I'm a Bulls fan, but I've been the one touting the Hornets on TrueHoop's message board on every single trade they made, and my opinion of Demps hasn't changed one iota since I saw what he did. The guy's freaking brilliant. If he can turn around Stojakovic's contract and a couple draft picks into Andre Iguodala, Demps isn't just the GM of the Year (which he is at the moment): he'll be one of my own personal heroes.
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Hindsight: Dell Demps Stayed Late, Taught Summer School
It’s only been seven games for this new look Hornets team, but it’s already clear that Dell Demps was the cool kid last summer. He showed up late and schooled his colleagues, making it look like a piece of cake in the process. He was so smooth, that nobody even realized that he was quietly assembling a top-notch team.
Thinking back on the deals that sent Julian Wright and Darius Songaila packing, they did seem a bit underwhelming for Hornets fans who were at the time dealing with the CP3 trade drama. The only big name that came back, Ariza, was more bittersweet chocolate, since it sent fan favorite Darren “Lil Dimes” Collison to Indiana.
The rest of the outgoing players were, at the very least, familiar to us. Almost all of them had contributed to some memorable Hornets victories, and made us happy on the inside on more than one occasion. The guys traded away might be no-names elsewhere, but at least here they were our no-names here. Replacing them with players that other teams clearly didn’t want, was hardly a sure-fire way to improve (or so we thought).
Speaking of no-names, it’s easy to get attached to certain players on a team, and for a lot of us, Julian Wright was that that guy. He was just a rookie back in 2007-2008, when the Hornets had their best year ever, and his efforts in relief of David West made us all believe that there was more in store for the athletic swing man from Kansas. Thankfully, Dell didn’t share that same attachment. Let’s start with the deal that sent Julian packing.
Julian Wright for Marco Bellinelli
Julian Wright has played in four games for the 1-7 Raptors this year, averaging less than 13 minutes per game. Although he hasn’t played poorly, he is still a long way from having a regular role in a poor rotation. Marco on the other hand has started every game for the undefeated Hornets, averaging 29 minutes per contest. His defense has been praised repeatedly by Monty Williams, and his three point shooting (40% on the year) has opened up the floor for an offense that otherwise lacks a true sharpshooter.
Darius Songaila and Craig Brackins for Jason Smith and Willie Green
Jason Smith has served as the primary backup big man for the Hornets, bringing some respect to an area in which most analysts thought the Hornets would do horribly. His reliable jump shooting and hustle have been a sight to behold, and he was a major player in the exciting win over the Miami Heat. He’s been the biggest surprise on this Hornets team so far, and his play has been key to the Hornets remaining undefeated.
Willie Green has done more than what was expected of him, handling the ball well, and providing tough, blue collar defense. He’s led the team in scoring once this season, and is averaging over 20 minutes per game in an overachieving backup unit.
Darius Songaila and Craig Brackins have combined to play 10 minutes total for the 76ers, who are a 2-6 on the year. I was never high on Brackins, and really don’t think he’s ever going to make me regret saying this.
Darren Collison and James Posey for Trevor Ariza
No, this wasn’t how the trade was structured, but from the Hornets perspective this is how it went down. Darren Collison is a nice player, and he will probably have a bright future, but the Hornets had to deal him. What they got (Ariza) and got rid of (Posey’s contract) far outweighed the value that any backup point guard can have.
In Indiana Collison is having another good year after earning First Team All-Rookie honors, but in New Orleans he would have only seen 15-20 minutes a game, and defensively was not a good fit with Chris Paul. The Pacers got a good point guard for almost nothing in return.
Ariza, on the other hand, is a perfect fit with Paul, especially on defense. The duo have combined for 30 steals in only seven games, and have the Hornets already being considered one of the best defensive teams in the league. At the time we asked if this was a deal done on need, rather than talent. After seven games Ariza appears every bit as good a running partner for Paul as the optimists thought.
Houston gave up Ariza for Courtney Lee and salary cap room. Lee is seeing less than 20 minutes per game, while Houston is 1-6 on the year.
New Jersey gave up Courtney Lee and got back Troy Murphy.
Winners: Hornets, Pacers
A top 7 protected first round pick in 2011 (in all likelihood), for Jerryd Bayless
At this point it’s safe to assume that the Hornets are not going to be a lottery team this year, and with that goes any possibility that the team will somehow wind up with a top 7 pick. What’s more likely is a pick somewhere around 20-25th, which more often than not is completely worthless. Jerryd Bayless is a proven NBA player, and although he has struggled so far in New Orleans, he has shown flashes of good basketball. He’s an adequate backup point guard who can only be expected to improve, especially since he has the support of Monty Williams.
Winner: Hornets (In my eyes at least)
A conditional second round pick (which turned into nothing upon his release) for Curtis Jerrells.
Yes, the Hornets trial of Jerrells ended up costing them nothing. Once Jarrells was released, the conditions of the future second round pick were not satisfied. Is this a win neccesarilly? Not really, but it’s a nice sign at the very least. The Hornets are willing to take chances on young players with D-League experience. They also know how to work their connections to get access to players. This one, for example, could only have gone well. It cost them nothing to see if Curtis Jarrells was capable of playing backup point guard for them. He wasn’t, and they got rid of him, but one day it will work and they will find value where nobody else did.
Winner: Curtis Jerrells (at least someone thinks he is worth a conditional second round pick)
So there you have it. Five trades, four wins, and a no-contest for Dell Demps. Remember how confused everyone was when Willie Green and Jason Smith were brought in? Or how little was thought of the Marco Belinelli trade? Judging from the past, we should hope that we are underwhelmed and bewildered by each and every trade going forward.
It's nice. To truly have the best start, however, we need to go 9-0. Regardless, #1 in the NBA for about 48 hours at least is nice.
I mentioned in the hornets chat about a week ago that Demps only needed to hit on 2 or 3 of the moves for a successful season and so far he has hit on all four (minus the Jerrell trade). Between the 4 acquired players they have combined for 40 points as a unit as compared to only Collison's production. Win win all the way around.
Nice write up- I agree he has been a beast so far. Reminds me of Tommy Gunn in Rocky 5. We should put a poll up to let the readers decide what his best move has been (psst- I think there is one ready to go in the queue) Personally, I think long term the Ariza move is the best one. As good as Belly has been, I dont think he is here long term. Willie might be and somebody will offer Jason Smith a starters type of contract next year or the year after. I think Ariza will be a Hornet for years to come and Willie Green might be as well if he resigns for a reasonable price to be a part of something great.
Great write up Joe. Hopefully, Dell's credits during summer school will lead to an early graduation into the playoffs.