Did Dell Demps tell you something about his priorities and team building methods by trying to do the Lakers trade first and then going younger after ownership forced him a different direction?
Kevin Barrios: It wasn't the right approach for sure, but with all of that uncertainty it's hard to blame Dell for trying to catch the same kind of lightning in the bottle Denver got with that 57 win season following the Carmelo trade in hopes of saving his job. While I do believe Dell defaults to a young vet model I think this was more about maintaining a winning team and the self-preservation that that would provide. Without a true owner, and a truly engaged fan base I'm sure Demps was under a lot of pressure to not lose fans while helping the league convince a new owner that this market would support the team. It was very short-sighted, but I understand why he made the deal.
Isaac Constans: I don't know when I started to mistrust Demps, but I'd imagine it was around then. It was almost as if was trying to configure the parts around an imaginary superstar who just left. Never once did I think Paul departed in the right way, and he had pieces in New Orleans to win. But he demanded it. While trading him was the right move and it had to be done in a timely fashion for the sake of the franchise, trying to come out of that move more complete was delusional. Rebuilding was always the way to go.
Chris Cucchiara: It was a bad move by Demps to agree to a trade that would secure the franchise in mediocrity and keep them good enough to never get a superstar but bad enough to never succeed in the West. The Pelicans have yet to succeed and wish they could be mediocre, but at least they get to be bad with a superstar in AD!
Jamile Dunn: See here's the thing: there are conflicting reports on how the deal actually went down. I know the Clippers were involved early but Paul really wanted to go to the Lakers. It's possible Demps was using the Lakers as leverage against Clippers who were reluctant to let go of both the pick and Eric Gordon. Of course you wouldn't say "Hey guys we're using the Lakers as a smoke screen", you have to make everyone believe it's really true or it fails to have the desired effect.
However, that is speculation so just judging from what we absolutely know I don't think it's clear that we can draw conclusions from the deal that didn't happen because we don't know what subsequent moves Demps had in mind. Perhaps he thought he could flip some of these vets for additional picks or young players. It's clear now that there is no pathway forward with Demps, but it is only fair to recognize that he came into a sub-optimal situation. He was dealing with one of the weirder ownership changes in sports history, two disgruntled stars, execs around the league that didn't believe he had any power and a coach he didn't hire. Add to all that the national scrutiny that immediately descended upon him due to Chris Paul's petulance and it's easy to see how you can get started down the wrong road. I always try my best to place myself into the position of those I'm critical of and frankly I wouldn't have wanted to be in Demps shoes... outside of the paycheck.
David Fisher: Absolutely. Goran Dragic, about to play his age 25 season, fits the “young veteran” mold Demps is still chasing. The rest of it, oh boy. Kevin Martin was 28, Luis Scola was 31, and Lamar Odom was 32. Dragic was about to be a free agent. It was incomprehensibly bad at the time. A ticket to the treadmill of mediocrity in a city that will gladly ignore such a product. It was “win now” before Tom Benson was even in charge of the franchise. A window into what Demps values and an explanation of much of the direction of the team in the years that followed.
Can it be explained by the pressures Demps faced? Yes. Did it also demonstrate how Demps will respond to such pressures? Yes, and the evidence continues to mount.
Oleh Kosel: In hindsight, there is little doubt that Dell Demps had wanted to forgo the option of undergoing a long, slow rebuild. That said, I don’t necessarily think we can say his preferred path would have resulted a sure-fire loser. Exactly what positives emerged from the Clippers package? On the surface it’s easy to say Anthony Davis because, well, duh, but I’m not a fan of ignoring statistical probability. The New Orleans franchise had an 86.3% chance of not landing the top draft pick in the 2012 NBA draft. And you know, those odds would have been made worse had Eric Gordon not missed the entire season but for 9 games.
From a business perspective, Demps had initially opted for the safer investment path — one that didn’t require nearly as much luck. That’s how the real world usually likes to operate, but most in the sports world don’t because fandom isn’t interested in rational decision-making. Gambling on the lottery is perfectly fine from a fan’s perspective, yet it’s far from what team owners, who have sunk millions and millions from their bank accounts, would probably elect to do year after year.
It’s so easy to slam Dell Demps for his priorities, but if I was a savvy business owner who didn’t want to increase the odds of pissing away my capital, I’d hire a Demps-type of general manager over a Sam Hinkie every day of the week.
Frank Spiro: Goran Dragic, Kevin Martin, Lamar Odom, and Luis Scola would have gotten the then Hornets 30 wins that year; not nearly enough to get us into the playoffs, and way too many to get Davis. Present frustrations about the Pelicans aside, Anthony Davis is the best thing to happen to this organization since… well, Chris Paul.