What will the New Orleans Pelicans starting lineup be next season?

Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

With the 2022-23 NBA Season in the books for our New Orleans Pelicans, all eyes are now looking toward the 2023-24 season (and the 2023 NBA Draft).

And while it is not necessarily about how you start as much as it is about how you finish, many people do like to talk about projected starting lineups. So, we figured we would give you the rundown on who to expect as the starting five for the team next season.

First things first, if their star-studded duo of Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson is healthy to begin next season, you can comfortably write their names into the starting lineup (in pen).

The word “if” always seems to follow healthy when it comes to Williamson’s physical status, but based on the time until opening day (a little less than six months) and the nature of his injury (a strained hamstring), one can assume that – barring any massive setbacks – he will be ready to go at the start of 2023-24.

Meanwhile, there have been no reports of Ingram needing any off-season surgery, so it is safe to presume that he should be ready to go to start next season as well.

The next “sure thing” in our starting lineup would have to be the 2023 Slam Dunk Contest runner-up, Trey Murphy III. Not only is Murphy a rising star and an early candidate for the Most Improved Player of the Year award, but he’s also an incredibly gifted off-ball scorer. Generally speaking, off-ball scorers fit really well next to on-ball scorers like Ingram and Williamson, so including him in the starting lineup is a no-brainer.

The next name on the list is veteran guard CJ McCollum. He recently had surgery on his right thumb to repair a torn UCL, but he is expected to be fully healed by the start of training camp. So, injuries won’t derail him from being a starter.

Another arrow in his quiver for his case of being a starter next season is the fact that he started all 75 of the games he played in this year. Plus, he’s widely recognized as one of the best scorers and spacers in the league (again, a really nice complimentary piece to have next to on-ball stars).

The only reason we have Murphy as more of a sure thing in the starting five over McCollum is that the Pelicans may opt for more defense in the starting lineup. In that case, they would want to turn to defensive ace Herbert Jones in the starting lineup and have McCollum be more of a microwave scorer off the bench. But that seems unlikely given that McCollum operated as the team’s nominal point guard for most of last year, and Jones’ skillset doesn’t exactly fit that mold.

The spot we are easily the least certain of is the center slot (it should presumably go to a center unless Head Coach Willie Green wants to go with a more small-ball approach).

The obvious choice here would be Jonas Valanciunas. He is under contract next year, is known to be incredibly durable, and (like McCollum) he started in every game he appeared in last season.

However, when Williamson is healthy, the team’s two biggest weaknesses are rim protection and three-point shooting, neither of which Valanciunas does much to remedy. Maybe the Pelicans unlock their treasure trove of assets in order to obtain a five man who can fill those needs?

That’ll likely be the biggest swing piece as it pertains to the Pelicans’ starting lineup going into next season. But for now, the projected starting lineup will probably look something like this: McCollum/Murphy/Ingram/Williamson/Valanciunas.

Next. 10 Players the Pelicans gave up on way too soon. dark