New Orleans Pelicans: The Ideal Lineup
Holiday | Crawford | Hill | Davis | Cousins
Last Year: PER: 18.95 | FG %: 44.8% | 3 PT %: 34.4% | REB: 32 | PTS: 75
Last year the Pelicans began the year with a dominant Anthony Davis and a supporting cast that couldn’t string together wins. Davis is showing us time and time again why he’s an all star in this league. The court vision and passing that compliment his ability to score and protect the rim reflect all the features of the prototype Hall of Fame Power Forward. In his first few years as an NBA star he’s even tuned in his 3 point shot and added a new layer of dominance to his game. He is the king of New Orleans right now, but as of the 2017 All Star break he’s sharing his stage with another dominant Kentucky alumn.
Demarcus Cousins is known for his tenacious style of play, offensive capabilities, and the fear he instills on everyone around him in an opposing uniform. When looking into the numbers of Cousins I found something really interesting. He’s the second most efficient player on the team behind Anthony Davis. Demarcus Cousins is not only a big framed monster on the inside, but he’s also methodical and effective with his time on the court. It’s always interesting to take a statistical look at guys like Cousins, James Harrison of the Steelers, and other big dominant tenacious players. Many times you’ll find that they’re not as “all over the place” as you might think. They’re very maticulous about knowing where to be and when to be there. Cousins is absolutely no exception to this trend.
Jrue Holiday compliments his two star big men in a way that reminds me of no one in the league. He’s athletic enough to pull defenses away from the inside to cover his movement, but he’s an excellent facilitator and a solid defensive guard. Last season he pulled in about 7 assists per game and almost 1.5 steals. His ability to hit three point shots over bigger defenders is something remarkable, yet seemingly overlooked. The Pelicans have players up and down the roster who are surprisingly good shooters. They’re Centers, Power Forwards, and Point Guards. It’s unique, and they can leverage it when needed.
Solomon Hill may not be a household name right now, but that doesn’t mean a thing when we put together the ideal Pelicans lineup. His role in their lineup as a catch and shoot Forward is enhanced by his 31% 3 point FG percentage last season. He only attempted around three shots from behind the line last season, and averaged around 7 points per game. I think it’s fair to expect his presence to increase next season as teams will be exercising their resources on AD and Cousins. Hill has a good track record of hitting mid range shots when they’re available, and is effective in his role as the wing shooter. From the corner of the arch he hits close to evenly from each side.
This leaves us with what I consider to be the weakest position of this Pelicans roster at the Shooting Guard spot. That isn’t to say they don’t have any good two guards, but they are talented all around and this is their youngest position. Jordan Crawford has the ability to blossom at this position this season and provide the Pelicans with another offensive weapon. They’re solid inside and at the mid range, but having some weapons who can convert tough shots on possessions that never click is close to crucial for them to find a playoff seed. Jordan Crawford may be growing into his role with this team still, but they drafted another talented Guard with Frank Jackson who can step in at times and help take a load off. He’s 6' 3" and has defensive capabilities that I believe will severely impact the bench play of the Pelicans.
Which brings us to the team’s depth. Fortunately they are packed with rim protection on the bench, and that will give them a place to build around defensively, but their bench offense doesn’t look like it’s going to be able to produce much. I would’ve liked to see them pull in Justin Holiday, Jrue’s brother, to come into the rotation and allow the Pelicans to keep a talented shooter on the court at all times. It didn’t happen, but that’s okay. Frank Jackson is quite talented, and they have some experienced players to lean on for production in E’Twaun Moore and Dante Cunningham. Finding a backup PF would’ve been second on my list behind going after Justin Holiday, but they still have the talent and youth to spread out their size when needed.
The Pelicans can absolutely make the playoffs this year. If they can keep their lineup together and show promise they have the potential of becoming a free agency destination. They’ll be better this year than last year, and hopefully they show enough life to keep Cousins in town to build up an old-school style dynasty of interior dominance. Only time will tell.
Data: Basketball Reference