Playoffs or bust? This has been the mantra from most national writers, the local coverage team, and quite a bit of the fan base. While many have said this, they have also roundly predicted the Pelicans will miss the playoffs this season and finish with a record around .500. As you can see according the the Vegas preseason betting lines, the Pelicans were expected to win about 43 games and finish 10th in the Western Conference.
This has put General Manager Dell Demps and Head Coach Monty Williams on the hot seat. As I outlined on their contract situations, Demps is the most likely to go as the Pelicans need not "fire" him to move on. His contract is for three years (ending this season) with a team option for a fourth. Not exercising that option creates an opening at GM.
Local Boy Comes Home
There is nothing more constant that I have seen than the "local boy comes home" coverage here in New Orleans. Whether a past resident or (especially) a product of LSU, the Saints or Pelicans routinely make a "mistake" not going for these products of Louisiana. Joe Dumars was born in Shreveport, went to high school in Natchitoches, and to college at McNeese State. It simply does not get more Louisiana than that.
Fletcher Mackel of WDSU wrote another piece predicting that Joe Dumars will be the next General Manager in February. This terrifies me. I have continuously advocated that change for the sake of change (or as others put it, as a consequence for failure) does not ensure success. With Dumars, it appears to be a definitive downgrade.
You can be concerned that Demps has not rebuilt this team as quickly or as correctly as you would like. Dumars has yet to demonstrate the ability to rebuild.
Of course, a full account of Dumars must include his successes. Dumars has nailed a number of draft picks in recent years. He also has a prior relationship with Greg Monroe, something local coverage will no doubt latch onto as "local boy comes home, brings home another local boy" is right in their wheelhouse.
While Dumars has a history of cycling through head coaches (nine in 14 years while he was GM in Detroit) he also built a winner. Going through three different head coaches (Rick Carlisle, Larry Brown, and Flip Saunders) the Pistons made at least the Eastern Conference Finals in six consecutive seasons from 2003 to 2008. Detroit went 334-158 during that span, good for a .679 winning percentage.
Many focus on drafting Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony (and a multitude of others) talking about Dumars and the draft. In his last four drafts (2010-2013) Dumars hit far more often than he missed. Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Kyle Singler, Andre Drummond, Khris Middleton, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is an excellent haul in four drafts.
In the six following seasons the Pistons went 179-297, posting a .376 winning percentage. While many have bemoaned Dell Demps and the moves he has made nothing compares to the three absolute whiffs of Joe Dumars. Age in the below chart is how old each player was when they signed with the Pistons.
Statistics from Basketball Reference. Salary Information from Sham Sports.
Ben Gordon was eventually traded to the Charlotte Bobcats to get out from under his contract. The cost was a future first round pick which eventually became Noah Vonleh. Josh Smith was so bad that the Pistons waived and stretched him; they will be paying Smith until 2020.
This inability to manage salary cap money is of utmost importance. The salary cap is set to explode from a projected $67.7 Million to nearly $90 Million in the summer of 2016. Look at what Joe Dumars does with salary cap space. Is this the man you want piloting this franchise into a free agency bonanza?
The Pelicans are not expected to have cap space this summer. Dumars would be unlikely to create a catastrophe in his first summer. Unless, of course, he is unable to convince Anthony Davis to sign the extension to be offered on July 1st. However, in the following summer, the Pelicans could have a boatload of cap space. $20 Million or more to be offered in the first year of a contract offered to a free agent.
Look again at the record of Joe Dumars with money to spend: Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Josh Smith. Whether Anthony Davis remains a Pelican for life or demands a trade in three or four years, it will likely be decided by injury luck (as we have seen recently) and future roster decisions in the next couple of years.
Joe Dumars with cap money to spend has been a terrible combination. Do not allow geographical familiarity to become part of the decision making process.
Just say no to Joe Dumars.