The Omer Asik deal hasn't even been finalized, yet Kevin Pelton has already given New Orleans a D+. It probably shouldn't come as a surprise as he also disliked the Evans and Holiday deals, giving C- and D grades respectively. The main discord? New Orleans giving up, yet again, future draft picks. In his eyes, there are only two ways to build a championship team.
One way is to pay more money than other teams. This avenue is surely not available to the Pelicans. The other is to be more efficient with your spending than other teams, and that's where first-round picks are invaluable. While there are bargains here and there, players on rookie contracts are the most reliably underpaid around.
He is steadfast in his belief small market teams need to go through the first round draft pick route. Tell me, how has that worked out for other teams? When many speak of a proper rebuilding project, the Oklahoma City Thunder are often mentioned. However, they haven't won any championships and really only been close once. Moreover, one of those valuable first round picks, James Harden, had to be moved a couple of seasons ago.
Need more convincing? Scan a recent list of NBA champions. How many winners took the time to painstakingly develop at least several of their own high draft picks and were considered instrumental parts? Surely not the Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers nor Boston Celtics. Some might argue the San Antonio Spurs, but in reality, they only had one of their own high draft picks evolve, Tim Duncan. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were shrewd picks that occurred much later in drafts. Kawhi Leonard came about thanks to the Spurs reluctantly trading away a Popovich favorite, George Hill, but he was merely the 15th pick of the 2011 NBA Draft.
Since 1999, the Spurs have collected five championships and it should have been six. No other team has come close. Ever gander at their draft pick list? This modern age dynasty has had only one high first round draft pick since 1989. ONE. That one happened to be probably the best player of his time, nevertheless, he had plenty of help along the way. The Spurs developed an identity around Duncan, out of which an enviable culture was born. It's why Ginobili, Duncan and likely Parker, will never know what it's like to play in front of a different home crowd. It's why the Spurs have no problems signing very good role players to club-friendly contracts.
Dell Demps was molded from this cloth, having served under Popovich and the Spurs organization for years. He understands better than anyone what Anthony Davis represents and how important it is to immediately surround him with useful talent. Tim Duncan was privileged to come into a unique situation, joining a team that had a very off year with veterans like David Robinson, Sean Elliott and Avery Johnson. Davis had nothing of the sort; consequently, Demps has tirelessly worked to bring in proven young talent the last several years. The results haven't been there yet, but it's still quite early and the Pelicans have had to endure a number of unfortunate injuries. However, they are primed to take a massive leap.
Negative opinions of the Asik deal also fail to incorporate other considerations. Tom Ziller's piece yesterday succinctly elaborated as to why Dell Demps methodology shouldn't be constantly berated.
But the Pelicans' rebuild doesn't exist in a vacuum. The franchise needs to capitalize on the rekindled love affair between the fan base and the team, one sparked by Tom Benson, Anthony Davis and -- let's be honest -- Pierre. Southern Louisiana is on board with the Pelicans these days. Despite being the 10th-worst team in the NBA this season, New Orleans ranked No. 13 in home attendance percentage at 95 percent of capacity. That's up from 80 percent and 25th place in 2012-13.
Ziller's thoughts mirror mine from Accepting the Jrue Holiday Era from roughly a year ago.
While many of us aren't personally concerned about attendance, I assure you it is one of the top priorities of any organization. Last year, the Hornets ranked 29th in overall attendance, averaging a hair over 13,800 people per home game. The year before, 25th (15,109). and 2 years prior, 26th (14,709). Noticeably, our attendance figures plummeted last year, despite the acquisition of our franchise player, Anthony Davis.
To change the fortunes at the box office, a significant roster shakeup was required. Preferably bringing in a player young enough to fit with our existing core, but at the same time, the ability to immediately improve the performance of the team. Specifically true of small market teams, acquiring impressive talent comes at a cost. For young promising talent, even more so. To pry away Jrue Holiday, Philadephia's best young marketable asset, the Pelicans needed to pony up.
Well the blue moon may have been out again last night. Depending on how the rest of this off-season unfolds, Dell Demps might end up scoring another coup. David's article posted earlier today aptly states Omer Asik is elite in a number of areas, coincidentally many of the same ones that were problematic for the Pelicans a season ago.
Now it remains to be seen at what cost. Currently, our available cap space for next season is somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 million dollars (see The Path Forward). With Asik owed approximately 8.4 million next season, that's going to require shedding some salary. How will Dell Demps handle this? Will he be able to move the bane of many, Eric Gordon? Or will he be required to sacrifice a much more heralded player? Ryan Anderson? Austin Rivers? Holiday or Evans?
Time will tell, but it's undeniable what Asik represents for New Orleans. Since Davis' arrival, the Pelicans have maintained he is a power forward. Last season, Monty Williams was caught playing with square pegs and round holes time and time again -- maintaining a traditionally large lineup, despite the obvious drawbacks. It should have come of no surprise to learn about the reported clashes between our GM and head coach. The roster was significantly better suited for a style Monty infrequently approves employing. Now it'll be a thing of the past.
It is correct teams require time to grow and gel, but contrarians fail to acknowledge a timeline can effectively be sped up. At least that is what Dell Demps would like us to believe. New Orleans overwhelming amount of injuries last year ruined what should have been a much better year. No way should Philadelphia have earned anything resembling a #10 pick from us.
If lady luck decides to play fair, New Orleans' 2015 1st round pick won't be anything more than an after thought. There are bigger fish to fry, as Tom Benson issued his marching orders of winning around a year ago. Omer Asik is another step that will greatly help with this agenda.