Alvin Gentry wants consistency. He prefers stability.
But at some point, the Pelicans coach knows, there comes a time to shake things up.
And so while Gentry finally appears to have settled on a starting lineup, the numbers say that unit isn’t doing the job. That might mean a change when the Pelicans host the Los Angeles Clippers at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Smoothie King Center.
“We have to do something,” Gentry said after Wednesday’s practice. “I don’t think we can just stay pat. It hasn’t worked out, so some kind of way we’re going to have to make an adjustment there.”
In the first 19 games of the season, the injury-ravaged Pelicans used 13 starting lineups. But Gentry has started the same five — guards Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon, center Omer Asik, and forwards Alonzo Gee and Anthony Davis — in seven straight games and 11 of the past 13.
The consistency is good. That lineup hasn’t been.
The current starting five has played 110 minutes together, more than any other New Orleans five-man combination. But it’s being outscored by 13.3 points per 100 possessions, the second-worst margin of any Pelicans lineup combination.
Evans, Gordon, Asik, Gee and Davis are scoring 103.9 points per 100 possessions and giving up 117.2. Only one of the 10 New Orleans lineups that has played 25 or more minutes together — Asik, Davis, Gee, Gordon and Jrue Holiday — has fared worse, with a minus-21.6 per-100-possessions margin in 60 minutes.
“I have no idea” why the starting lineup is struggling, Evans said. “I can’t tell you.”
Though the starting five is getting torched defensively, some of the primary concerns about it are offensive. Gee and Asik are not scoring threats — they average 3.9 and 2.8 points per game, respectively — and that allows defenses to help off them in guarding Anthony Davis.
That’s giving Davis less room to operate.
One way to fix that is to add scorers to the starting lineup, and the Pelicans have options. But none are ideal.
Forward Ryan Anderson has scored 16.8 points per game as a reserve, which leads the NBA. The Pelicans’ top seven five-man lineups in terms of net rating — the difference between points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions — include Anderson.
“That’s what my role has been since I’ve come here,” Anderson said.
Guard Holiday is averaging 14.8 points per game off the bench over his past 11 games after scoring 11.1 per game in 14 games as a starter.
But Gentry likes both players in those reserve roles and is reluctant to move either into the starting lineup.
“I am, because I think we need some punch off the bench. And obviously Ryan has given us great punch off the bench,” Gentry said. “And Jrue has played great off the bench. So I’m a little bit hesitant about doing that and then getting off to a bad start and really not having anyone to turn to that can give us that big punch off the bench.”
Gentry said he has “other ideas” for changing the lineup, but he did not elaborate.
New Orleans could move Alexis Ajinca back into the starting lineup. Though he’s not the defender or rebounder Asik is, he spreads the floor with this shooting ability.
Or the Pelicans could replace Gee in the starting lineup, perhaps with little-used reserve Luke Babbitt, who has struggled from the outside this season but is a career 39.6 percent long-range shooter who commands attention from perimeter defenders.
New Orleans also could look to Dante Cunningham, who’s averaging just 4.1 points per game but has made seven of 15 left-corner 3-pointers, meaning defenders might be reluctant to leave him in that spot.
No matter who starts, Gentry said, the Pelicans need to find way to get started early.
The Pelicans fell behind 9-0 in Monday’s loss at Orlando. In Saturday’s home win against Houston, the Rockets scored the game’s first five points and had a 41-33 lead after one quarter. In Miami on Christmas Day, the Pelicans fell behind 11-4 and trailed 27-15 after one quarter.
“We’re struggling a little bit offensively, because we’re limited with our shooting range out there (at the start),” Gentry said. “But we still have got to have good ball movement and we’ve got to create situations where we’re driving to the basket and trying to get to the free-throw line.”