Whose Jobs Are in Jeopardy After 2014 NBA Draft?
The 2014 NBA draft featured one of the deepest classes in league history, which should have certain veterans and front-office executives sweating their job security.
Many teams with high lottery picks will have little patience for an acclimation period. They'll expect to trot out their high-profile rookies on day one, putting veterans who play the same position in a precarious situation when it comes to their long-term futures.
Furthermore, the draft-day decisions of certain teams could have a major impact on the upcoming free-agency period. A number of squads throughout the first round appeared to hedge their bets on draft night, potentially signaling their lack of interest in bringing back their higher-paid veterans this July.
As Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal noted, a great majority of the league's general managers exceeded expectations on draft night, making savvy, justifiable picks in most cases. One GM, however, stands out like a sore thumb in terms of gambling his future on a few questionable decisions.
Let's take a look at five players and one general manager who should leave draft night feeling less secure than ever about their immediate futures.
Dell Demps, New Orleans Pelicans GM
The night before the 2014 draft, New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps put his job on the line.
According to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, the Pelicans traded their 2015 first-round pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for center Omer Asik, who is entering the final year of his three-year, $25.1 million contract. The pick will go to Houston next year if it falls between 4-19, according to Windhorst. Otherwise, the future protections have yet to be disclosed.
While it's difficult not to admire the fit of Asik next to budding superstar Anthony Davis, the all-in push by the Pelicans is tough to justify. At best, what's their ceiling? The fifth or sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs?
Bleacher Report's Ethan Norof tweeted that it was "short-sighted [of New Orleans] to give up another asset." Sports On Earth's Sean Highkin couldn't fathom why the Pelicans would "give up a first-rounder for a one-year Asik rental." Upside & Motor's Sam Vecenie lumped this deal in with last year's Jrue Holiday trade, saying New Orleans' recent moves don't "exactly strike me as 'good asset management.'"
With the Pelicans already capped out for the next two seasons, the Asik move reeks of a short-term, "win-now" philosophy taking precedence over a long-term plan to build a legitimate championship contender. If New Orleans doesn't make the 2015 playoffs, Demps' head will almost assuredly roll next summer.
Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks PF
The Milwaukee Bucks were thrilled when the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Andrew Wiggins first overall, as it allowed them to scoop up Duke forward Jabari Parker with the No. 2 pick.
One player who likely isn't so thrilled about the Bucks' enthusiasm for Parker? Their incumbent starting 4, Ersan Ilyasova.
Ilyasova missed a career-high 27 games this past season battling through a litany of injuries, mostly to his right ankle. And he didn't exactly light the world on fire when healthy, averaging only 11.2 points and 6.2 rebounds in 26.9 minutes, good for a player efficiency rating of 13.8, per Basketball-Reference.com.
With the highly touted Parker coming aboard, the Bucks have a real incentive to clear up their logjam at the forward position. Since John Henson can play either frontcourt position and is locked up on a rookie contract for the next two seasons, Ilyasova appears to be the odd man out.
The Bucks could try slotting either Ilyasova or Parker in at the 3, but that experiment appears destined for failure. And with Milwaukee making such a major investment in Parker as its future franchise cornerstone, the man known as Turkish Thunder could soon be on his way out of Brew City.
Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic PF
The Orlando Magic pulled off the first major surprise of the 2014 draft when they bypassed Australian point guard Dante Exum in favor of Arizona forward Aaron Gordon.
Fourth-year forward Tobias Harris can't be thrilled about the Magic's addition of Gordon, though. Even before Gordon joined the squad, Harris had a seemingly tenuous hold on Orlando's starting 4 job.
The Magic acquired Harris from the Milwaukee Bucks at the 2013 trade deadline and reaped immediate benefits, as he averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds over Orlando's final 28 games. He seemingly fell out of favor toward the end of this past year, however, moving to a bench role for the final 19 games of the season.
Magic general manager Rob Hennigan told Fox Sports Florida's Ken Hornack that Harris needs to make major strides defensively over the offseason. "My expectation, our expectation, will be he'll focus on the defensive end of the floor," Hennigan said.
Unfortunately for Harris, Gordon just so happens to excel defensively. While his offense will require a few years to catch up, the Magic likely didn't burn a top-five pick to keep him on the bench playing spot minutes, which spells bad news for the former Bucks forward.
Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics PG/SG
The Boston Celtics likely sealed Avery Bradley's fate on draft night.
Bradley, a restricted free agent this summer, suddenly appears to have no place in the Celtics' long-term future. That's because Boston drafted Oklahoma State combo guard Marcus Smart, who represents a major upgrade over Bradley, with the sixth overall pick.
During four years in Boston, Bradley has yet to record an above-average PER, with the highest, 12.7, coming this past season, per Basketball-Reference. The C's tried slotting him in as their starting point guard at the beginning of the year with Rajon Rondo on the mend from ACL surgery, but that experiment crashed and burned rather quickly.
Though Bradley is a defensive bulldog, Smart's talents on that end of the court shouldn't be taken lightly. He averaged 2.9 steals per game during his two seasons with the Cowboys, leading the Big 12 both years.
With per-game averages of 18.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists this past year, Smart could even become the Celtics' heir apparent to Rajon Rondo, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2014-15 season. Unless Bradley is willing to give Boston a significant hometown discount this summer, Smart's presence should prevent the Celtics from overpaying their incumbent combo guard.
Mike Dunleavy Jr., Chicago Bulls SF
If the Chicago Bulls are serious about their pursuit for Carmelo Anthony, Mike Dunleavy Jr. is one of the most logical candidates on the chopping block.
In trading for Creighton sniper Doug McDermott, Chicago just landed a younger, cheaper, better version of Dunleavy.
McBuckets finished his four-year college career as the fifth-best scorer in NCAA history. He averaged 26.7 points per game on 52.6 percent shooting this past season en route to every major National Player of the Year award. Better yet, he shot above 40 percent from three-point range in all four of his seasons at Creighton.
During the opening round of the 2014 playoffs, the Washington Wizards exposed Chicago's desperate need for reliable, knockdown shooters. The Bulls finished the year ranked 24th in three-point field-goal percentage, 28th in three-pointers attempted and 26th in long-range shots converted.
Thus, McDermott and Chicago were simply too logical a pairing to pass up. And with the Bulls only owing him $1.8 million (assuming they stick to the rookie salary scale), he'll come at barely half the cost of Dunleavy in 2014-15.
Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat PG
Could the Miami Heat be preparing for a world in which they don't have Mario Chalmers around to bully all the time?
Miami moved up on draft night, sending the Nos. 26 and 55 picks (along with a future second-rounder) to take UConn point guard Shabazz Napier at 24. LeBron James, who just opted out of his contract on Tuesday, hasn't been shy about expressing his opinion on the diminutive point guard, having tweeted in April, "No way u take another PG in the lottery before Napier."
With Chalmers set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1—and coming off a complete no-show against the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals—the Heat just drafted a potential heir apparent. There's no reason to overpay Chalmers with Norris Cole and now Napier waiting in the wings.
The Heat need to preserve as much cap space as humanly possible this summer, provided that all three of their Big Three decide to opt out and become unrestricted free agents. Having Chalmers potentially looming over the proceedings and gumming up the works would run antithetical to Pat Riley's typical modus operandi.
If Chalmers will take a severe discount to return to South Beach and continue competing for championships, the Heat may still welcome him back. But the drafting of Napier was Riley's way of passing a message to the former Kansas floor general: Life will go on in Miami even if Chalmers leaves this summer.
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