Why the Pelicans Should Not Draft a Rookie

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Published: June 19, 2015

While the draft is always exciting, and it is fun to think about the potential that all the future rookies can bring to the Pelicans, Dell Demps should absolutely avoid trading into the first round to select one.

You’ve heard since Anthony Davis was drafted that the Pelicans have looked for ‘young veterans,’ and have gone about acquiring them through trading draft picks. That has been Demps’ plan. And now, as the team’s championship window really starts to open, the Pelicans steer away from that? I don’t think so.

Yes, the roster has holes to fill, but like Tony Stark in Age of Ultron, this is the path Demps started the team down, and we’re going to start seeing if it was the correct. A rookie isn’t going to impact the team right away. Demps has repeatedly said that most rookies take three seasons to start impacting their team’s record. Davis was different, they expected him to contribute after one year, and that is why the front office decided to trade picks for players: the Pelicans’ window opened much earlier than expected.

A rookie like Sam Dekker, Stanley Johnson, D’Angelo Russell, can absolutely make an impact further down the line, but the Pelicans need someone to make an impact this season. Otherwise they risk wasting years of Anthony Davis in his prime. And, as McNamara pointed out, Davis isn’t likely to sign his contract extension right away. He wants to see what moves the team makes first. LeBron James wanted the Miami Heat to draft Shabazz Napier. Their front office acquired him in a draft day trade and then watched James bolt for Cleveland. I don’t think Davis cares much about someone’s potential.

While Demps is not on the hot seat he is the guy making the decision, and if the Pelicans don’t start making waves in the playoffs it could cost him his job. Trading away assets such as Ryan Anderson, future first round picks, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon’s expiring contract (not as big of an asset as it once was) and Tyreke Evans for a rookie is going to limit his flexibility at the trade deadline. It hurts the team twice: bring in a player who isn’t helping now and hurt the ability to improve the roster later on.

But I want you to notice that I haven’t said the Pelicans should not trade into the draft itself. I have no problem with that.

As long as the Pelicans trade the pick for an established NBA player.

A team may not be interesting in one of the Pelicans’ players, but if they moved one, or a combination, for a first round draft pick in next week’s draft? That easily could be more appealing than taking on the salary of, say, Anderson. By trading a draft pick to another team the Pelicans are providing cap relief, a potential roster spot, and a host of other benefits that trading a player does not provide.

Players like Goran Dragic, Arron Afflalo, Isaiah Thomas, Jeff Green, Timofey Mozgov and plenty of others have, in a simplified sense, been traded for first round picks. Those are players who can help the Pelicans this coming season.

No one associated with the Pelicans want to say they are in a Win Now mode, but if next season doesn’t result in some playoff victories it will feel like a huge disappointment. A rookie isn’t going to help in that regard. Dell Demps should save his assets for the trade deadline, see how this team looks under new coach Alvin Gentry, and then tweak the roster some if need be.

At the start of Age of Ultron’s third act Tony Stark seemingly repeats the same mistake he makes in the beginning. Only this time it works and he creates the Vision, and without the android the Avengers don’t win in the end.

Demps has done a good job of using the draft to acquire quality, established NBA players. There is no reason to deviate from that plan now.

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