Dell Demps the Chessmaster: Rushing to Judge the Off-season

By:
Published: July 17, 2012

Jake looks at how Dell Demps usually sets up one move with another and urges patience this off-season. Jake also wants Demps’ new nickname to be the “Chessmaster.”

The Chessmaster. Courtesy of @DatPurpleHornet

In the world of sports, there is an almost instantaneous reaction to any event. With twitter, all the major sites, and the accessibility of sports blogging, there is some sort of rapid reaction to any signing/trade/draft pick. We like to pick apart events right away, but judging any move in a vacuum isn’t really fair. Those rapid reaction pieces may be fun and promote interesting discussion, but some moves don’t exist in and of themselves. Some more are more intricate than that, and they need some time before we can accurately judge them.

In chess one of the most important skills is the ability to see a handful of moves ahead. If a grandmaster moves a knight into an attacking position, it is always part of setting up the general endgame.

Dell Demps has the same forward-thinking vision as a grandmaster chess player. We like to call him “Dealer Dell,” but Demps rarely makes moves just to make moves as that nickname kind of implies. Like a chess player, Dell may not predict the exact move he’s building up to (there are far too many variables and permutations) but he certainly see the path that opens up to him whenever he makes a trade or signs a player.

Take a look at the recent Ryan Anderson trade. The string of transactions which led to the NBA’s Most Improved Player joining the Hornets actually started back on June 23, 2011:

  • Demps sells the 45th pick in the 2011 draft (the only pick the Hornets had) to the Knicks for cash considerations. He uses that cash to pay the buyout of Gustavo Ayon’s contract. Demps later uses Ayon in a sign and trade with the Magic for Ryan Anderson.

The beginning and end of this string of moves took place over a year apart. The Hornets fan base was furious over selling the 45th pick but, looking back on it in better context, it was only one piece of a larger move which Hornets fans have applauded.

Look back at this move:

  • Demps sends a conditional first round pick to the Trailblazers in exchange for Jarryd Bayless; Almost a month later, Demps flips Bayless and Peja Stojakovic (an asset that Hornets fans overvalued) for Jarrett Jack, Marcus Banks and David Andersen. Jack became the starting point guard for the Hornets last season and had a career year.

But it doesn’t end there:

  • Right before the start of last season, Demps traded Quincy Pondexter to Memphis for Greivis Vasquez. With the 10th pick in last month’s draft he selected the point guard of the future in Austin Rivers. With those two on the roster, Jack became expendable. Demps traded him to Golden State for some foreign player who will never suit up for the team.

Again the fanbase was upset. The move purely looks like a salary dump. Especially since most of that cap space evaporated once the Hornets matched Eric Gordon’s offer sheet from the Suns. But this string of moves still isn’t over.

  • Two days after the Jack trade, Dell picks up two second round picks from the Timberwolves just for eating the guaranteed part of Brad Miller’s contract in the long run, but he had to have the room for the whole contract in the short run, which the Jack move provided.

So here we are waiting for the endgame. Demps is armed with some cap space and a handful of 2nd round picks. We just need to wait and see what Dell does. With the roster as it currently stands, there is a need for an offensive post player. After skipping on all the amnestied players, and with slim pickings in free agency, you’d have to imagine Dell is eyeing a sign and trade for a big man.

Normally I’d say that 2nd round picks aren’t worth much. But don’t forget that Dell nabbed Xavier Henry for one, and there were two trades last season that let me think he can pull something off. the 76ers sent Marresse Speights to Memphis for two second round picks (in the Henry trade) and the Nets got Mehmet Okur from the Jazz for one in 2015.

I’ve seen a lot of comments on the site and twitter questioning what Dell is doing. The off-season isn’t over and people shouldn’t rush to judge Demps just because they don’t see what he’s trying to do. He’s not flying by night (RUSH!).

And you know what?

This is probably all part of the plan. Grandmaster chess players don’t want you to know what they’re up to. So let’s have some patience because, going by Demps’ track record, we may be waiting a little bit to see the endgame.

And just because I can…

68 comments
big sslimm
big sslimm

From the article regarding the Hornets cap # it seems we have abt 9 million to pay a center. Also I understand we could have 20 million of space next year. Do you think we could make an offer to Dwight Howard that would attractive? And would he be a good fit?

John in MO
John in MO

And Socks continues to light up the summer league . . .

SportsCajun
SportsCajun

I fail to see how people can be anything other than ecstatic about what Demps has done. Last year this was a bad team with severe cap issues. Now it's a young squad with cap room and assets. At the end of last season it didn't seem like the team would be any good for some time to come. Now they've got some young, up-and-coming players and shed their bad contracts. Even if their record isn't stellar next year, there's hope for the future and there's no way I thought I'd be saying something like that this soon after the CP3 trade.

John in MO
John in MO

This just in: Austin Rivers is not playing tonight due to a "sore" foot and ankle.

hewhorocks
hewhorocks

Well I think Demps has had mixed results. As far as the analogy to grandmaster chess players go though I think we are a little off. Most Grandmaster chess players expect their opponents know what they are doing. The game at the highest level is really one where Grandmasters take advantage of the miscalculation of the value of factors by their opponent. Space for time, material for initiative; the game at that level is about a disagreement of the relative strength of assets given a common framework. Dell thought the 45th pick was over-valued and maybe he was right. The "string of moves" which traded Jack as a salary Dump does not seem a reasonable gambit much less the artistry of a Grandmaster. In a draft where Point Guard was perhaps the weakest position represented, Jack was more valuable than in an evenly represented year, coupled with his career year one might expect to cash him in for more than a salary dump even if it allowed the acquisition of players likely to fill next year's summer leauge second squad. That conditional first rounder could have netted Isaiah Thomas,Kenneth Faried,Chandler Parsons or the actual pick Tobias Harris for that matter. Anyone of which is an asset the Hornets would appreciate more than a salary dump at this point. The current Draft selection may make Dell look good in the end, I hope so. But to characterize him as some sort of trading savant is a stretch. Most of the trades thus far look more like flailing in the dark than the calculated maneuvers of a chess master much less Grandmaster. Then again I may be a little sensitive to analogies using the 64 squares. A little overstatement of his prowess may be allowable though considering the mess he walked into and the track record of his predecessor.

Hornets686
Hornets686

How bout... Travis Outlaw and Jimmer Fredette for Aminu?!?!

Banloo
Banloo

Eric Gordon can become an UFA in 3 years by opting out of contract

David
David

I love the jokers who are giving up on Rivers after two summer league games. Gimme a break. Watch the game, watch him get to the rim whenever he wants, draw a ton of fouls, drive and kick to guys who miss open jump shots, handle the ball effortlessly. Sure he's getting picked like crazy on D, having trouble finishing at the rim with contact, etc. He's 19. He'll get stronger. He'll get better. Let's wait a while before we send him to the D-League. Geez.

BDavis
BDavis

Silent Assassian has player opt last yr. Coach is trying to raise Austin's IQ by playing PG. Yep I think I see what Chess Master Dell is doing!

marky mark
marky mark

send rivers to the d-league if he continues to play the way he is

Baba
Baba

When you have a shooting guard like Gordon, you don't need a pass first point guard, I believe. I prefer someone who can catch and shoot the ball once the defense has collapsed because of Gordon's penetration. e.g Mario Chalmers.

PD
PD

Yes just like how Marco Bellinelli, Marcus Banks, Shelden Williams, and Anthony Randolph tore up the summer league. They are super stars now, lol! Look at Lance Thomas this year, but hope he continues it! Derrek Rose, Tim Duncan, Steph Curry, Nicolas Batum, Gilbert Arenas, Paul George, and Greg Monroe struggled somewhat in summer league. I remember D Rose struggled badly his first two games in summer league before he got hurt and didn't play again. LeBron James went 2 for 14 with only 9 points in a summer league game. If his team mates could make shots, Rivers may of had double digit assists in both games. You can't put any stock in summer league games!!!!

kfte
kfte

Excellent article. I think the majority of the bloggers have a feel for what Dell is trying to do. True Hoops needs to be commented for such great insight into the NBA and all of its teams. What fans need to realize is the Hornets are not trying to make the playoff this up coming season. The reason why they are not trying to make the playoff this season is; you can BUILD A PLAYOFF TEAM IN ONE YEAR. We started out this past season with NO SOLID PIECES. After EG got hurt we didn't have one go to player on the whole roster.WE ARE STARTING OVER AND WE ARE STARTING OVER WILL ALL YOUNG PLAYERS. Stern knew that this was going to be a new organization that why he negated the Laker trade.The Hornets are just like an expansion team and know one in their right mind should look for them to be a playoff team. Matter of fact if we were a 7th or 8th seed that would hurt our draft position next year. this team does not have enough talent to not want to be a lottery team next yr. Dell take your time continue to follow the blueprint of the Thunder. Keep building the blocks for this organization.

Steve
Steve

I love Demps as our GM and I like the moves he's making but I think something derailed his plans this off season. After we ate Brad Miller's contract and we knew we were going to be waiting to sign Gordon we made no moves and lost out to the Mavs with Brand. Still more time went by before we put pen to paper matching PHX. If we're still in semi-tank mode so that we have some good cap room and possibly decent picks to work with I'm ok with that but it sure seemed like there was another move that was going to help us out at the 5.

Josh
Josh

Hey, what happened to the "Welcome to the future" at the top of the page?

John in MO
John in MO

I'm sure Dell's plan will be impressive. This team has some great pieces now. I am also very impressed with GV and Smitty for being at summer league with Monty & sitting with him during the games. This shows a high level of commitment to the team. As a fan, that means a lot. Dell is there as well, of course. I'm sure he is carefully weighing his options. He does not use our assets frivolously.

maximumballer
maximumballer

Dell is doing a good job. People have to remember that we are going through a youth movement. There will be growing pains but the pieces are in place. We do need a big but don't rush to just bring in any big. I would rather the team play without one first to learn different ways to score and defend. A team that can adjust will be the one that wins it all.?

Chuck
Chuck

Some great points. Quesiton, is Brad Miller currently taking up $5 mil (or whatever his full, non-guaranteed salary is) of our cap space? Or did we just need that amount to trade for him, and now that he's here he's just taking up $850K or whatever.

LaNative
LaNative

In the short time Demps has been in NOLA, he's proven to be so much better than Bower. We needed to get that Bower out and eventually we did. Demps deserves credit for trading away some horrible contracts and players on the decline and replacing them with cheaper and more talented personnel. Not only that but he and Monty are changing the culture and perception of the Hornets throughout the league (which is going to take time). Today's players want it all - the money, the big market and the glamour of storied franchises. But you don't hear it overwhelmingly but positive things are beginning to be said about the franchise. The Hornets really have a lot of positives right now and Demps just happens to be one of them.

Josh
Josh

Thanks for the article. I completely agree. I love everything that Dell does because he has proven to make good moves.

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

I'm still not sold on Demps, but I can't deny he's done a solid job of putting together role players on this team. However what matters most is how the core of Gordon/Anderson/Davis/Rivers pans out.

Eric
Eric

Fly by night is my favorite RUSH song!!!!!

DrHamburg
DrHamburg

good article but I think you might have been giving Dell too much credit with the bayless jack deal. It was clear Demps thought Bayless would be a steal as a backup pg and running a long side CP3. That didn't work out. Then he flipped Bayless to toronto mostly for Jarrett Jack. He wanted Jack because he thought he could be a better backup, some minutes next to CP3 but most importantly, supposably Jack and CP3 were best friends for life. The move was a clear attempt to make CP3 happy. He made great moves after that with Jack, but I think it would be a shame to forget the main reason the Hornets got Jack

Metcher Flackel
Metcher Flackel

I just hope a certain sports reporter for WDSU reads this...

Kosher Cajun
Kosher Cajun

I've given a fair amount of thought to what Demps is doing this offseason, and why the roster still looks so thin. There might be a sign and trade in the works this season. But seeing that this is a full fledged rebuilding year (half the team can't legally enter a bar), I think it more likely Demps is letting the market create less expensive and shorter contracts. As we get deeper into free-agency the contract price and contract length goes down. The Hornets are not going to be playoff contenders and there is no free agent I can identify that is a long term solution. Therefore, it makes sense that Demps may be looking to fill the roster with cheap, one-year contracts - which will free up cap space next summer.

Zach
Zach

hey everybody, im not a hornets fan, just a truehoop reader poking around during the doldrums of the sports year im surprised there's hornets fans that are questioing demps at this point i love the moves hes made, and theyre still flexible going forward, the future looks bright with him and monty running things good affordable young pieces, if gordon can get back in the fold smoothly and dstay healthy (big IF at this point, but i love his game), they'll be in amazing shape just 1 year from blowing it up

lsutigers33
lsutigers33

All i know is that we still can use a few more players. Summer league doesn't look too good.

mako
mako

Thank you for the article! And the video ;) RUSH! RUSH! RUSH!

Jordy
Jordy

Thank you for this post. I'm tired of hearing some Hornets fans complain the we're not doing enough in free agency this offseason. The truth is Dell has a plan. He doesn't need to make a ton of moves (like Phoenix) to make our team better, he just needs to make the right ones.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Demps the Chessmaster. As Jake Madison noted last week, it always seems as if one move from Demps is setting up his next one. Almost everyone saw the […]

  2. […] I’ve hit you with enough on this trade over the past 48 hours, so I’ll leave it at this for now. Everyone can take comfort in knowing the deal is done, and the Hornets finally have a legitimate center on a pretty good contract despite giving up next to nothing for him! Great work once again by Dell Demps the Chessmaster. […]

  3. […] despite the previously mentioned challenges he’s faced, Demps has fully remade the roster. As I pointed out last week, Demps has mainly done this from one trade to the next. While you may disagree with some of the […]

  4. […] finding ways to improve the roster. Throughout his tenure, he has consistently shown the ability to think multiple steps ahead, a characteristic that many other league GMs fail to […]

  5. […] with the trades. Having multiple first round picks allows Dell Demps to have more trade options. As I’ve written about before, Demps is always thinking a move or two ahead.  Expect those picks to be packaged for another […]

  6. […] from me. It just doesn’t add up in my mind, and it is hard for me to shake the feeling that the Chessmaster is several moves ahead of us all. I guess we will know in less than 36 […]