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Predicting New Orleans Pelicans rotation and player minutes at start of 2019-20 season

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Alvin Gentry will have options!!

New Orleans Pelicans Player Portraits Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

Many have already had something to say on the matter so let’s drop our two cents: Who do you see in the New Orleans Pelicans rotation and how many minutes will they receive from Alvin Gentry at the start of the season?

Jason Albert:

Alvin Gentry has a lot of talent at his disposal, and for the first time during his tenure, he doesn’t have enough minutes to pass around to all the deserving players. My hope is that the head coach lets the young bucks eventually get their fair share on a regular basis while spending time on the court with the vets. Here is my ideal per game minute breakdown:

Player Minutes Per Game
Lonzo Ball 32
Jrue Holiday 32
Brandon Ingram 28
Zion Williamson 34
Derrick Favors 32
JJ Redick 20
E'Twaun Moore 12
Josh Hart 10
Frank Jackson 10
Nicolo Melli 10
Jaxson Hayes 10
Jahlil Okafor 10
Nickeil Alexander-Walker 4

Kevin Barrios:

When looking at the Pelicans roster I see a very clear 10 man rotation.

Player Minutes Per Game
Jrue Holiday 33
Lonzo Ball 30
Derrick Favors 30
Zion Williamson 29
Brandon Ingram 28
JJ Redick 27
Nicolo Melli 21
Josh Hart 20
Kenrich Williams 12
Nickeil Alexander-Walker or Frank Jackson 10

Holiday, of course, will get the most minutes as it has been dubbed his team, and because David Griffin has thrown Jrue ’s headband into the MVP race. Holiday played nearly 36 minutes per game last season, but with the influx of guard depth and the lack of defensive liabilities surrounding him this season he should be able to scale that back to exert more energy on the offensive end — something he’ll need to do to get into that All-Star and MVP conversation.

Obviously, Lonzo Ball is also very key in helping Jrue make those career milestone leaps. Here’s to hoping Lonzo drinks frequently from the career extending and nagging injury erasing Aaron Nelson elixir chalice. If healthy, Ball will allow Jrue to stay off of the ball — which he clearly prefers — while also spelling Jrue from having to always take on the biggest perimeter threat defensively.

Derrick Favors hasn’t played 30 minutes or more per game since 2015-16 and those minutes were not played in an Alvin Gentry pace. (Utah was last in the league in pace that season at 91 while Gentry’s Pels were third in pace last season at 103.3.) However, with Zion and Nicolo Melli learning how to be an NBA players a lot of the big man rim protecting and rebounding duties will fall on Favors’ sturdy shoulders.

The front office has talked up Jahlil Okafor this offseason after picking up his option, but we also heard the same talk last season. It’s not that I doubt that Jah could be productive and is vastly improved, it’s just that I know Gentry and what he wants to do. I could see Jah getting some minutes in certain matchups, but I don’t think his old-school low post game is utilized regularly. His minutes will be dictated by match-ups and foul trouble giving way to a more athletic, defensive competent and veteran Favors, and the stretchier and heady Euro star, Nicolo Melli — who will likely play some small 5 like Nikola Mirotic did for the Pels in recent years.

Zion will certainly flirt with 30 minutes a night because he has that level of talent, but with the mantra being win-now and into the future he will be developed while not necessarily counted upon.

Brandon Ingram may be the most interesting player in the rotation because I see him logging minutes on the wing and/or as primary ball handler and also as a four in smaller lineups. Ingram and Lonzo are the most primed for a breakout and I believe Ingram will get to show his versatility within Gentry’s system in a very important contract year.

JJ Redick and Josh Hart will be dynamic shooters off of the bench, and I can see them used together with Ingram playing the point from the 3-spot — though Josh Hart will certainly guard threes regularly in this system. I’ve seen talk of him being out of the rotation completely, which I think is extremely ill-conceived. He’s a versatile defender that rebounds well for his size. When healthy he shot the three very well. And then there’s the fact that we know the Pelicans were offered 1st round picks for Hart — if he wasn’t considered a key contributor this season (as he enters RFA) then he would have been flipped already.

Kenrich Williams beats out Darius Miller for minutes in my eyes. Miller has one NBA skill and is often scared to use it. Kenrich is an excellent rebounder, a solid playmaker, a good enough defender, a great bench unit hustle guy and should be a better shooter this season while being surrounded by better playmakers and deadlier offensive threats. Miller and E’Twaun Moore are likely to be moved at some point this year and I don’t think either sees any consistent minutes without injuries. Moore is a very solid player, but it just speaks to the Pelicans depth that minutes are hard to find for him.

The last 10 minutes per game I have to dole out go to Nickeil Alexander-Walker. NAW has shown that he is a very ready and steady rookie. His length, defensive abilities and playmaking have me putting him in the rotation over Frank Jackson — though I do expect Jackson to get NAW’s minutes every few games. Jackson is a great athlete that has shown flashes of being a decent shooter and a good off-ball cutter. However, he hasn’t developed a handle that allows him to use that athleticism to get by defenders nor has he developed as a passer. Alexander-Walker is not the athletic dynamo that Jackson is, but he brings the ability to make everyone around him’s jobs easier so I have him elevated over Frank in the rotation.

While Jaxson Hayes flashed great ability in the Summer League I still believe this year will mainly be a redshirt year — spending time in the G-League and getting cigar or foul trouble minutes.

Chris Connor:

Player Minutes Per Game
Lonzo Ball 31
Jrue Holiday 36
Brandon Ingram 31
Zion Williamson 32
Derrick Favors 28
JJ Redick 28
Josh Hart 24
Nicolo Melli 12
Jahlil Okafor 10
Frank Jackson 8

Mike Delayo:

Player Minutes Per Game
Lonzo Ball 30
Jrue Holiday 32
Brandon Ingram 26
Zion Williamson 27
Derrick Favors 30
JJ Redick 26
Josh Hart 18
Nicolo Melli 15
E'Twaun Moore 8
Darius Miller 6
Jaxson Hayes 5
Jahlil Okafor 5
Kenrich Williams 4
Nickeil Alexander-Walker 4
Frank Jackson 4

Jamile Dunn:

Man, trying to divide the minutes up for this roster proved difficult! After years of Pelicans stars having to play heavy minutes to win, New Orleans now has so many quality players that finding minutes for all of this talent may be the main issue.

To start the season I think New Orleans will play a lot of guys early on, maybe as many as 11 or 12 players on this roster could get minutes as the coaching staff experiments and tries to figure out who’s who. As the team progresses further into the schedule, I would expect Gentry to eventually settle on a 10-man rotation. This is the type of deep rotation we see from some of the elite team in the West like Denver and Utah. Playing so many players allows players to stay fresh and it also increases the odds that somebody will have a really good game almost every night.

Jrue Holiday projects to lead New Orleans in minutes per game for a second consecutive season although his overall minutes may actually fall from 35.9 minutes per game last season to around 32 in 2019. The Pelicans increased depth can allow Holiday to increase his production while playing fewer minutes.

The next highest minute totals will come from JJ Redick and Lonzo Ball, each averaging about 28 minutes per game. I could see Ball exceed that, but given his injury history the Pelicans should resist riding him too hard. This can also open up a few developmental minutes for either Frank Jackson or rookie guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker. As the season progresses, I expect one of these young guards to earn the backup point guard role and eliminate the other guard from the rotation.

In the front court Zion Williamson leads the way with 27 minutes per game. This number feels about right to get Zion some serious run while also saving the rookie’s body a bit during his first 82-game marathon. The addition of European big man Nicolo Melli should give Zion plenty of breaks while providing the floor spacing that Zion does not. I’m also curious to see Zion and Melli play together in small ball lineups which could be really fun.

At center I project Derrick Favors to log 24 minutes per game, with Jahlil Okafor netting 12 minutes and Jaxson Hayes getting 5 developmental minutes off the bench. As exciting as Hayes was in summer league he isn’t yet ready for the regular rotation — even Griffin admitted that this season will be somewhat of a “red shirt”season for Hayes, but I still think he’ll get a little run in garbage time.

Overall the Pelicans are deeper than at any time I can previously remember because even most of New Orleans best teams lacked depth. This season the Pels should have both depth and versatility throughout the roster; however, it will be a real challenge for Alvin Gentry and his staff to figure out what lineups work best and who should get game minutes that will be in precious short supply. What a great problem to have!

David Fisher:

I expect Gentry’s ideal rotation to be about nine players, but with injuries, rest, etc. it will feel like there were 11 players in the rotation. In order:

Player Minutes Per Game
Lonzo Ball 28
Jrue Holiday 33
Brandon Ingram 28
Zion Williamson 28
Derrick Favors 28
JJ Redick 24
Josh Hart 24
Nicolo Melli 20
E'Twaun Moore
Jahlil Okafor
Darius Miller

Following the main eight, expect fringe rotation players to soak up what’s left from among E’Twaun Moore, Jahlil Okafor and Darius Miller.

Charlie Gonzalez:

This season will be a welcome change for Gentry; however, it’ll still present a challenge. Presuming a clean bill of health for all players, I expect Jrue, Favors and Ingram to lead the team in minutes early in the schedule but not in a dramatic way. A 10-man rotation with the following minutes breakout would make a lot of positional sense:

Player Minutes Per Game
Lonzo Ball 30
Jrue Holiday 34
Brandon Ingram 32
Zion Williamson 30
Derrick Favors 32
JJ Redick 25
Josh Hart 20
E'Twaun Moore 15
Nicolo Melli 12
Jahlil Okafor 10

A likely starting 5 of Lonzo, Jrue, BI, Zion and Favors won’t feature the shooting talent they’d ideally like to have but should be a defensive and transition nightmare. Gentry could even use a platoon system some nights given the wealth of quality reserves at his disposal, should he want to toy around with lineup flexibility.

Conspicuously absent from that rotation are the young and very playable Frank Jackson and Kenrich Williams, along with rookies Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes. Darius Miller sits towards the end of the roster; however, it’s unlikely he sees much court time given the talent boom in front of him. This should all lead to an inevitable trade come mid-season to acquire more draft capital or upgrade a specific positional deficiency the team discovers within the early season results.

David Grubb:

I think the top nine of the rotation is fairly set; with Holiday, Ball, Ingram, Williamson, and Favors starting, while Redick, Hart, Melli, and Okafor would seem the most likely candidates to lead the bench. By my estimate, that group takes up 96 percent of the available minutes each night. That will fluctuate on a night to night basis, due to fouls, matchups, and injuries, but there won’t be a lot of floor time available for the rest of the bench.

Griffin and Gentry didn’t bring the former Lakers in to not see them play, and Zion Williamson will be on the floor as much as his abilities allow him to be. It’s a great problem for the Pelicans to have, but where do guys like Kenrich Williams, E’Twaun Moore, and Darius Miller really fit in?

Player Minutes Per Game
Lonzo Ball 30
Jrue Holiday 36
Brandon Ingram 30
Zion Williamson 30
Derrick Favors 30
JJ Redick 25
Josh Hart 20
E'Twaun Moore 18
Nicolo Melli 15
Jahlil Okafor 15
Kenrich Williams 10
Darius Miller 10
Frank Jackson 10
Nickeil Alexander-Walker 5
Jaxson Hayes 5

Ben Pfeifer:

I’m going to include the rotation I would employ if I were the Pelicans — as I feel that is far more interesting than predicting their rotations.

If I were making decisions, my rotation would look like this, including nightly minutes:

Player Minutes Per Game
Lonzo Ball 28
Jrue Holiday 34
JJ Redick 28
Zion Williamson 33
Derrick Favors 30
Brandon Ingram 28
Nicolo Melli 22
Josh Hart 19
Kenrich Williams 12

Those would be the nine players I relied on going into the season. On some nights, other players are going to get into the rotation given the depth of this Pelicans team. E’Twaun Moore and Darius Miller could see themselves playing on nights where spacing is more of an issue. Jahlil Okafor could get in if the Pelicans are facing a weak center rotation. As the season progresses, expect the rookies to crack the lineup in some shape or form.

At this point, I’m not sure where Nickeil Alexander-Walker fits in. He’s clearly talented, but I’d imagine he begins his career with a minimal role until he proves himself. My main disparity with reality is Brandon Ingram starting. I am lower on Ingram, but the lack of spacing necessitates JJ Redick starting and Lonzo Ball is simply a better player than Ingram. Ingram’s best role is as a second-unit initiator, where he can hunt his shot surrounded by shooters.

Oleh Kosel:

To start the season, Gentry will lean on all the veterans. So not only will the mainstays of the regular rotation get a little more run, E’Twaun Moore is going to have a secure role off the bench. (Remember, David Griffin has already gone on record stating that Moore is one of the core vets.) In addition, Darius Miller should see minutes pending matchups, or when size is needed, Jahlil Okafor, and when situations call for more athleticism and speed, Frank Jackson. The rookies outside of Zion are going to have to wait on receiving non-garbage minutes until either injuries hit, the Pelicans fall off the playoff pace, or a player ahead of them on the depth chart is struggling while they’re shining individually in practice.

Player Minutes Per Game
Lonzo Ball 29
Jrue Holiday 33
Brandon Ingram 31
Zion Williamson 30
Derrick Favors 29
JJ Redick 25
Josh Hart 23
Nicolo Melli 18
E'Twaun Moore 12
Jahlil Okafor/Frank Jackson/Darius Miller 10

The most interesting thing to watch through the first 10-15 games will be the starting lineup of Ball, Holiday, Ingram, Zion and Favors — will a lack of perimeter shooting force the coaching staff to make a change or go to the bench earlier and then keep at least one of the reserve shooters on the floor for much of the rest of contests.

Travis Tate:

Short answer: a lot of dudes! Longer answer: tons of young, inexperienced talent alongside key veterans. Longest answer: I think Jrue, Ball, Hart and Redick should and will get most guard minutes, which leaves scraps for guys like fan favorite E’Twuan Moore (possible trade bait), Frank Jackson, and NAW. Zion, Ingram, Darius Miller and Kenrich Williams at the bigger wing spots; and Favors collecting most center minutes, with Jahlil and Jaxson Hayes taking some backup C time when Zion isn’t sliding over. That’s practically everybody on the roster that I think should get minutes! May have to trade some of these guys away! I WANT MORE NAW NOW!