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

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…