The New Orleans Pelicans have a full roster and will have some competitive training camp battles that will spill into the regular season.
The starting lineup will likely be CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, Herb Jones, Zion Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas, and we know that Larry Nance Jr. and Trey Murphy III will be a part of the rotation as well.
After that, things aren’t as clear, especially at guard, where the Pelicans have a trio of small guys in Jose Alvarado, Devonte’ Graham and Kira Lewis Jr. These players are all very different and seem tailor made for a game of Start, Bench, Cut.
If you aren’t familiar with the popular meme (which is an offshoot of Kiss, Marry, Kill), you are given three players and have to choose one to start, one to bench and one to cut.
I don’t think any of these three players are getting cut, but we could see one of them fall out of the rotation and possibly even be traded if the Pels feel he isn’t part of the long-term plans.
Without further ado, here is Start, Bench, Cut, the New Orleans Pelicans’ backup guard edition.
New Orleans Pelicans: Start, bench, cut
Start: Jose Alvarado
Alvarado has shown that he is one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the NBA, but he is also a very good playmaker, which is an underrated part of his game.
His shooting is improving and he looked comfortable knocking them down from behind the arc playing for Puerto Rico in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.
Alvarado is locked into a very team-friendly contract, the type the Pelicans will need next season when Zion’s contract extension kicks in and their roster gets expensive at the top.
Alvarado was the heart and soul of the Pels’ bench last season and figures to have a big role in this one, though it is doubtful that he actually cracks the starting lineup.
Bench: Devonte’ Graham
Graham had a lackluster season for the Pelicans, but he was never really playing in his proper role, and under the right circumstances, adds something that Kira Lewis Jr. does not, which is 3-point shooting.
The Pels need shooters, and even though Graham’s contract is much higher than Lewis Jr.’s, he’s locked in for at least two more seasons and New Orleans has a pretty good idea of what he can do.
At this point in their careers, he’s probably got more trade value than Lewis Jr., who is still unproven. The Pels were one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the league last season, so Graham has a slight edge here, especially with Zion returning, as he’ll likely get more open looks which should help his shooting efficiency.
Cut: Kira Lewis Jr.
I know a lot of fans would probably disagree with this, and I hate to pick on Kira, as I am rooting for him to succeed.
But he may not be healthy to start the season and is going to have an uphill battle for minutes either way, as he’s fallen on the depth chart and may be redundant with Alvarado on the roster.
This is a big season for Lewis Jr. as the Pelicans have to make a decision on his option soon and may just decide to let him play out this season and let him become a restricted free agent. It’s also possible he’s included in a trade at some point, as he is still very young and has shown flashes of talent in his short career.
It’s also possible that Graham will be the one moved, which would give Kira Lewis Jr. a better shot at cracking the rotation, but until then, he’s going to have to prove he is healthy and ready to contribute off the bench or he could be watching a lot of games from there.
The New Orleans Pelicans are going with a roster mostly populated with versatile wings, so it’s unlikely they keep all three of these guys for the long term, but Alvarado is the clear frontrunner for minutes next season.