New Orleans Pelicans head coach Willie Green must readjust his planned rotations before training camp starts.
New Orleans Pelicans head coach Willie Green is no stranger to adversity due to injury. And now, the staff will have to readjust the planned rotations before training camp starts following Trey Murphy III’s meniscus surgery.
Murphy III missing 10-12 weeks is a setback, but on the bright side, at least it solved the Starting 5 conundrum and won’t cause him to miss the entire season, either. That’s one less headache Willie Green will not have to worry about until after the holiday season, and even then, Murphy will still need time to ramp up to game speed.
Starting Five To Start Season
The first five on the floor is practically set for the first 15-20 games Murphy III will now miss. How he’s worked back into the rotation is a different matter. Until Murphy III can suit up and make a difference, Herbert Jones should get the starting nod at one of the wing spots. Here is what the starting five should look like on opening night:
- PG: CJ McCollum
- SG: Herb Jones
- SF: Brandon Ingram
- PF: Zion Williamson
- C: Jonas Valanciunas
Running The Reserves
Look for the Pelicans to try limiting the wear and tear on their big men down to start the season. The team will miss Murphy III’s shooting, but they still have to protect the paint and grab rebounds. New Orleans has a surplus of guard depth to figure out but would be too thin on the front lines should Zion Williamson or Jonas Valanciunas pick up an early knock.
First Sub In: Larry Nance Jr. or Cody Zeller should be checking in first, depending on the matchup and foul situation. Leaving the core four on the court and replacing Valanciunas with Nance or Zeller helps Williamson and Ingram get more playing time together (something they need, considering how much time they have spent apart).
Nance Jr. could theoretically check-in for anyone on the court, and New Orleans would still hold an advantage. For instance, Larry for Jones or McCollum allows for the Point Zion or Point Ingram experiments to get some run. Nance for Valanciunas slides the team into a small-ball squad, and that type of versatility makes Nance very valuable to the Pelicans.
Next Up: Why Dyson Daniels? Well, first, Daniels has to win this job in camp, but Jose Alvarado, Kira Lewis Jr., and Naji Marshall will give the Australian a run for his money. Still, the former 8th overall pick has all the physical attributes to guard guards and forwards. His inconsistent shooting is what will keep this camp competition interesting. The team has too much invested in Daniels to not give him the benefit of the doubt in a close roster spot battle.
Alvarado, Lewis, and Marshall will all get minutes, but how many and when? They all have their limitations (size, shooting, defense) but have had some inspiring spurts in the past. Lewis is still waiting for a breakout moment but could also be a salary cap trade casualty before the season opens. The Pelicans are still flirting with the first tax line, and the front office has more than a few reasons to duck below it before the start of the season.
Jordan Hawkins is the wild card. You’ll recall that a couple of years ago, Jones made an impression during rookie camp and became a starter. Hawkins could shoot his way into the early season sixth-man role, but it’s a tough challenge to throw at a rookie joining what could be a top-4 playoff team going by last year’s first-half records.
Last Subs Left
Zeller is a like-for-like swap-in for Valanciunas that is very matchup-dependent, so the new reserve center’s minutes are likely to have more variance than other core contributors. He’ll get some time just so Valanciunas can rest, but some nights, it won’t be much more than the minimum, especially if Dyson Daniels makes a developmental leap.
EJ Liddell could play occasionally. However, coming off of a surgery that kept him out for a year, I’d expect him to get some G-League run with the Birmingham Squadron to knock off rust and get in better game shape.