The Pelicans will be without their 2015 first round pick in tomorrow's NBA draft because they traded it away last summer in the deal that brought Omer Asik to New Orleans. Consequently, the Houston Rockets will be picking 18th.
Yesterday, there was a rumor mentioned on social media that claimed the New Orleans Pelicans are looking to get back into the first round of the upcoming draft.
Asides the fact that teams don't purchase first round picks outright anymore, Dell Demps has historically not cared much for these type of assets. In the four years he has been the general manager, only once did the Pelicans follow the traditional route of drafting and keeping their first round pick(s): in 2012 when the organization selected both Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers.
What has Demps done with all of those other first round draft picks he had at his disposal? Let's take a stroll down memory lane.
1. In 2011, New Orleans traded their first round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for Jerryd Bayless. He lasted only 11 games before Demps moved him, this time to the Toronto Raptors for a package centered around Chris Paul's buddy, Jarrett Jack.
- The Hornets' conditional first round pick (was top-7 protected) morphed into the 19th pick of the 2011 draft and the Bobcats used it to select Tobias Harris on behalf of the Bucks.
- Before too many get angered by this fact, realize New Orleans was not the only team to pass on this pick. Portland used this asset to trade for Gerald Wallace and then the Hornets executed a 3-team deal with the Kings and Bucks. The Bucks had Harris for two years before they shipped him off to the Magic for a short J.J. Redick rental.
2. In 2013, New Orleans traded their first round pick and their 2014 first rounder to Philadelphia for Jrue Holiday. The Sixers had the Pelicans select Nerlens Noel on their behalf.
- As soon as the selection was made by David Stern, we should have guessed the Pelicans were not going to keep Noel, a player commonly compared to Anthony Davis. In the pre-draft press conference, Demps emphasized the Pelicans were interested in acquiring complementary players to AD.
- To this day, Demps continues to catch plenty of flack for trading away two first round picks for a player who has unfortunately suffered through major injury in both of his seasons in New Orleans. However, too many people fail to accept or admit that a) Noel was probably not going to be the pick were the Pelicans to keep it and b) Holiday was considered one of the league's younger iron men.
On Anthony Davis influencing decisions this summer regarding the draft and free agency:
"You want to make sure, with Anthony and the remainder of the core guys, that you put pieces around (them). You try not to duplicate and you try to get players that can complement each other."
On Anthony Davis being a transcendent talent you build around:
"Like I said, you try not to duplicate. You try to get someone that can complement him and some of the other pieces we have. I think we have some other good pieces as well and I think our core guys are at a young age right now. I think they’re about to reach their peak time as NBA players, and we want to put other pieces around them so we can be successful."
3. As mentioned above, the Pelicans 2014 first round draft pick was conveyed to Philadelphia in the Jrue Holiday deal.
- In last year's draft, the Orlando Magic selected Elfrid Peyton at #10 with the Sixers pick via the Pelicans. As a rookie, he managed to make it through the entire grind of a season -- playing in all 82 games. However, he did so without possessing a perimeter shot, a necessary skill to remain a long-term starter in this league.
- Again, much like with Noel, it is irrelevant who was picked at the Pelicans original draft position; however, it is important to note that Dell Demps and the entire organization probably didn't expect they'd be conveying an enviable lottery pick. Had last year's squad not been completely decimated by injury, the odds were the pick would have ended up somewhere in the middle of the first round.
On today's Black and Blue report, David Wesley brought up a good point: players are entering the league at younger and younger ages. By the time they've developed with a team after 3 or so years, their rookie deals are up and they're moving onto greener pastures or the original teams have to open up their pocketbooks on talent that is still not fully developed.
Worse, the potential for expensive busts remain, despite all the modern day preparation. For instance, Wesley believes that Anthony Bennett was not ready for the NBA, and he has failed to develop because of all the time he's had to spend on the bench during his shaky career.
We should believe Dell Demps subscribes to largely the same theory. Asides Davis and Rivers (who were selected when the Pelicans were in obvious rebuild mode), the majority of draft picks the Pelicans turned into actual personnel on the depth chart were 4 year collegians, usually of the second round pick variety.
Demps is taking advantage of what he believes to be a market inefficiency. Instead of drafting players who are normally not ready to play significant minutes for several seasons and with first round picks counting against the salary cap, he is more excited by the prospects of taking a chance on more developed talent, players who are more projectable after having better established their makeup. The best part: second round picks do not infringe on salary caps.
First-round picks count against the cap, even when they are not signed, but second-round picks do not. This simple reason gives second-round picks value additional to their obvious use as talent acquisition to teams with cap room aspirations -- second-round picks do not infringe upon the team's cap room and can always be signed after the bulk of the free agent market is closed.
Thus, if you're hoping Demps somehow moves into the end of the first round and drafts say either Justin Anderson or Jarell Martin, you're just deluding yourself. If by chance he does get the Pelicans into the first round tomorrow, it's because he's got his eyes set on a senior like Anthony Brown (maybe the next Khris Middleton?)
The best bet tho is that we're more likely to see the San Antonio Spurs sign LaMarcus Aldridge, draft Anderson and somehow Demps is able to sign Danny Green in July. Yep, that's the chances I'm giving New Orleans of finding a way into the first round tomorrow -- that Green becoming a Pelican has better odds.