Man, it sucks to be Dell Demps right now.
The atrocious New Orleans Pelicans general manager was just a few, short summer months away from going Full Billy King. With how smart the league has gotten on the general-manager front, it was hard to believe that a team would mortgage their future the way King and the Brooklyn Nets did in the infamous trade with the Boston Celtics. The Nets were desperate to make a splash, desperate to hit the ground running in a new arena under new ownership even if that meant potentially setting your franchise back a decade if it all doesn’t unfold the way you need it to.
The Pelicans are right there. Sure, the five-man lineup with Elfrid Payton, E’twaun Moore, Jrue Holiday, Anthony Davis and Julius Randle is one of the league’s best -- check NBA.com/stats if you are not convinced, I wouldn’t be either on first glance -- but that is all this team has. One good lineup and a roster where three of the team’s five best players can’t be on the floor at the same time -- Nikola Mirotic, Randle and Davis. This team is stuck with Holliday's contract, with Solomon Hill’s contract, with Elf masquerading as a Kind-Of Rajon Rondo. Point is, this team sucks and they need to win now.
It seems in today’s NBA every team is too smart for their own good. Like in Major League Baseball, where team’s are actively avoiding signing Manny Machado and Bryce Harper because they’ve all lost their effing minds. Rarely do you see teams do what the Los Angeles Rams did and just decide to go all-in for a few seasons and try and win it all. For the Rams, it worked out. For the Nets, it bombed.
The Pelicans are in that sweet spot, though, when it comes to contending and starting over. Not only are they a middle-of-the-road team in the tougher conference, they employ a top-5 basketball player in his prime. Instead of making the playoffs or making any moves after a slow start to the season, Double D has been silent. The Pelicans have done nothing and Davis officially wants out. Had the Pels been hovering around the eighth spot in mid-January, Davis probably doesn’t pick now to ask for a trade, right? We needed the Pelicans to sneak into that No. 8 seed in the West, Boogie Cousins and Davis to go at it in Round 1, and an offseason where the Pelicans are now faced with the reality that they have one season left to convince The Brow that Mickey Loomis running both the New Orleans Saints and the Pelicans is totally normal and the New Orleans environment is totally fine.
That’s when we get Demps on the phone with the Orlando Magic offering three future first-round picks for Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier. That’s when we get Demps on the phone with the Miami Heat offering two first-round picks, a second-round pick and Mirotic for the Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside. That’s when we get Demps, you guessed it, on the phone with the New York Knicks offering two firsts, Mirotic and portions of Bourbon Street to the New York Knicks for Tim Hardaway Jr and Frank Ntilikina. Rarely do we, as NBA fans, find ourselves in a moment in time where a bad, desperate general manager working under a bad, desperate franchise is presented with the opportunity to make the bad, desperate move we all desire.
But Demps blew it.
He didn’t do enough to keep this team a few games over .500 for the first half of the 2018-19 NBA season. He didn’t make a tiny win-now move for somebody like Kent Bazemore to carry this team to a first-round sweep at the hands of the Dubs. I’m sick. Instead, we are saddled with more lame, boring NBA tampering stories. The story, if the Basketball Gods loved us, would have been the Pels have turned Jahlil Okafor into a competent, interesting NBA big *and* they now have just enough wings to qualify for the postseason. How fun!
Instead, the Okafor breakout story is kind of sad because it is colliding head-on with the Anthony Davis Is Done With This Shit story. I want to enjoy Okafor like I enjoy Kenneth Faried thriving as Mike D’Antoni’s latest rim-running five ace. Had Demps traded for Bazemore or Jeremy Lamb or Jeremy Lin or whoever a few weeks ago, we would be able to enjoy this Pelican mediocrity similar to the way we enjoyed last season’s Pelican mediocrity with Cousins and Davis.What gives, Basketball Gods?
I mean, shit. We are less than five years away from every sports franchise being run by Daryl Morey Ajace, so we have to capitalize on these moments when they fortunately come about. We are only three years away, if we’re lucky, from getting to the point where guys like Kyrie Irving spend weeks on the free-agent market when teams start to lose their minds like MLB GMs already have. We all needed to see one last bad general manager make a disastrous, franchise-changing decision just to try to make the Western Conference Semifinals. Did you not know you needed a DeMar DeRozan trade with the Spurs that would one day leave the Pelicans with no picks and a backcourt combination that reminded you of the 2009 Philadelphia 76ers? Now you know.
Damn it, Demps. We were so close to you having your moment in the sun. We were so close to having our phones vibrate with an alert from Woj that informs us you traded four future first-round picks for CJ McCollum. We were close to having a new trade to marvel at for the next decade-plus. We were so close to wondering if this was it for Bad GM Makes Catastrophic Trade moments. Now we know. This was it. I’m not mad, Dell Demps. I’m just disappointed. We’re all disappointed.