You’ve surely heard the saying before. It’s not about how you start but how you finish. And technically speaking, that reigns true for the game of basketball as well (I say “technically” because, in actuality, all possessions are weighed equally, so possessions at the end of the game are no more important than those that take place in the middle of the second quarter, but I digress).
Anyway, how should the New Orleans Pelicans go about closing games this year?
That’s where the crazy idea I alluded to in the title comes in to play. Now, I’m not entirely sure I actually want them to play this closing lineup. But, hey, the regular season is intended (at least to some degree) for experimentation, so why not give it a shot.
Without further ado, the proposed closing lineup consists of CJ McCollum, Trey Murphy III, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, and Herbert Jones.
Keep in mind, this hypothetical lineup configuration is contingent upon the fact that the Pelicans remain healthy – something they have struggled to do in the past. With that said, the rationale behind this lineup is pretty simple. At the end of the game, you want your best players on the floor. And these five gentlemen are the five players I believe to be the five best members of the team (as currently constructed).
Now, there is one massive problem (no pun intended) with this lineup. No one included in that lineup could credibly pass for a center. That means that the team will be giving up a lot by way of rebounding and rim protection.
However, maybe the Pelicans can cancel out those problems with all the length they would be sporting with that lineup. Outside of McCollum, everyone on the floor has a 6’10 wingspan or greater (Ingram’s wingspan is 7’3). Maybe this lineup does such a good job of deterring people from the paint with their length that they don’t need to worry about contesting a ton of shots in the interior.
Another thing to think about is how much offense would be on the floor between Williamson, Ingram, McCollum, and Murphy III. According to PBP Stats, last season, that four-man unit posted a 140.0 offensive rating in the eleven minutes they shared the court (major small sample size alert). Who’s to say that the Pelicans don’t score enough points with that lineup that they just run people right out of the gym?
We don’t have the answers to those questions right now. But one must admit, this lineup is so tantalizing that said questions are worth using the regular season to figure out.