WESTWEGO - New Orleans Hornets General Manager Dell Demps noticed the large crowd of reporters assembled for his predraft interview Wednesday morning and quipped, “There’s a lot of people here for the 45th pick.”
The Hornets don’t figure to make banner headlines with just that pick going into the draft Thursday night, but with less than half of the roster under contract for next season, New Orleans hopes to select a contributor in the waning moments of the two-round draft (6:30 p.m., ESPN).
Demps said the Hornets are looking for someone who “can defend and can complement our core.”
That core consists of guard Chris Paul, forwards David West, Trevor Ariza, and Carl Landry and center Emeka Okafor, though Landry will be an unrestricted free agent and West can choose to become one by June 30.
“The car is going to have a couple of dents in it at that pick,” Demps said, “but you still look to see if that guy can fit in. We’re optimistic. We’ve got a list of guys now. We’ve been watching film and we watched the guys throughout the year. Hopefully we can find somebody that can help us next year. But at 45, it’s a risk. The majority of guys don’t have impact on the NBA at that point.”
Demps said he’ll consider all options, but the cost of trading into the first round likely will be too prohibitive. Trying to move into the early part of the second round can be tricky as well.
“Those guys are just outside the first round,” Demps said, “so the price for those contracts a lot of times are higher because you have more flexibility with the contract. Moving to 30, 37, 38 is hard.”
Another option could be to select a European player and let them continue to develop overseas for a season or two before bringing them to the NBA. New Orleans has beefed up its European scouting the past few years.
“We’ve got a couple of (European) guys on our board,” Demps said. “The only problem with that sometimes is their contracts, then they have the buyouts, then sometimes it gets a little complicated when they can come. Sometimes you say to yourself, do you want it now? Do you want to wait three or four years? Do you want to stash somebody?”
Demps said he and coach Monty Williams have targeted a handful of promising players they think could be available when their turn comes.
“We hope that they’re there,” Demps said. “If they’re not there, we’ll have a list. There’s a possibility of trading the pick. There’s a possibility of selling the pick. There’s a possibility of moving up. You never know who is going to fall or who is going to be there at 45. A lot of it will be last-minute decisions but we’ll be prepared.”
The Hornets don’t have a first-round pick because they traded theirs, which would have been No. 19 overall, to Portland for guard Jerryd Bayless a week before last season started. A month later they shipped Bayless to Toronto in a deal that brought Jarrett Jack, who backed up Paul and memorably made a jumper that clinched New Orleans’ Game 4 victory against the Lakers and tied their playoff series at two games apiece before Los Angeles won the next two games.
“Every time I look back on the highlights and Jarrett hits the game-winner in the playoff game, I think it was a good move for us,” Demps said. “I really felt good about it. I think Jarrett Jack would have impacted us more than a (19th) pick in this year’s draft. We feel really good about that.”