Dell Demps, Sam Hinkie, and the Meaning of NBA Genius


Dell Demps just managed to do completely by accidental bumbling what Sam Hinkie did by deliberate, willful arrogance, and in the Process managed to prove once and for all that the gods have one heck of a sense of humor.

After all, what difference is it truly between New Orleans being a garbage fire for years under an incompetent GM, lucking into a couple of top draft picks, and rebuilding the franchise into a contender under a smarter GM, and Philadelphia being a garbage fire for years under an incompetent GM, whiffing on a bunch of draft picks and getting good ones purely by the law of averages, and finally rebuilding into a contender under a smarter GM?

Besides the part where New Orleans was at least trying to win basketball games and even made the second round of the playoffs once to keep fans from deserting in droves, I mean. Let’s at least give Dell Demps that much credit. Unlike Sam Hinkie, who was a charlatan and a thief of the organization’s money in terms of his ill-gotten salary, at least Demps made an honest effort—he was just the Ralph Wiggum of the league is all.

My point here is that on NBA draft day, we’re going to watch some temporarily-bad franchises get good draft picks, turn them into solid pieces or trade them for existing solid pieces on other teams looking to rebuild, and come back stronger than ever in a year or two.

We’re going to watch some already-good franchises play with house money, rolling the dice on late first-rounders that could turn into Pascal Siakam or Rudy Gobert, and continue to rebuild their teams on the fly mainly through savvy trades and free agency.

And we’re going to watch the teams in Mediocrity Hell swing for the fences, as likely to end up with Sergey Karasev (19th in 2013) or Justin Patton (16th, 2017) as they are to end up with Kawhi Leonard (15th, 2011) or Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th, 2013.)

And on the flip side, we’re going to watch complete disaster movie franchises somehow manage to whiff on what looks like a can’t-miss prospect (the Grizzlies picked second in 2009 and drafted Hasheem Thabeet, and they’re drafting second in 2019 as well hoping to avoid screwing up that badly again, and the Knicks, no matter who they draft, are still the Knicks.)

Sam Hinkie called his incompetence “the Process” and asked us all to trust it even as, as I just pointed out, the only reason he ended up with any success at all was the simple even-a-chimp-could-do-this logic that if you get enough high draft picks, eventually you’re going to be like those chimps at infinite typewriters turning out Hamlet—Hamlet in this case being Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and let’s face it, Simmons isn’t exactly a Hall of Famer in the making either.

The Sixers inflicted the likes of Markelle Fultz, Nerlens Noel, and Jahlil Okafor on their fans as well—all of whom are on other teams and none of whom came close to their potential due either to injury or just plain being trash players at the pro level.

Come to think of it, Philly also picked Evan Turner second overall in 2010.

But bringing this back round to New Orleans, Dell Demps, by dint of presiding over a franchise that had Anthony Davis (and, for a year, DeMarcus Cousins) and couldn’t win squat, just pulled a Hinkie, landing New Orleans the first pick and, thanks to Rob Pelinka being the inheritor of the proud Billy King/Ernie Grunfeld tradition in the NBA of having complete idiots in front offices, the fourth pick plus a bunch of guys who probably just suck but at least they’re on rookie deals so it won’t cost anything to trade them for future considerations or just let them walk as restricted free agents.

Zion is, by all accounts, possibly the next LeBron James. Whoever goes fourth, whoever that player might be, will probably be an All-Star just because this seems like the kind of draft that promises to go four stars deep—or, if any of the rumors involving the Pellies trading the fourth pick for an established star are true, they’ll get their All-Star that way.

Which brings this whole thing full circle. A complete idiot of a GM mismanaged a franchise for so long that by a stroke of luck, their incompetence got rewarded with a golden ticket for a brighter future under better management.

That’s either a sign that Dell Demps was an accidental genius…or that Sam Hinkie is even dumber than anyone previously thought.

Trust the Process, New Orleans. Trust the Process.