If you are Alvin Gentry, who should be penciled into the starting lineup on opening night of the 2018-19 regular season at this time and why?
Jason: If I was Alvin Gentry and given the roster remains as is, I would start Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle and Anthony Davis. I would put Mirotic at the three just so Solomon Hill can ease his way back into things and test the big lineup early on and see if it works.
Kevin: I doubt this will be the lineup because I’m sure Dell promised Randle a specific role, but I’d start Payton, Holiday, Moore, Mirotic and Davis if the roster doesn’t get another major shakeup. I just think they need as much scoring and spacing on the floor that they can get to not fall into early dry spells. My first subs would be Ian Clark or Frank Jackson depending on who wins the camp battle for Payton and Randle for Mirotic. I’d try my best to not play Hill and Payton together to keep that spacing. I’d also only play Payton with Randle when Mirotic and/or another shooter — Moore or Miller — is at the three. I’d close games with Payton, Holiday, Mirotic, Davis and Randle.
Chris: I selfishly want to see:
David Fizdale’s idea of Kevin Knox, Porzingis, and Mitchell Robinson in one lineup for the New York Knicks has me intrigued. But I took a deep breath and came back to reality.
For role purposes and balance I think the best lineup once the regular season opens is:
I don’t think the starters for this current roster will matter as much as it did in past seasons. The roster is so interchangeable heading into training camp that many elements are subject to change.
An improved Solomon Hill could easily work his way into the starting lineup. Maybe Gentry wants to start Randle instead of Niko. But I think the most familiar lineup is the one I would go with. Payton is very comparable to Rondo — both the good and bad sides. And Niko seemed more comfortable in the starting lineup than coming off the bench in New Orleans. From a chemistry perspective, this lineup seems to be the most probable and productive starting out on paper.
Preston: Here’s my favorite lineup.
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: E’Twaun Moore
SF: Nikola Mirotic
PF: Anthony Davis
C : Julius Randle
I’m hesitant to put Jrue Holiday at the point due to his breakout ‘17/18 campaign, but this puts the best five on the floor and the group could compete with any starting five in the NBA. This is also my favorite version for closing lineups.
The combination of Holiday/Moore gives the Pelicans one of the best defensive backcourts in the NBA and spaces the perimeter for Davis and Randle, who can attack the paint with ferocity. It spreads four shooters across the court, including Davis, who shot 34.2% from three with the space granted by Boogie in the first 48 games of ‘17/’18. It also puts three elite rebounders on the floor, and gives the Pelicans intimidating size at every position.
My chief concern would be regressions from Holiday and Mirotic, who both flourished in their roles at shooting guard and power forward/center in the playoffs. Should the group experience hiccups, I would first try Mirotic off the bench, and move Moore to SF and start Ian Clark in the backcourt with Holiday. This would allow Payton the freedom to captain the second unit, with Mirotic as its scoring anchor.
David: Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Julius Randle, and Anthony Davis feels like a proper mix of shooting, defense, and pace. Nikola Mirotic, Ian Clark, Solomon Hill, and Darius Miller figure to round out the rest of the regular rotation barring a breakout from Cheick Diallo (should be the 10th man anyway) or Frank Jackson (health). Payton, Hill, and Randle together feels like shades of the Unholy Trinity from ages past. Let’s avoid it please.
Zachary: Payton, Holiday, Moore, Randle, Davis. I don’t think this is New Orleans’ closing five, but to start a game I’d roll with this group and log heavy minutes for Ian Clark and Niko Mirotic over the course of a game. Payton gets the nod over Clark because I fear the Pelicans second unit grinds to a complete halt with Payton running point over Clark.
Oleh: It’s more important for the Pelicans to establish elite pace than field the most consistent outside shooting at the start of games. If I’m Gentry, the hope is Elfrid Payton can slide seamlessly into Rajon Rondo’s role. Payton, of course, will not be directing his teammates all across the floor at every turn like his predecessor, but you hope his lack of quarterback/safety skills are minimized by greater aggressiveness and scoring outputs.
Next to Payton, you need to start two perimeter threats on the wing. Unfortunately, it looks like that duo must consist of Holiday and Moore because one of Randle/Mirotic should come off the bench to start and both Hill and Miller lack the versatility and assertiveness needed to attack opponents from all angles at the outset.
At one of the big spots, you’ve got Anthony Davis, but alongside him might be a coin flip until you see how the exhibition season unfolds. If Davis shows improvement from beyond 16 feet — he shot under 34% from the deepest twos and behind the three-point line, then Randle can round out the starting lineup. If not, Mirotic should draw the start because it’s paramount for this offense that Davis, Holiday and Payton all see as much daylight as possible on drives into the lane.
Travis: Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, Solomon Hill, Nikola Mirotic, Anthony Davis. The question mark here is whether or not to start Julius Randle. He might eventually shift into that role, but as of now I prefer the fit of Mirotic next to Davis. I also think the Randle-Mirotic-Davis triumvirate is not a realistic option on either side of the ball, but hey, what a great problem to have!
A separate issue might be what happens when Jrue takes a breather; in minutes sans-Jrue, it’ll be up to other guys like Randle, and not just guards, to make plays. Let’s just hope that we’ve always got two of the following on the floor at all times: Jrue, Randle, Mirotic, Davis.