The Pelicans' Twin Towers Project: The Supporting Cast and Lineups
Evan Dyal takes an in-depth look at the New Orlean Pelicans in this six part series
Injuries and new players have caused Alvin Gentry to tinker with his lineups and rotations early in the season. This will only benefit them down the stretch and the playoffs. Now with Rondo and Allen back Gentry has more options. The apparent thing so far is Cousins and Davis has destroyed everything in their path. How can Gentry maximize them even more and what has worked so far? A bigger question is how Gentry can optimize the minutes when only one of Cousins or Davis is on the floor. For Cousins, the go-to lineup is probably surrounded him with Holiday, Nelson, Dante Cunningham, and E'twaun Moore. This lineup has only played 24 minutes together but has a tremendous net rating of +21.1. Gentry needs to explore this lineup more.
It puts four three-point shooters around Cousins and three good passers on the floor at the same time. This lineup has a 108.6 offensive rating, which is first among all lineups that have played at least 20 minutes together. Holiday can run pick and rolls with Cousins with three solid shooters surrounding them. Plus, more importantly, they are 2nd in the turnover ratio of all five-man lineups that have played at least 20 minutes per game. They protect the ball and can score. Defensively they are not as good but are solid. That lineup posts a solid 87.1 defensive rating and is fifth in defensive lineups for the Pelicans. Not great, but good enough. They need more minutes.
Now onto Davis. This one is trickier. He has performed far better with Cousins on the floor. Cousin’s presence allows him to get to his sweet spots. Gentry has problems finding a lineup that fits Davis. New Orleans being thin up front requires Davis playing more five, which he doesn't love. The Pelicans being thin overall hurts. They may have found a lineup that works recently. It has only played 19 minutes together but has a ridiculous +61.8 net rating together. The lineup is Davis, Tony Allen, Cunningham, Darius Miller and Jameer Nelson. Miller is the key here. He is a reclamation project that is starting to pay off for the Pelicans.
Mainly when he is used as small ball four. Miller has been crushing it as a spot-up player. He ranks in the 100th percentile. Yes, you read that right. He is shooting a blistering a 47% from three. That will go down a little, but the Pelicans found another legitimate shooter, and that is a game changer for their season. His shooting has made a huge difference. Watch this play!
Cousins starts the play posting up and passes to a cutting Holiday. Holiday then swings it to Ian Clark, who then swings it to Miller at the top right of the key. Miller drills a three with a quick release and a defender in his face. His shooting has opened up a lot for the Pelicans and he has made clutch threes.
Nelson puts another 38% shooter from three on the floor. Cunningham and Allen give the unit defensive versatility. All of them beside Nelson can guard multiple positions. The Pelicans have found two lineups that work for each of their big guys. Now, what lineup works best when both big guys are in the game? Is it the starters?
Now that Rondo is back the starters are Rondo, Holiday, and Moore along with the twin towers. This has not been the best lineup with the twin towers. The winner of that award goes to Nelson, Miller, Holiday and the twin towers. This group has only played 15 minutes together but has a tremendous net rating of +40. It puts three great shooters around Cousins and Davis, and all five starters can shoot threes.
This opens up tons of space for Cousins rumbles to the rim and post-ups for both of them. Offensively they have been great. It has holes; Miller is better at the four, Holiday can struggle defending some bigger two's, but the pros outweigh the cons. It is their best offensive lineup and best overall. If they need to get a stop, they need to make some changes. That would mean putting in Rondo for Nelson and Cunningham for Miller. The good news is the Pelicans have options.
*Stats accurate as of 11/28/17