The New Orleans Pelicans may have their own “Death Lineup”

Herbert Jones #5 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Herbert Jones #5 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans were able to pull away late in their preseason win over the Orlando Magic behind lineups that did not have a traditional center.

The Golden State Warriors were one of the pioneers of this, using their “Death Lineup” effectively to blow teams away with speed, shooting and defense.

They were able to do this because they have two of the greatest shooters of all time, but also because of the defensive versatility of Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, two guys who could guard anyone on the floor.

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Because Green and Iguodala could guard up, teams couldn’t take advantage in the post while the Warriors were able to create mismatches all over the place on offense, play fast and blow teams away.

It wasn’t something they used all of the time, as teams would eventually get to them on the glass, but in bursts it was tough to stop.

The New Orleans Pelicans might be able to use similar small-ball lineups this season. Even though it is only preseason, the Pels have more quality depth than they did last year and are a lot faster and more versatile, with guys like J.J. Redick, Nicolo Melli and Steven Adams exchanged for long wings in Trey Murphy III, Naji Marshall and Herb Jones.

Because of these three guys, the Pelicans are going to be able to put their own versions of a “Death Lineup” on the floor.

New Orleans Pelicans: Going small with Herb Jones

The Pelicans used lineups without centers effectively against Orlando, going on a 14-0 run that sealed the game. It started with this group:

  • Kira Lewis Jr.
  • Tomas Satoransky
  • Josh Hart
  • Trey Murphy III
  • Herb Jones

And then later they subbed Hart for Naji Marshall and put the game away with active defense, passing and easy buckets in transition.

I can see the Pelicans using versions of this lineup all season, and they have a lot of ways to do it once Zion Williamson has returned.

What makes it work is that Herb Jones is a very good defender who is comfortable guarding anyone. He has a lot of similarities to Draymond Green and like Draymond, may have been overlooked in the draft because he was a bit older.

The group above was really getting after it on defense and looking to push in transition, which they did. The version I ultimately see the Pelicans using is this one:

  • Zion Williamson
  • Brandon Ingram
  • Trey Murphy III
  • Naji Marshall
  • Herb Jones

There are a lot of exciting possibilities with this group on both ends as Naji, Jones and Trey can create deflections, steals and blocks on defense and still provide enough shooting to space the floor around the Pels’ two stars.

Any of these guys can lead a break and finish, so we are going to see some highlight-reel fast breaks this season when the Pels are playing small ball.

The New Orleans Pelicans are young, fast and versatile and they should lean into it at times by going small.

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