I Think I Like A Contract Extension For Hornets General Manager Dell Demps

Let me start by saying that I truly like Dell Demps.

He and I have had several great talks about the NBA and about obscure foreign players.

I’m also pretty sure I like the fact that Demps got a contract extension from new Hornets owner Tom Benson today — the reason: Demps pros outweigh his cons.

Look, no professional sports executive is perfect — and Demps is still very much a work in progress — but now that the Hornets have stability I believe Demps best years are ahead of him.

When looking at Dell Demps you’ve got to break his Hornets career into two categories — before Tom Benson (BTB) and after Tom Benson (ATB).

Demps took over in 2010 at a very difficult time.  Demps started with a disgruntled star (Chris Paul) and a broke owner (George Shinn) who’d – in an unprecedented move – sell his franchise back to the NBA.

The moves Demps made BTB were aimed at keeping Chris Paul happy and doing everything possible to keep the Hornets in playoff contention.  Making sure the team won helped keep the franchise profitable.

The Bad (Before Tom Benson):

Demps first big move as GM was trading Darren Collison and James Posey (in a 3-team deal) for Trevor Ariza.  Ariza was a nice cog in the Hornets playoff run against the Lakers and the move made CP3 happy — but the move lacked foresight.  Demps should have realized Paul was never going to stay in NOLA and kept Collison.  Collison has since helped the Indiana Pacers make a nice playoff run and he’s currently the starting PG for the Dallas Mavericks averaging 14 points and 7 assists per game.

Later in his first season Demps traded local product Marcus Thornton to Sacramento for Carl Landry.  Hornets insiders say Paul never cared for Thornton and as a defensive-minded coach I can guarantee Monty Williams wasn’t crying when Thornton got shipped out.  But Marcus Thornton can play.  I think Demps and Williams should have worked harder to keep the former LSU Tiger.  To me, Thornton is an electric scorer off the bench — a guy who can change a game if he’s hot — he was also young and on a good contract.  Trading good young players on good contracts is never advised in the NBA — and Demps did it twice with the Collison and Thornton deals.

Dell traded the Hornets 2011 1st round draft pick.  The pick was traded for Jerryd Bayless — but Bayless was eventually moved for Jarrett Jack.  Small market NBA teams can’t trade 1st round draft picks.  Demps came from San Antonio so he knows this.  Small market NBA teams have to develop players.  No NBA team does a better job of drafting and developing than the Spurs.  Demps made a mistake moving that 1st round pick.

Demps first draft — in 2011 — he was totally handcuffed.  The NBA owned the team and sold the Hornets pick (Josh Harrellson) to the New York Knicks to get the Hornets franchise some much needed cash.

The “first” Chris Paul trade with the Houston Rockets and LA Lakers in December of last year was reportedly Dell Demps deal.  Had the NBA allowed the deal to go through the Hornets would have labored into 7th or 8th place in the Western Conference (and never landed Anthony Davis) and been stuck with the bad contracts of Luis Scola and Kevin Martin.  Sure, the Hornets would have gotten Goran Dragic in a deal but as an unrestricted free agent their was no guarantee he’d have re-signed.  The NBA made the smart move and nixed Demps deal.

My final Demps (Before Tom Benson) fail is the 2012 NBA trade deadline.  Demps failed to move Chris Kaman or Carl Landry — despite knowing neither would be back with the team this season.  Every NBA team has stories of 2nd round picks that become starters — Demps should have at least gotten 2nd round picks

The best move Demps made prior to Tom Benson taking over was trading Darius Songaila and Craig Brackens to Philly for Jason Smith and Willie Green.  Green is gone but Smith has emerged as a team leader and one of Monty’s most valuable players off the bench.  Some people tell me “Dell traded for Greivis Vasquez and he’s a solid player.”  That’s true, but Quincy Pondexter is the player who was traded for Vasquez and he’s found a nice role off the bench for a very good (undefeated) Memphis team — so the Vasquez/Pondexter deal is a push.

Now, all that said — Demps has done some nice work since Tom Benson bought the franchise and Demps has been allowed to do his job.

The Good (After Tom Benson):

Dumping Trevor Ariza & Emeka Okafor was a genius move.  The Hornets had to eat the final year of Rashard Lewis’ terrible contract but Demps saved $21 million next year when he dumped Ariza/Okafor onto the Wizards.

Signing Ryan Anderson.  I’ve been a fan of Anderson since former UNO coach Joe Pasternack told me about him.  Pasternack came from Cal and coached Anderson in Berkeley.  Anderson is a quality player and true professional who makes the Hornets better on the floor and in the locker room — his contract is also manageable.

Signing Robin Lopez — while Lopez will never be his twin brother (Nets center Brook Lopez) — Robin is a good player on a good contract.

I also like the selection of Austin Rivers with the 10th pick in the 2012 NBA draft.  Demps can’t get credit for #1 pick Anthony Davis — Demps had nothing to do with the ping pong balls falling the Hornets way in the NBA Draft Lottery.  I know Rivers has struggled at times but I’m a believer — so in my opinion — this is a good move for Demps.

Demps has also positioned the Hornets for the future.  The team has only $34 million dollars committed to salary for next season.  The Hornets don’t have to use the king’s ransom they’ll have but they can if the right player (or deal) comes along.

Demps has made one big mistake since Tom Benson became owner.  Demps urged Benson to match the Phoenix Suns offer to restricted free agent Eric Gordon.  Four years, $58 million fully guaranteed.

Right now, Demps, Hornets Executive GM Mickey Loomis and Benson are being patient with Gordon and saying and doing all the right things.  Hopefully their patience pays off and Gordon returns to be a all-star type player and leader.

I don’t think Gordon will ever be the guy the Hornets envision.

As I wrote over and over this summer the Hornets would have been better off moving on without  Gordon. The Hornets should have made an offer to restricted free agent Brook Lopez — or unrestricted free agent Goran Dragic — or just saved their money.

Gordon’s absence rushes the development of Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers.  Gordon’s absence means Monty Williams has no go-to guy at the end of games.  Gordon’s absence makes fans question “what’s going on with this franchise!!!”

All said, I truly believe Dell Demps deserved a contract extension.  He deserves a fair chance to build a team.  Dell is a good man and a good NBA executive who understands the league.

I think Dell can become a great GM.  Look, Dell’s the guy who — while with San Antonio — scouted and drafted foreign players such as Goran Dragic, Tiago Splitter and Nando deColo.  He found sleepers like George Hill from IUPUI.  He’s credited with helping develop Tony Parker.  Demps has got to get back to his roots — stockpiling picks, scouting and drafting European players, building a team through the draft and discovering quality players on the way up instead of on the way down.  The next 10 months are crucial for Dell.  The moves Dell makes at the trade deadline, the player (s) he drafts next summer (likely in the top 10) and any free agent signings could define his tenure.

{Sidebar: One guy I think Demps has his eye on, and for good reason: Joe Ingles — a 25 year old SG/SF from Australia currently playing in Spain.  Ingles has an NBA opt-out next summer and he could be the reason the Hornets didn’t pickup Al-Farouq Aminu’s option.}

So — good luck Dell — I like the fact that you got a contract extension — I Think.

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2 Responses

  1. RIVERS IS NOT A SHOOTING G ANX OBVIOUSLY NOT A PG HORRIBLE PICK MOVE ON. TOO MANY BAD MOVES ON THAT LIST EVEN FOR A YOUNG GM

  2. Austin rivers 33 minutes 5 points sg the experiment continues. 2 for 10 just horrible.

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