After the Pelicans wrapped up with Media Day yesterday, the team immediately flew to West Virginia and arrived at the Greenbrier before night's end. Training camp began today with eighteen players making the trip, but they will not all be on equal footing.
Thirteen Pelicans have guaranteed contracts (Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Omer Asik, Ryan Anderson, Norris Cole, Quincy Pondexter, Dante Cunningham, Alexis Ajinca, Luke Babbitt, Alonzo Gee and Kendrick Perkins). The remaining five are either on non-guaranteed deals (Jeff Adrien, Corey Webster and Chris Douglas-Roberts) or partially guaranteed contracts (Sean Kilpatrick and Bryce Dejean-Jones).
It's important to differentiate the partially and non-guaranteed deals for one very important reason. The $50,000 guaranteed dollars received by Jones and Kilpatrick represents that Dell Demps, if he so chooses, could entice both of these players to the NBA Developmental League.
In most cases, D-League professionals do not have good salaries. Last season, the average salary in the league was $17,300, with $25,500 the highest. However, there does exist something what a few consider to be a loophole.
In hopes of reeling in high-level talents to play for their minor league teams, big league executives have been coupling D-League gigs with a sweetened partially guaranteed pact for NBA camp to go along with it. This allows a player to earn anywhere between $50,000 to $100,00 by going through the motions pf camp and then heading to play in the NBADL thereafter.
This is important because NBA teams have the right of cutting up to 4 players from training camp and sending those individuals to their D-League affiliate. According to the New York Post, this is precisely what Phil Jackson plans to do with Travis Trice, Darion Atkins and Wesley Saunders.
I'm certain that this was the intended outcome for Bryce Dejean-Jones when he was presented a contract to sign back in August, especially when you consider his whole history.
Coming out of the 2015 Summer League, most of the hype surrounded both Seth Curry and Larry Drew II. Considering Demps likely knew Holiday was going to be on a minutes restriction and Cole's agents were looking to nickel and dime the Pelicans, it was surprising both of these players slipped through the cracks and Jones walked away with a deal.
Thus, although Jones will be at the Greenbrier, I'd wager he has virtually no chance of flying back to New Orleans with the rest of the team. No, when Dell Demps signed him, he and the scouting department undoubtedly saw something they liked, but they had no intentions of giving him one of the prized 15 roster spots on a team destined to make noise in the 2016 playoffs.
Sean Kilpatrick isn't as raw as Jones so his odds are definitely stronger of making the team. He is a known scorer who is coming off a fantastic Summer League showing. Lastly, there may be something to his time spent with the Golden State organization last season. He was with the Warriors in preseason and then spent 22 games with their D-League affiliate. There is a reasonable chance that Alvin Gentry may have seen and liked something in him and convinced the Pelicans to have a look.
Despite being a good scorer, I'm not sold on Kilpatrick's chances of helping the current roster, and trust me, it pains me to say it because I'm a University of Cincinnati graduate. Age, talent and athleticism are not on his side. He has run hot as he has cold with his perimeter shooting throughout his career.
With the Pelicans showing interest in Mo Williams and Jason Terry this off-season and signing guards such as Anthony Morrow, Roger Mason and Jimmer Fredette in the past, I have reservations Kilpatrick could follow in this group's footsteps. Plus with a $50,000 guarantee, I believe Demps enticed Kilpatrick to attend the Pelicans training camp over several other teams who were also interested in taking a closer look at him. In addition, he would probably welcome making at least double of what he earned a year ago in the Developmental League if that is the route he ends up following.
Chris Douglas-Roberts is a wild card. The fact that he's played for five different NBA teams speaks to his NBA talent yet he's never been able to consistently put it together. As you may surmise, I find his three-point efficiency to be a problem. Only once has he shown the necessary proficiency with the perimeter outside shot and that was with the Hornets several years ago, 44 games out of 222 for his career.
Lastly, we come to the final wing of the group, Corey Webster. He is the most accomplished perimeter shooter of the foursome having placed among the league leaders of the NBL a season ago. During Media Day, Anthony Davis recalled playing against him in international competition in 2014 and was visibly impressed the Pelicans were able to bring him to camp.
Both Gentry and Demps have gone on record stating that Webster has looked really good in individual workouts, but they don't want to elaborate any futher until they have a chance to view him in a team setting. They'll get their opportunity starting today, and I have a feeling they'll like what they see.
With Webster possessing the vast experience of appearing on so many big stages, I expect him to handle the pressure of training camp better than Jones and Kilpatrick. As for Roberts, I just don't have faith he'll shoot the ball anywhere as well as Webster.
Jeff Adrien should be graded separately because I believe his biggest competition will come from himself. It's difficult to imagine the Pelicans leaving with two wings out of training camp. Either they'll just leave with one from this group and keep a roster spot free or Adrien will become the 15th member of the team.
Here is my thought process: Gentry and the rest of the coaching staff will get a chance to evaluate Kendrick Perkins in training camp. If Perk doesn't really fit anywhere (my guess), Adrien would wind up the team's third center. He would offer the Pelicans the best chance of playing small and fast if either Davis or Ryan Anderson need to sit for any reason. Perkins, and his guaranteed contract, would remain valuable for tutelage purposes, the major reason he was brought to New Orleans in the first place. Demps alluded to this yesterday during his press conference.
Kendrick Perkins contributions will be hard to measure (ie a lot of off the court stuff)— Oleh Kosel (@Redhopeful) September 28, 2015
There really are a wide number of scenarios that could occur this week at the Greenbrier. BDJ could absolutely wow the staff and stand head and shoulders above the rest of the group, Kilpatrick could find the range and adequately defend on the other end, and CDR could pretend he's wearing a Hornet uniform again.
All of these outcomes are possible; however, I'm hedging my bets on Webster and Adrien. Their skill sets fit best among the rest of the Pelicans, so if they perform up to their abilities, they are the odds on favorite to start the regular season in New Orleans.
Dell Demps and the rest of the Pelicans organization are indeed a savvy bunch. They invited five players for two roster spots but could wind up 'controlling' four of them. Two of them, Webster and Adrien, could end up being serviceable and productive bench role players. Meanwhile Jones and Kilpatrick could further their craft in the D-League, making more money than most of their peers. Although they technically would be affiliate players (free to be signed by any one of the 30 NBA teams), the hope is the Pelicans designating a vote of confidence through a higher salary sparks a bond of loyalty in which said player would reciprocate when other teams come knocking at their doors.