One thing is for sure in the NBA: smaller markets have a tough time competing with their big-city counterparts. New Orleans felt that their best way to survive in a league with that reality was to hire someone familiar with a small market success: the San Antonio Spurs. Dell Demps seemed to be the man for the job due to his scouting and front office experience with the Spurs. He was hired to the Pelicans GM position in 2010 and is now going to be looking elsewhere for work.
One of the first major roadblocks in Demps’ career was the famous vetoed trade of Chris Paul to the Lakers from the then league-owned New Orleans Hornets. The league had concerns about retaining competitive balance, even though Paul had said that he would not sign an extension with the small market Hornets. After such a gut punch from the league, Demps opted to trade Paul to the Clippers for Eric Gordon, Al-Faruq Aminu, and Chris Kaman. None of these players are still on the team, nor did they lead the Pelicans to any sort of playoff success.
Demps was then faced with picking number one overall in the 2012 NBA draft. Navigating the notoriously bust-ridden draft, Demps passed on players like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, and Andre Drummond and selected Anthony Davis, the transient forward out of Kentucky. There were several other instances of poor management and bad luck on Demps’ part, but the situation with Davis was the last straw.
Davis has been the subject of a lot of buzz around the league lately. He was reported earlier this year as having asked for a trade (much like Paul). Also like Paul, there were extensive negotiations with the Lakers regarding the deal, though there are not concerns about competitive balance with the rise of teams like the Warriors, Nuggets, and Rockets in the West. However, allegedly due to the demeanor of the Lakers’ management (they were too public with the negotiations) the Pelicans opted not to negotiate further.
Regardless of whoever is named the next GM of the Pelicans, it is certain that they will have their work cut out for them in regards to the Davis situation. There are some who believe that whoever takes over will simply put Davis on IR, regardless of the severity of the injury he sustained during Demps’ last game as GM. The Pelicans will also not want to hurt their draft position.
Without using the buzzword “tanking,” New Orleans is certainly in rebuilding mode now, and they won’t be a good value play against better teams in the near future.