Pelicans keeping draft options open
A year ago at this time, the franchise formerly known as the New Orleans Hornets had a pretty good handle on the NBA Draft with the first and 10th picks. They knew exactly where they were going with the top choice and had a pretty good idea who would be there nine selections later.
New Orleans, of course, took Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers in 2012 to jumpstart the post-Chris Paul rebuilding process.
The job is far from done. Thursday night the freshly-christened New Orleans Pelicans are back in the lottery with the sixth pick, but where general manager Dell Demps goes is anyone’s guess.
Well, he wants us to guess. Demps, speaking to reporters Tuesday from the team’s practice facility, wasn’t about to get pinned down on the Pelicans’ strategy at No. 6.
“I don’t know if we get the greatest area of need in the draft,” he said. “A lot of it depends on who is available at that pick. For us, we want to get a player who will fit.
“In today’s game a lot of guys are interchangeable so I don’t know if we can just say we want this position or this guy, I think you want to get a piece that can fit in to your system and help you win basketball games.”
Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore visited the Pelicans on Sunday. Demps traveled to meet UNLV forward Anthony Bennett and Indiana guard Victor Oladipo. Point guards Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse) and Trey Burke (Michigan), and center Alex Len (Maryland) worked out for the team.
Demps and the Pelicans personnel staff are doing their homework, as much as you can these days. Following a trend that’s developed the last few years, potential lottery picks aren’t as inclined to do individual workouts for teams.
“We only had one workout, and the main reason we only had one workout is that it’s hard to get guys to come work out for you,” Demps said. “Guys that think they are top two or three picks don’t want to work out for a team with the sixth pick, and guys that are projected to be taken eighth through 12th don’t think you’re going to take them so they don’t want to waste their time.
“We were prepared for that, and this year we went in to the college and international seasons thinking, let’s prepare as though we won’t be able to get anyone to work out. Let’s make sure we do all our work, go see guys live, do our interviews and do our background and be prepared for the draft.”
There have been reports that the Pelicans have contacted Cleveland about the first pick. Demps would only say the franchise is looking at all options, whether it’s to trade up, down or acquire additional picks.
Demps’ goal with the Draft is to find a player that fits into the core of Davis, Rivers, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and Greivis Vasquez. Whether that player is ready to contribute right away or down the line, Demps isn’t sure which way the club will go.
“I do think this is a draft where you have a number of guys who are ready to help you right now and you have a number of guys who are going to help you along the line a couple of years from now,” he said. “That’s the big question: Are you going to get a guy that helps you right away or are a guy that takes a little longer?”
Thursday’s pick could alter New Orleans’ strategy going into free agency July 1. The Pelicans are comfortably under the salary cap for this summer and the foreseeable future. The key, Demps said, is finding the right players to surround Davis and the rest of the team’s developing talent.
“You want to make sure, with Anthony and the remainder of the core guys, that you put pieces around,” Damps said. “You try not to duplicate and you try to get players that can complement each other.”
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