Don't think NOP maxed their assets around giant break of Brow lotto, but they tossed together enough pretty good players to be pretty good.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) March 8, 2015
Many local fans are probably tired of rehashing this argument, but it will remain a valid question until the Pelicans route proves itself either a success or failure. A lot of future potential and flexibility was sacrificed for three younger veterans whose careers were not littered with a long list of accomplishments.
Trades never exist in a pure vacuum. But for argument's sake, we'll put aside today other matters of concern to franchises such as attendance figures and perhaps any valid reasons on why the NBA was adamant about keeping the team in New Orleans and selling it to Tom Benson when on paper the profits appeared stronger elsewhere.
Regarding trades for future draft picks, the deals are oftentimes able to be fairly graded not long after the exchange. These costly established players are brought in for immediate improvement. For instance, the Warriors trading for Andre Iguodala are a perfect example.
In acquiring him, Golden State traded away four draft picks including two first rounders. At the time, many were overwhelming in favor of the deal from GSW's perspective, especially if Lee could have been moved. Per Mike Prada:
Big picture, though, the Warriors secured a commitment from an All-Star-level player that fits their system well, with him taking less money to come to the Bay.
Well, the Warriors never did trade away David Lee. A minutes crunch initially hurt Harrison Barnes development, but this season, both Lee and Iguodala are reserves. Two players commanding 27 million in salary are coming off the bench and they're poised to do the same in 2015-16.
Worse, Iguodala has not resembled the All-Star player he was in his previous stops. He posted a PER of 13.7 in 2013-14, and it's dropped to 11.8 this season. Defensively, he's in the 57th percentile according to Synergy Sports, much on par with his 62 percentile ranking in 2013-14. In both seasons, a number of his teammates have rated higher than that.
This trade has not gotten bad press because the Warriors are setting the league on fire. However, after making the Western Conference semi-finals in 2012-13, the Iguodala Warriors didn't make it out of the first round last season. Not having Andrew Bogut obviously hurt their run, but it's difficult to say Iguodala's results have met expectations.
When the Pelicans disposed of three successive draft picks, it was meant for the now and future. Jrue Holiday was going to enter his age-23 season, Tyreke Evans, his 24th, and Omer Asik, his 28th; two of the three players were still well away from reaching their prime.
Due to injury, no one still has a clear idea on how this experiment is going to turn out. Four core players have already missed more than 10 games this season. The biggest cog among Dell Demps' dealings, Jrue Holiday has missed 74 of a possible 145 games. Before his time in New Orleans, he was considered to one of the NBA's younger iron mans.
Despite the setbacks, the Pelicans sit with a record of 34-29 in one of the strongest conferences in recent memory. Outside of Asik and Dante Cunningham, they sit half a game out of the playoff picture in March with a roster entirely comprised of players not yet in their prime.
With so many variables still unaccounted for, I'm not comfortable making any determinations. This could still all go very right or horribly wrong. However, a couple of things are certain, had the Pelicans followed a path of mainly building through the draft, the city wouldn't currently be enjoying the excitement that comes with a post-season race and Anthony Davis would be left pondering what he's missing out on.
Knowing Demps proclivity for seeking improvement, a salary cap that is set to explode is just over a year's time and the Pelicans most inhibitive contract nearing termination, the future doesn't appear any less bright at the moment had it followed a more traditional route.