Patience needed as David Griffin’s plan to build Pelicans plays out
In the very Catholic city of New Orleans, there is actually a canonization of a live person happening.
At the moment, Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin is somewhere between genius and basketball soothsayer on the road to hoops sainthood.
Is Griffin off to a terrific start? The answer, of course, is yes. He appears to have made a winning move by convincing Trajan Langdon to leave the Nets and join New Orleans as the Pelicans new general manager.
Hiring Swin Cash as part of the basketball development ‘krewe’ appears to be a winner.
Having control of future Lakers’ draft picks appears to be a winner.
Unloading the bloated contract of veteran Solomon Hill in a draft day trade was a good move, too.
However, Griffin has also been the beneficiary of some incredible hoops good fortune. With a six percent chance of landing the first pick, the Pelicans got it and Zion Williamson.
On lottery night, Griffin hit the NBA’s version of the daily double. The Lakers climbed to the fourth pick in the draft, paving the way for the trade of Anthony Davis to the Lakers.
We need to keep things in perspective here. For Griffin and the Pelicans, there’s a significant journey left to reach the NBA’s upper echelon.
Do two trade pieces, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, become young players who fulfill their potential?
Do the two picks acquired in the trade with Atlanta, center Jaxson Hayes and shooting Nickiell Alexander-Walker, turn into pretty good or outstanding players? If they don’t, the Pelicans passing on Virginia forward D’Andre Hunter in the fourth slot could be a big mistake.
The answer to all of that lies a few years out.
One thing Griffin desires is a chance to build around a young core. Sometimes that method takes, well, the patience of a Saint.
Five years ago, the Pelicans with a rare first round pick during the Dell Demps era drafted Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield, who was sent to the Sacramento Kings in the Demarcus Cousins trade.
On the night word broke about the trade, the same night as the All-Star game in New Orleans, the national media was fawning over Cousins.
Some in press were intimating that the Golden State Warriors had a new challenger in the West. I had to giggle. But we never knew how things could have worked out because Cousins suffered the extreme misfortune of a torn Achilles tendon.
Without Boogie, Pelicans general manager Dell Demps traded for Nikola Mirotic. Off went New Orleans to the playoffs and a first round sweep over Portland.
This past season, Hield blossomed in Sacramento, scoring more than 20 a game while shooting 43 percent from three point land and 89 percent from the free throw line. Cousins played for the the Golden State Warriors while looking to chase a ring with a proven winner.
Some players are on a different clock. When it comes to young players, the great basketball executives have a roundball instinct to either stick with that player or cut bait.
We will see in the next few years how patient David Griffin truly is. Some of his young talent will be outstanding, some good, others sub-par.
Player defveloment takes time, and it will surely take time to see how this exciting, young Pelicans puzzle fits together.
So, in the meantime, I will pass on granting Griffin hoops Sainthood. He is off to a terrific start with the help of some magnificent good fortune.
I will leave the role of deifying David Griffin to someone else. He may turn out to exactly what the Pelicans needed but we don’t know that yet.
Anyone who says he or she knows already must have quite a crystal ball.
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WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM
Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…