Dell Demps looks forward to seeing young core gel
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
In back-to-back offseasons, New Orleans Pelicans GM Dell Demps has managed to acquire NBA veterans from other teams who possess a normally-unobtainable mix of talent, youth and experience. In 2012, Ryan Anderson somehow slipped through the cracks of restricted free agency, allowing an opportunistic Demps to add the then-24-year-old shooter and rebounder to the team’s foundation. This summer, Demps moved to secure a pair of 23-year-olds, All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and dynamic scorer Tyreke Evans – despite the fact many believed they were long-term fixtures in Philadelphia and Sacramento, respectively.
Combined with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, Anthony Davis, as well as 24-year-old shooting guard Eric Gordon, the Pelicans have accumulated one of the league’s most intriguing groups of young players. In August, ESPN.com ranked the Pelicans second among the league’s 30 teams in under-25 talent, behind only Western Conference power Oklahoma City.
When training camp begins Tuesday at the club’s brand-new practice facility, Demps is looking forward to watching the Pelicans’ revamped roster play together. It’s a process that will accelerate throughout the Pelicans’ upcoming two-a-day practices and eight preseason games.
“We’re really excited about the opportunities that have been presented in front of us,” Demps said Monday. “We’re just looking forward to having this group gel together. We think it will be a fun season. With our young core ready to grow, it will be important early for them to learn each other. I don’t think it will happen overnight. It’s going to take a little bit of time.”
The Pelicans’ unique roster composition includes several players who’ve earned individual recognition, but have never played for an NBA team this talented. Only four members of the current 16-man roster have ever reached the playoffs, a quartet that includes Anderson (20 games), Greg Stiemsma (19), Holiday (18) and Jason Smith (12). Smith, a member of the 2010-11 Hornets, is the only player who has reached the postseason with New Orleans.
“We have a group of guys that, most of them are under 27 or 28, but the core of them are 23 to 25 and all have four or five years of experience in the NBA,” Demps said. “We have young guys, but they are experienced. They’ve taken their bumps and bruises. Now a lot of them are trying to make their way and prove themselves in this league.”
The team’s infusion of talent has given many NBA analysts reason to predict that New Orleans (27-55 in 2012-13) will be among the league’s most improved teams, a group that also includes clubs such as Cleveland, Detroit and Portland. The key to the Pelicans’ season may be their ability to become cohesive as a unit.
“The faster we can expedite the process, the better,” Demps said. “I like the core. I like the personalities. Guys can do different things. We have some options. I’m really excited talking to Monty (Williams) about the groups we can put together (on the court). How do we get those guys to gel now? That’s going to be the important thing.”