a team win."

So between what happened last year, where the league is at right now, and the offseason moves, I've come up with some different lineups that will take the floor next season.

Point Guard Shooting Guard Small Forward Power Forward Center
Jrue Holiday Buddy Hield Solomon Hill Anthony Davis Omer Asik
Jrue Holiday Buddy Hield E'Twaun Moore Solomon Hill Anthony Davis
Jrue Holiday Lance Galloway E'Twaun Moore Terrence Jones Anthony Davis
Tim Frazier Lance Galloway Quincy Pondexter Solomon Hill Terrence Jones
Tim Frazier Buddy Hield Quincy Pondexter Solomon Hill Terrence Jones
Tim Frazier Lance Galloway E'Twaun Moore Terrence Jones Alexis Ajinca
Jrue Holiday Buddy Hield Quincy Pondexter Solomon Hill Anthony Davis

There are a lot of different lineups Gentry can utilize on the floor that keep the floor spread with outside shooters while maintaining the desired strong defensive presence. These are just a few examples that we should expect, but other options exist as well. As you’ve noticed, Tyreke Evans is notably absent. For one reason or another, I believe he will not dress for a single Pelicans game all season.

When examining lineup combinations and the premise for the recent free agent signings, I have come to the conclusion that Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca and Dante Cunnungham will see a drop in minutes — barring injury of course. This is actually a good thing, though, because the Pelicans have real depth. A number of reserves consist of rotation players that fit the system. No longer will the team have to depend on Luke Babbitt, Kendrick Perkins, Nate Robinson, Norris Cole or half the D-league. That’s not meant to be a knock on those guys, but they profile more as end of the bench players or on teams that place greater emphasis on possessions and a slower, more controlled pace.

So given these lineups, I think Anthony Davis is going to spend a lot more at center as the Pelicans get with the times and often go small. They have the necessary flexibility to do so as Hill and Jones have the ability to play multiple front court spots. Consequently, here is my perceived minute break down of each player.

Player Minutes Floor Minutes Ceiling
Jrue Holiday 28 32
Buddy Hield 22 26
Solomon Hill 26 30
Anthony Davis 32 36
Omer Asik 12 16
Tim Frazier 15 18
E'Twaun Moore 20 25
Quincy Pondexter 20 25
Terrence Jones 20 25
Langston Galloway 16 20
Alexis Ajinca 8 10
Dante Cunningham 5 10

I know that’s a 12-man rotation, but I believe it will be down to 10 by the New Year. The competition will be fierce in the early goings among much of the roster; however, the coaching staff will whittle it down after either a few injuries set in or certain groupings of players begin to standout.

I think Davis will be considered the team’s main center even if Asik starts games, and depending on the matchup, back up minutes will vary between Jones, Asik, and Ajincia. I am pretty confident that Hill will split time at both forward spots, and Moore will see some time at small forward.

Although I’m confident Evans will not join the rotation, Pondexter is very much a toss-up. I can envision a number of different scenarios, including but not limited to him needing time to get back into the swing of things to being placed on a minutes restriction plan. Hopefully, though, these two players will be the extent of the team’s worries for most of the 2016-17 season. That would be a welcome change!