The New Orleans Pelicans’ offseason has focused on gradual steps of stability rather than splashy attention-grabbing moments.
The franchise kept nearly all of its roster intact and preached roster continuity over talent shake-up, expecting this team to grow together. The next piece of that building process could come in a layer below what’s seen on the court in the Smoothie King Center.
In a podcast taped with ESPN’s Amin Elhassan last week, General Manager Dell Demps said the Pelicans are looking to add an NBA Development League team to its portfolio in the future.
“We think that’s the next step for us,” Demps told Elhassan. “A couple of years ago, we did not do it because our players were so young and growing, so we figured we would just throw them into the fire. But that is the next step for us.
“We are looking at some options right now throughout the Gulf Coast and Gulf Shores area and state of Louisiana. We are looking into that. I can’t tell you it’s going to be next year or the following year, but we have some plans to add our own D-League team.”
On Tuesday, Demps clarified to The Advocate that nothing had been completed but that the team is curious about the possibilities a D-League affiliate.
The Pelicans are currently partnered with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, which is where former rookie point guard Russ Smith spent a significant portion of his time before being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in January. But New Orleans doesn’t operate the Mad Ants the way a handful of other NBA teams operate their own minor league franchises. The Pelicans have to share them with 12 other franchises.
Six franchises operate their own NBADL teams: the Oklahoma City Thunder (Tulsa 66ers), Golden State Warriors (Santa Cruz Warriors) Philadelphia 76ers (Delaware 87ers), Cleveland Cavaliers (Canton Charge), San Antonio Spurs (Austin Spurs) and Los Angeles Lakers (Los Angeles D-Fenders).
And more are on the way with the Toronto Raptors starting Raptors 905 in a Toronto suburb this year, and the Charlotte Hornets unveiling an NBADL franchise of its own next summer.
Demps has a history with the D-League. As the Spurs’ director of pro player personnel from 2005 through 2010, he also served as the general manager of the Austin Toros, leading a once-mediocre franchise to three consecutive playoff appearances.
Now, the Pelicans may be the next franchise to benefit from a developmental unit operated on its own.
“There are a number of benefits a D-League team can provide the Pelicans including player and staff development,” Demps told The Advocate. “We are in the process of determining the best D-League option for the Pelicans.”
The Pelicans flashed an ability to put together a competitive developmental team this month, when its summer league squad reached the Las Vegas semifinals and finished 5-1.
Demps estimated there were five players on the Pelicans’ summer squad who could reach NBA rosters. Considering New Orleans didn’t enter the tournament with a single first-round pick and ended up with two players on the all-league squads (Seth Curry first, Larry Drew II second), Demps said he was pleased.
“The guys have been impressive,” Demps told Elhassan. “(Director of basketball operation) Shane Kupperman and (director of player personnel) David Booth put the team together. Seth (Curry) has played well, and I think Larry Drew has played well also. Khem Birch too. We had a number of guys step up, and we are looking at all of them.”
There has been no movement on restricted free agent Norris Cole. The reserve point guard technically has until Oct. 1 to sign the Pelicans’ $3 million qualifying offer or an offer sheet with a different NBA franchise, but that deadline can be shortened or extended by the Pelicans. … New Orleans announced a season-ticket package for $200 for tickets located in the upper bowl baseline, known as “Balcony Extra Value.”