Pelicans training camp preview: Battle for the rotation

Naji Marshall, New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Naji Marshall, New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans head into training camp in just over a week with a loaded roster that is ready to battle it out for minutes.

Coach Willie Green knows competition is a good thing, so some of the internal battles for minutes this season will be intense, as several guys try to earn roles and time.

The starting lineup is pretty much set with Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, Herb Jones and Jonas Valanciunas, and we know guys like Larry Nance Jr., Trey Murphy III, Jaxson Hayes, Devonte’ Graham and Jose Alvarado are likely to play big roles as well.

Things could definitely change over the course of the season, especially now that Willy Hernangomez won the MVP of EuroBasket and will be coming into camp confident and ready to show he should be the primary backup center.

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You also have two guys who are eyeballing the minutes of Devonte’ Graham and Trey Murphy III, which will lead to some fierce battles for who is in the rotation.

New Orleans Pelicans: Dyson Daniels vs. Naji Marshall

The Pels will likely cycle players in and out of their 10-man rotation throughout the season depending on matchups and who is playing well. Coach Green has shown that he will reward defensive effort, which could put Graham’s spot in the rotation up for grabs.

There is also the possibility that Graham will be traded at some point in the season, as the Pelicans have reportedly been shopping him around.

Rookie Dyson Daniels and third year player Naji Marshall will be two guys on the fringes of the rotation looking to get in, and both have a strong case.

Daniels is much bigger than Graham and offers more defensively. He’s yet to prove himself as a ball handler or shooter, but if he can knock down shots and make plays, his defense is going to win out over Graham.

Same for Naji Marshall, who is also a bigger and more versatile wing player than Graham, and has also shown he’s a guy who can make plays in transition. He played well down the stretch and was getting minutes in the playoffs when the Pels needed more defense.

I do think there is a good possibility that one of these two ends up in the full-time rotation next season, so it could just come down to which one makes shots, as Naji and Dyson have similar qualities as defenders who can guard multiple spots and get into passing lanes with their length.

I love that even the back of the Pels’ bench is wildly competitive and loaded with talent, which should help New Orleans create matchup problems and hopefully weather any injury issues they might have.

Dyson vs. Naji will be one to watch in training camp as they both try to establish a role off the bench.

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