Dell Demps’ future is perpetually dangling on a string, which makes him dangerous. If he’s insecure about his job security, how will that affect the Pelicans’ upcoming offseason?
When things go south, people love to point fingers.
Sometimes it’s easy to point fingers. When an energy company has an off-shore oil spill, you fire the safety inspector who forgot to double check.
When a credit card company is hacked and loses the information of its customers, you fire their cyber-security director.
Assigning blame isn’t so easy when it comes to professional basketball teams. There are coaches, GMs, team presidents, trainers, scouts, and most importantly — players.
Hundreds of factors and variables go into deciding whether an NBA team will win games, and rarely is organizational dysfunction the fault of one person.
Regardless, when things get bad — someone is going to pay the price.
Apr 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams is interviewed before the game against the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The Pelicans have already fired Monty Williams, and they are running out of people to point the finger at. Naturally, Dell Demps seems like the next guy to get the axe if the team fails to improve.
We can argue all day about Dell Demps’ effectiveness, but frankly it’s irrelevant.
Was the Jrue Holiday trade a long term positive or negative? Has the Tyreke Evans experiment officially failed? Was he right to sit tight at this year’s trade deadline, or should he have brokered a trade to get the Pelicans some much-needed help?
The point is that regardless of Demps’ actual effectiveness, he’s more than likely the next guy to the get the boot if the Pelicans have yet another disappointing mess of a season in 2016-2017.
That’s concerning for two reasons
- Demps has at least one more season left as the Pelicans GM.
- This might be the most important offseason of the next half-decade for the team.
This offseason marks the first time the Pelicans have had a first round pick since the 2012 draft, the first time the Pelicans have had significant cap space, and the first year of Anthony Davis’ non-rookie contract.
To put it shortly: this might be the Pelicans’ last chance to rebuild before time starts running out.
If Demps is more focused on superficial short-term success than the long-term sustainability of the team, then the Pelicans are completely screwed.
Oct 23, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps during a press conference prior to a preseason game against the Miami Heat at New Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
If Demps decides he needs to make the 2017 playoffs at all costs, how much damage could he do to the franchise’s long-term future this offseason?
Let’s take a look at the worst case scenario for this offseason, featuring “insecure” Dell Demps as our protagonist.
Convinced that a rookie will be unable to contribute meaningful minutes, Demps decides he is going to trade the #6, #39, and #40 picks in the draft for a “young veteran” who can win NOW.
With Buddy Hield available at #6, he decides to call up the Brooklyn Nets and convinces them to give up Brook Lopez in exchange for Tyreke Evans, Alexis Ajinca and the 6th pick.
Mar 20, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Buddy Hield (24) celebrates defeating the Virginia Commonwealth Rams 85-81 during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
The Nets are willing to take Tyreke off our hands since they need someone to take shots, and they’re willing to give up Lopez since they want the 6th pick to build for the future.
The good news is that Pelicans fans won’t have to watch Omer Asik on the floor anymore, the bad news is that they traded away their one chance at a player they could mold into a future asset.
Eager to appease Tom Benson, he sells his 2nd round picks to two other teams in order to try and cushion his job security a little more just like he did last season.
“How good could two random 2nd rounders even be?” Dell asks himself, while former 2nd round pick Draymond Green sits at home with his 2017 Finals MVP trophy.
Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez, Omer Asik, Quincy Pondexter, and a few other Pelicans role players take up almost 70 million dollars in cap space. With just about 18 million dollars to spend left, Demps surveys the field of available options.
Sadly, no one worth more than the combined value of Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon returns his calls.
Demps thinks “Maybe I better just sign some cheap stop-gaps and save that cap space until we can sign a long-term option who actually fits the team” before changing his mind and deciding “No, I need to make the playoffs this year, I better throw the bank at Gordon and Anderson since I have their Bird Exception rights and can afford to overpay them.”
Ryan Anderson is happy to sit down with Demps, but let’s him know he’s got an 18 million a year offer from his hometown team the Sacramento Kings.
Since Demps is allowed to go over the cap to retain an existing player, he reluctantly offers Anderson 20 in order to make re-signing worth his while.
Jan 30, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) celebrates after making a three point shot during the second half of the game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans won 105-103. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Gordon sits down and is more reasonable, wanting just 13 million dollars per year. Demps is happy with that number, until he learns Gordon wants the deal to be four years long.
Demps considers saying no, but since he had to give away Tyreke and couldn’t draft Hield, he decides he cannot afford to enter the season without a starting shooting guard if he wants to make the playoffs.
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Now with a team payroll at just about 100 million dollars, no rookies, and no flexibility, Demps enters the season and prays every night they can squeak into the post-season.
Jrue-Gordon-Quincy-Davis-Lopez with Anderson-Cole-Cunningham-Frazier off the bench is just enough for Demps to secure the 7th seed in the draft.
Having made the playoffs, Demps is offered another four year contract by Loomis and Benson since they are wholly uninterested in the state of the team as long they make the playoffs.
Aug 30, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson talks to general manager Mickey Loomis before a preseason game against the Houston Texans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Demps keeps his job, the Pelicans make the 6th seed the following year, then 7th seed the year after that, and peak as the 5th seed the year after that.
In 2020 Davis leaves, having peaked as a the best player on a first round exit-level team. Buddy Hield is averaging 25 points a game and shooting 47% from three for the 2018 NBA champions… wait for it… the Brooklyn Nets.
Obviously I got a little crazy at the end there, and I would give the Brooklyn Nets maybe a 0.000000001 chance at winning a title in the next decade.
Regardless, the point still stands that Demps has the power to do a LOT of damage this summer, and has a motive to as well. Missing the playoffs next season could end his job, so it’s possible that making the playoffs becomes his one and only goal regardless of the potential cost.
I doubt he would be this blatant about disregarding the teams distant future, but the methodology is consistent with the types of moves he has desperately made in the past (Jrue trade for the 6th pick, Asik for a first rounder, resigning everyone last summer since he had their Bird Exception rights despite some bad fits).
Hopefully Demps gets it together this offseason and looks toward 2020 instead of 2017.
If not, we might not have another chance to reverse the damage he does……