It is an age-old question: what is more important, money and fame or health? If Bryce Dejean-Jones (BDJ) has made one mistake this year, it was choosing money over health. He accomplished this by signing a multi-year contract with the notoriously oft-injured New Orleans Pelicans.
After coming off of consecutive 10-day contracts and following a very long and trade deadline dominated All-Star break, the New Orleans Pelicans decided BDJ had performed well enough to offer him a partially guaranteed contract, possibly keeping him in New Orleans through the 2017-18 season.
The following day -- I kid you not -- BDJ broke his right wrist in the Pelicans 121-114 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. BDJ actually went on to play in two more games because his injury was not immediately diagnosed; however, continued pain in that area led to another examination that concluded he had indeed suffered a fracture. On February 26th, he underwent successful season-ending surgery, costing him the remainder of his rookie campaign.
During his appearances, fans became fascinated with Bryce due to his natural ability and performances on the court. He didn't take the world by storm but offered quite a few hopeful glimpses. Remember, the New Orleans franchise has not had too many rookies enter the Smoothie King Center in recent history. Just take a look at the Pelicans draft record and you can get an idea of what it is like to be a fan of this organization on draft night.
Darius Miller. Branden Dawson. Austin Rivers. Oy vey!
I have not seen this many no-names or missed picks since the last New Orleans Saints game. The Pelicans draft strategy seems to be a) trade the pick, b) sell the pick for cash considerations, or 3) blow the pick. Fans are aware that football executive Mickey Loomis is involved with the Pelicans to a certain degree, but thankfully the front office seems to make up for horrible drafts by finding valuable role players internationally or inside the D-League (see Brian Roberts, Gustavo Ayon). This category of player, of which BDJ is considered a part of, are all Pels' fans have when it comes to rookies, youth and cheap contracts.
In case you missed it, the Pelicans season has gone down in flames, mainly because injuries thrust role players into starting roles and Bryce’s situation was no different. In his 14 games with the Pelicans, he started 11, averaging 5.6 points per game, 37.5% from three-point range, 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 19.9 minutes per game. More than the numbers, what impressed many Pels fans was the effort he gave on the floor at all times. BDJ never shied away from contact, attacking the rim viciously several times while attempting to put opposing players on the first ever Bryce Dejean-Jones poster.
If there is one thing a player can do that will immediately endure you to the fan base is to act like you give a damn (paging Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis, Norris Cole, Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, Toney Douglas, Luke Babbitt, Quincy Pondexter, Dante Cunningham, Alonzo Gee and Kendrick Perkins all at various times this season). After breaking his wrist, BDJ started two more games while wearing a brace and played over 20 minutes in each game.
Much respect, kid!
Dejean-Jones could very well wind up being just another body on the end of the bench next year, but the Pelicans need to take chances on players of his caliber. One major component of building a yearly contender is having one or two guys on cheap contracts that become significant contributors on the court. Whether these guys are second round picks (Draymond Green) or undrafted free agents (David Wesley), the cheap contracts and youth allow the team to compete in free agency as well as on game day.
Dell Demps and the Pelicans organization were smart to sign BDJ to the 3-year contract because when the cap goes up next season and beyond, he will be making about ~1% of the cap which is a steal for a guy that was shooting ~38% from 3pt as a rookie.
I know I speak for all Pelicans fans around the world when I say, get healthy Bryce and hope to see you next season!
**SB Nation asked all of their NBA team sites to participate in NBA 2015 Rookie Theme Week, where each site will discuss their rookie class. For obvious reasons, we highlighted Bryce Dejean-Jones, the Pelicans' lone rookie. We put a call into Cash Considerations for comment, but were told he was unavailable.