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

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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.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

I agree with you, but to me this has more to do with Stern than Demps. If Demps had his way, we would be looking at a team with Kevin Martin and Luis Scola taking up most of the cap space, and would have had picks in the late lotto, early teens this year- not Anthony Davis. Things turned out great because Stern told Demps to go back and look for young assets. Demps has done great with the little moves, but if Stern doesn't get involved in that one move, Demps's resume has a huge black mark on it. That said, I love Demps and Monty and while everybody is focusing on who the Hornets will get to fill out their bench, my number 1 priority would be signing both of those men to extensions.

mojart
mojart

thank you Sir David Stern....^^,

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.

mateor
mateor

I am pretty happy with Dell, way better than the former regime. But it isn't like George Shinn gave Bower much to work with at the end. But my reaction to this article was similar to hewhorocks. This didn't seem like the usual stuff I see on this site- more like fanfic message board stuff. I can't get too worked up over selling the second rounder in '11; most second-rounders never see the floor, and many never even wear the jersey. But to characterize it as some long-form NBA wizardry is too easy. Getting rid of Peja (there were Hornet's fans that valued him?) was a necessity, an absolute inevitablity from the second we extended him an offer that was at least 10 million over market value. But that in no way makes sending out a first-rounder for Jerryd Bayless a smart move. If you want to stock up on recent first rounders that other teams have given up on, fine. I know Houston does it all the time. But it has to be seen as a long shot gamble, hoping a change of scenary is all that is needed to coax the talent off of a cast-off. This strategy rarely does the teams much good (none of those players Houston collected did anything for them) and should at the MINIMUM not cost the team actual assets. I liked how the Hornets got Xavier Henry. That seemed like a sharp move. And I like how the last two second rounders were aquired. We've seen the Hornets make some of these smart transactions the last couple years, I think Dell has a great base right now. But I do think the fluff job here is highly speculative, and serves to cost you credibilty in the long run. I just don't see any evidence of planned causality in the examples you listed. I believe we have one of the sharper GMs working right now- I just don't think your evidence supports that.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

Well look what we found?!?! How's it going? Hope all is well with hewhopebbles.

hewhorocks
hewhorocks

Yeah the new addition to the family has kept me on the down low for a while. We didnt have the funds or really time to keep up on my season tickets but the games I went to were (mostly) disappointing. That and the officiating during the playoffs made me feel somewhat like I did when I was 7 and figured out that a "pile-driver" on a cement floor would likely do more to a wrestler than daze him just long enough to be pinned. Summer league has been entertaining though, and I expect we'll do our best to make at least 10 games this year. Now if I could just watch the Hornets on Direct TV without paying for the NBA package geeze i live 5 min from the arena... Grumble grumble.

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.

marky mark
marky mark

from what i've seen in the two summer league games, he doesn't have the strength to play with these players vying for a roster spot. if this continues on to training camp and in the preseason why not send him to the d-league? you said it yourself he's 19 and will only get stronger. let him have early success before his confidence and swagger breaks.

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!!!!

mojart
mojart

now that's wat i want to see......bcoz lillard have 25 pts he is quickly better than rivers...nah....i believe in rivers....dat guy can ball

Kimbro Slice
Kimbro Slice

Thank you people are putting wayyy to much stock in the 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.

Jeff the Barbarian
Jeff the Barbarian

You know, intermittently YELLING IN CAPS in your post is giving away your TRUE identity, REGIS!

Banloo
Banloo

Really? If Dell sees a deal that would improve the team he shouldn't take it because he wants to make sure we are a lottery team.

StefanC
StefanC

If the move will improve us long-term, Dell will make it. If a move only improves us for the upcoming season, he won't.

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?

Jeff the Barbarian
Jeff the Barbarian

Is this a message from the past asking about the future?? Dude, you just blew my mind.

StefanC
StefanC

A welcome can only last for so long.

Josh
Josh

http://www.nba.com/hornets/video/2012/07/17/071612SmithMP4-2158718 This video just makes me love Greivis even more, even though he's already my favorite player.

Ron
Ron

Not to be cynical, but the other reason that JSmith and GV are smart enough to realize that the team has traded/drafted for better players at their positions and so now these two are out there with their actions reminding the coaches that they are team players who have bought into The Monty Way. IOW, they're networking with their bosses.

StefanC
StefanC

In response to your comment about Dell signing Gordon to a max contract, Dell had to do it. Gordon is an asset, and you can't let him go for nothing. Whether Dell really thinks Gordon is a part of the future or not does not matter right now. Either way, he had to keep Gordon as an asset.

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.

Steve
Steve

Benson: "Hey Monty, Dell, I need y'all to out to Vegas for about a month...you know for the team and all." Monty and Dell: "Aw man...I hate fun!"

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.

toledotorpedo
toledotorpedo

Miller will not play, we paid his 800k. That is all.

mazonmafia
mazonmafia

We only paid part of the $850K. Minny paid part as well.

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.

Jeff the Barbarian
Jeff the Barbarian

I am definitely intrigued by the moves Dell has made and will be beyond thrilled if they pan out. But I would't go so far as to say that "he has proven to make good moves." The proof's in the pudding. In a few years when this team is competing for a championship I will say that Dell has proven himself. Not before.

Josh
Josh

He has Provence to make good moves, though. We got Jason Smith, Marco Belinelli, and Greivis Vasquez for scrubs (Pondexter, not as much but Vasquez is the better player).

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.

Kimbro Slice
Kimbro Slice

@da ThRONe All in all it is merely a matter of opinion and like you said we won't know for sure until we actually see people play together for a few seasons. Then I think we can make an accurate assessment of Demps ability to be a General Manager.

Kimbro Slice
Kimbro Slice

Haha ok good thats what I was hoping you were saying

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

No I'm saying the Lakers/Rockets trade was obviously awful.

StefanC
StefanC

Even if this core does not pan out, you still should not blame Dell. You need to asses his moves by what the other options were for him. What if Rivers doesn't end up being better than a back up? Do you blame Dell for not trading the 10th pick? I wouldn't. He's made the best moves available for this team. Now, it's up to the players and the coaching staff to move the team forward.

Kimbro Slice
Kimbro Slice

@da ThRONe Correct me if I read this wrong but are you saying that you would still prefer the Rockets trade over the Clippers trade? Even at this point in time? Demps is a huge improvement over the mess that Jeff Bower created. He got us a huge haul off of Chris Paul who didn't want to be here. He pulled in Ryan Anderson for pretty much nothing. I think that he has done a great job considering the pieces that the Hornets have had.

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

@Kimbro Slice You can't argue with someone for being critical of Demps saying "because we have seen neither of them play in an actual game yet" than use a line like "Demps gets paid to do this" to show support. Every GM is paid well to do their jobs and not many are great at it. Whether Demps is really good at his job remains to be seen. Just because he hasn't made any obviously awful decision(if I'm going to excuse the Laker/Rocket trade), doesn't make him a genius either.

mazonmafia
mazonmafia

I think Dell has done a great job. I cant complain....that is until he picked rivers. I don't like the rivers pick for four reasons: 1. Dell picked a unproven shooting guard to play point guard. If he was unefficient at his original position, why would he become efficient while learning a new position? 2. He now has a team of 19 to 23 yr olds trying to learn to play basketball w/ problem #1 as the point guard. 3. I thought there was better talent available at both the guard and center position. The verdict is still out on this of course and we won't be able to come to a conclusion until we have our first championship (2015?) 4. The point guard FA class for next year is GREAT! But if rivers is the PG of the future then the FA class is wasted. If I were Dell I would love my job and I would also prefer rivers be converted to our 6th man and we chase one of the young talents such as Holliday, Lawson, et cetera.

Kimbro Slice
Kimbro Slice

@Hornetsfan You can't exactly argue that drafting Rivers over Leonard was a bad move because we have seen neither of them play in an actual game yet. Sure Leonard showed some flashes of being good but he also let Bowles push him around and bully him. He had 7 fouls in a game, three away from fouling out. Rivers has also showed flashes of being good. His vision has improved from the first summer league game and he is getting to the rim with consistency he just isn't getting the calls that the pros do. Jack was 28 years old and was most likely not going to be on the roster next season if we hadn't drafted Rivers. And everyone always says that Vazquez isn't much more than a back up in the NBA so. In the long term we needed a pg as much as we needed a center. Demps and Monty both thought that Rivers could be the point guard of the future, and obviously weren't to high on Myers L. otherwise he would be a hornet, and people would probably be arguing that we should have gotten a PG in the draft instead of C. Demps gets paid to do this.

Hornetsfan
Hornetsfan

You do blame Demps if this doesn't pan out. He left Meyers Leonard on the board to take Rivers who looked a hell of a lot better than Rivers and he fits the teams need at center for long term. All you did was ruffle Eric gordons feathers with drafting him and now to fix it were trying to jam a shooting guard into a point guard position. Why couldn't we draft a natural pass first pg if thats what we truly needed kendall marshall would have been a great pick as well. Demps and Monty picked Rivers purely on the fact that they've known him since he was a child. Rivers likes to take games over not be a court passing general and that just isn't what new orleans needs, sorry the pick made no sense.

Ron
Ron

The only move that I really blame Dell for is signing to a max contract an injury prone diva who doesn't -- to steal an old Jim Finks term -- have enough skins on the wall to justify such a contract.

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

Well considering Dell's in charge of the coaching staff if they fail it's still on him.

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 […]