I don’t get it. That is, the outpouring of positive reviews of the Pelicans’ trade of a potential first-round pick in 2015 to Houston for center Omer Asik.
The deal means, for the third consecutive year, the New Orleans Pelicans will be without a first-round draft choice.
On draft night in 2013, the Pelicans traded what turned out to be a pair of first-round picks to Philadelphia for guard Jrue Holiday. And, Asik is a free agent at the end of the 2014-15 season.
This run of basketball myopia seems to be the exact opposite of what was preached less than two years ago: “We have a plan. Working with coach Monty Williams, we want to achieve sustained success. We’ve got a young core right now. We want to see those guys grow and play together. We want to compete at the highest level.”
That was a quote from then-Hornets general manager Dell Demps when the club announced contract extensions for him and head coach Monty Williams in November 2012.
Is this Demps’ idea of sustained success? Even if Asik plays well, the Pelicans are, at best, a seventh or eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. And, what happens two summers from now? If the Pelicans haven’t had enough success, Anthony Davis will do what Chris Paul did – ask for trade. And, if he does, can you blame him?
It amazes me that an organization that said it would model itself after the San Antonio Spurs would do the exact opposite. The Spurs were seven years between NBA titles. But each year, they improved their roster with younger players. And head coach Gregg Popovich changed his ways. The Spurs became a team that relied on pushing the ball quickly down the floor.
More teams will be following San Antonio’s lead. New Orleans isn’t one of them. It takes outstanding talent evaluation and player development to win in a small market.
Demps has made some good deals. Acquiring Ryan Anderson from Orlando was one of them. Matching a lucrative offer sheet that Phoenix gave Eric Gordon was not.
In the NBA, good young players that you drafted can be a real bonus and a significant boost to your bottom line.
Over the next two seasons, Anthony Davis is under contract for a total of $12.7 million. Gordon is under contract for $30.4 million.
The Spurs certainly don’t operate this way. Next season, the Pelicans have three players who will earn $11 million or more. The Spurs have one – guard Tony Parker.
The Spurs have also built through the draft. Parker and post player Tiago Splitter were both picked 28th in the first round. Manu Ginobili was pick No. 57. Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard was drafted No. 15 by Indiana in 2011, then traded to San Antonio. He played some games in the NBA’s developmental league in 2012-13.
In other words, his development took time.
But, that’s not the Pelicans’ way. They are in a hurry. Where they are going is anybody’s guess.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.