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Dell Demps deserves another contract extension

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We've recently started evaluating other potential candidates for the head coach and general manager positions, yet before TBW goes any further, due needs to be given to the only GM candidate the Pelicans should really be considering for the future, Dell Demps.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Since the start of this season, fans have speculated about the futures of both Dell Demps and Monty Williams. The majority believed Monty had the inside track of remaining beyond the season. His relationship with Anthony Davis and the rest of the team has been deemed more important for continuity purposes than retaining Demps, a general manager not selected by the existing ownership group.

Well, about a month ago, one of Milwaukee's sports writers posted an obscure but ominous sounding tweet.

The consensus seemed to think this dagger wasn't pointed in the direction of player personnel but rather aimed at either Demps or Williams, maybe both. After all, Monty has one more year remaining on his contract while Dell has only a team option for next season.

Over the past few years, both men have been disparaged a countless number of times and are considered to be on the hot seat. Just as Williams has been second guessed often, Demps has been questioned similarly as much off the court. Nationally and locally, the common theme has been that the Pelicans have rebuilt the team incorrectly around Anthony Davis. That pieces like Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans came at too steep a price, or the roster never made sense as it was going to clash thanks to too many high usage players on the floor at the same time.

ESPN's latest front office rankings say it all: a 22nd ranking (after ranking 20th last season). Their criteria?

In particular, we asked the voters to rate each team's front-office management on its guidance and leadership in terms of how it affects overall on-court success, both in the short and long term.

Considering the Pelicans success, I'm confused by their methodology. I translate on-court success through wins. So, why the hell did the Pelicans front office slip two spots from last season?

Nearly one year ago, David neatly put everything into a simple yet very revealing graph. Since starting from ground zero (and our zero has been lower than most other rebuilds), there has been steady yet noticeable progress during Demps' reign.

After Anthony Davis rookie season, the Pelicans improved by 7 wins in his sophomore campaign and they appear in range of adding roughly another 10 wins upon the conclusion of this season. This improvement would obviously stand out on David's graph, but too many will remain unsatisfied, especially if the Pelicans fail to make the postseason in less than a week's time.

Brimming with talent

Thus, we'll attempt to prove the value of a general manager through measuring the improvement of a team's talent from season to season. For this exercise, I have selected to use PER because it covers most of the positive contributions made by basketball players. (By the way, this isn't anything novel, as evidenced by a resource I linked before the start of the season in my Great Expectations: The Pelicans Will Make the Playoffs piece.)

We'll start our evaluations the year Dell Demps had to trade Chris Paul, and take back a deal that wasn't his number one choice, the Eric Gordon/Al-Farouq Aminu package.

Cumulative Team Value Expected Core Value
2011-12 224,017 94
2012-13 290,877 104
2013-14 308,731 111
2014-15 300,209 113

The cumulative team value is simply a player's PER multiplied by the number of minutes he received in a season. For instance, if you've got a good top to bottom roster, or you have a really solid core that largely remains healthy, this statistic should be higher on average than the rest of the league.

Since, we fully know how oft teams lose their best players for significant stretches, I created the expected core value. Some teams will be better served by it than others (hello Pels!)

2015 Western Conference Injuries HOU NOP POR SAS LAC MEM DAL GSW
# missed games by team's top 6 core players 119 106 61 52 43 41 35 25

This statistic analyzes a team's six most important players (a team's top 6 players in terms of minutes played per game), the core group that is expected to tally the vast majority of played minutes. Their individual PER's were multiplied by their average minutes per game. These sums were then added together and divided by the average minutes played of the six players. Hence, you get a pretty good idea of how valuable the team's core is when compared to the rest of the league if injuries are removed from the equation.

Let's have a look these numbers from the top 5 teams the last several seasons (based on the chart in my aforementioned article).

Cumulative Team Value Expected Core Value
2013 Heat (66-16) 340958 121
2013 Spurs (58-24) 321551 117
2013 Thunder (60-22) 342825 115
2013 Clippers (56-26) 329085 114
2013 Nuggets (57-25) 332136 101

Cumulative Team Value Expected Core Value
2014 Spurs (62-20) 325462 104
2014 Heat (54-28) 329114 111
2014 Thunder (59-23) 322742 116
2014 Clippers (57-25) 327341 114
2014 Mavericks (49-33) 327077 103

Now, have a look at how the seven Western Conference teams slated to make the upcoming 2015 postseason stack up.

Cumulative Team Value Expected Core Value
2015 Warriors 321871 108
2015 Rockets 282075 104
2015 Grizzlies 293228 102
2015 Clippers 320620 122
2015 Blazers 296829 99
2015 Spurs 312194 108
2015 Mavericks 303655 100

**Since this data was taken from before the start of yesterday's games, remember that a few more games remain to be added to the totals plus some teams may have played an additional game. These cumulative team values should increase between 3-4K for each game remaining on respective schedules. However, it should barely move the needle for the expected core values.

As you can see, the 2014-15 Pelicans compare very favorably among the 2015 Western Conference playoff teams. (But, if you're a betting man, don't overlook the Clippers this upcoming postseason.) They are on pace to finish with a cumulative team value in the range of 315,000. That's very good considering our core of 6 players have missed over 100 games.

However, it's their expected core value that should really grab your attention. At the start of the season, I mentioned on numerous occasions that I'm a huge fan of this team's talent. For the second season in a row, it hasn't disappointed. Have a look at how well it compares with the top teams from the last several seasons, especially the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs (teams from the last two NBA Finals). Yes, as exemplified by the 2014 Spurs, a talented core can be overcome by fantastic depth. But it is and will probably always remain a rare occurrence in this day and age rife with free agency moves and salary cap management.

As I mentioned back in October, this analysis doesn't give enough due to teams that rate really well defensively. For instance, look how far down Indiana and Chicago rated on the WPER chart the last two seasons. Or how high George Karl's Nuggets fared every season.

However, I'm not going to delve into this now because I believe the lack of defensive improvement by the 2014-15 Pelicans has very little to do with Dell Demps personnel choices, rather Monty's mismanagement. Based on individual production in previous stops, Demps has added enough solid pieces around Anthony Davis (say Jrue Holiday and Omer Asik) that it seems unimaginable the Pelicans should finish in the bottom third of the league for a third straight season.

Perfect in-season moves

Although the New Orleans defense has failed to meet expectations, it hasn't stopped Dell Demps from tinkering with the roster to continue to bring help for Monty Williams. Every move he's made has been a winning one, but you certainly wouldn't have known it by reading most of the material published by the mainstream media.

His first move came after Eric Gordon went down with a shoulder injury back in November. Austin Rivers, John Salmons, Luke Babbitt and Darius Miller were all given a chance to fill in but they collectively performed poorly as evidenced by their +/-. After several weeks of ineptitude, Demps jettisoned Miller (and Patric Young) and signed free agent Dante Cunningham. Immediately, the move started paying dividends for a player already familiar with Monty's system. Cunningham brought a grittiness the team sorely needed, as well as a viable defender at both forward positions and a relief valve around the perimeter similar to Jason Smith from past seasons.

Opportunity presented itself a month later when the Memphis Grizzles were involved in talks to add Jeff Green. Thanks to a rift that had formed between Quincy Pondexter and Dave Joerger, Q-Pon was expendable. Demps jumped at the chance to bring a player he drafted back in 2010 and all he had to give up was Austin Rivers and Russ Smith. Just how good has Q-Pon been? Over a week ago, I argued he was the best small forward changing teams in that 3-team deal that brought Green to Memphis.

Then, at the trade deadline, the Pelicans made another move to buffer the team's injury woes, this time Jrue Holiday's stress reaction. With the Miami Heat in pursuit to add Goran Dragic, Norris Cole needed to find a new home. Enter Dealer Demps. The cost? A terribly ineffective John Salmons. Just like Pondexter, new surroundings have allowed a role player to blossom. Did you know that both players are currently experiencing the highest shooting percentages in a number of categories of their careers in New Orleans?

After the trade deadline passed, David recapped the Pondexter and Cole deals and was dismayed by the lack of good opinions. I agree that's neither here nor there, but one thing that does need clarification is that every move Dell Demps has made during this season has improved the basketball team.

There is probably no better example of this than what the team did out of the All-Star break. In their second game and facing the Miami Heat, New Orleans lost both Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis.  Down three starters, the team rallied for five straight wins, their longest such streak of the season. The vast majority of the positive contributions came from reserves and role players.

To sum it up, keep him!

In a number of radio interviews this season, I've been giving credit to Dell Demps for the putting the Pelicans in a position they find themselves today -- on the cusp of the postseason. Not only has he put together a talented core, that when healthy I think will scare the rest of the NBA, he's made a number of key band-aid moves to keep New Orleans season afloat.

When Demps was last given a contract extension, the Pelicans' brass couldn't have sounded any happier.

The Hornets announced the deal Friday but did not release terms of the contract. Hornets executive vice president Mickey Loomis says Demps "has a bright future," and that he and first-year owner Tom Benson "couldn't be more impressed" with the direction of the team.

If ownership was impressed with the direction of the team in 2012, they should be positively ecstatic today. From a talent standpoint, the team's cupboard was bare when Demps took over. In four short years, it sits among the upper echelon of the NBA. When opportunity has presented itself or when need dictated a move, Demps has seemingly always pushed the right button.

Tom Benson, Rita Benson, Mickey Loomis and whomever else it may concern, please re-sign Dell Demps. It's not just the correct move, it's the only move for a team sitting inches outside the pearly white gates. A place that it should be able to call home for a very long time thanks to one man's vision. Just think of what he'll be able to do once we're inside the promised land.