When the New Orleans Hornets lucked into the No. 1 pick in this summer's NBA draft, they encountered a dream scenario. Not only had they acquired the right to draft a potential franchise player in Anthony Davis, but within that potential acquisition, they also earned the right to work in a steady rebuilding framework.
Davis has the potential to carry the Hornets to incredible heights. In catching such an incredible talent, the Hornets now have the luxury of biding their time.
That doesn't mean Dell Demps won't do his damnedest to make this team playoff-worthy as soon as possible, but it does in part explain the liquidation of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, per a trade reported by Jonathan Givony of Draft Express:
NBA source tells me Emeka Okafor and Trevor Arizona have been traded to the Washington Wizards for Rashard Lewis and the #46 pick— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 20, 2012
The Washington Wizards provide a rather coincidental counterpoint.
There are many different schools of thought, contexts and directives when it comes to putting together a winning team. Though New Orleans' telegraphed plan of constructing a roster around a player like Davis may be the most sturdy, it also requires exceptional circumstances and exceptional patience.
In many cases, general managers and owners don't have such a luxury; they have arena debts to pay off or penny-pinching superiors to answer to. Though a gradual build may make for a safer long-term investment in basketball terms, it also doesn't have a guaranteed payoff.
Even a team with all of the pieces in place—say, like a purely hypothetical Portland Trail Blazers squad, circa 2007-2010—can be destroyed by a few bad breaks. But keeping the powder dry does have its benefits, and the Hornets are set to explore them to the fullest extent.
What a difference (half of) a year makes.
Prior to the season, the Hornets were the team not good enough for Chris Paul. Just months later, they have an elite, franchise-changing prospect; an up-and-comiang (likely re-signed) guard; a smart, charismatic coach who did miraculous things for an extremely limited roster this past season; another decent pick in this summer's draft; and oodles of cap space going forward.
Rebuilds don't get much cleaner than that.