New Orleans’ Best and Worst Moves of the Last Decade


New Orleans’ last decade is quite polarizing. Three playoff appearances (2011, 2015 & 2018), two #1 selections and a name change all happened in the 2010s. New Orleans went through a lot of turmoil over the last ten years. However, there were bright spots through a rather dark time. Ranked below are New Orleans’ three best and worst moves made in the 2010s.

Note – Drafting Anthony Davis and Zion Williamson did not count as at the time they were obvious picks and selecting them is essentially cheating.

#3 Best – Team Rebrand

Following the Chris Paul trade, New Orleans needed to rejuvenate their beloved Hornets. Tom Benson’s April 2012 purchase for the Hornets signified the inevitable rebrand. The rebrand was designed to make New Orleans feel like a team rooted in Louisiana culture. As a result, Benson selected the name Pelicans after the Louisiana state bird, the Brown Pelican. The new name and color scheme brought forth a new age of basketball in New Orleans. Some parts of the rebrand need fine-tuning (ahem, King Cake Baby), but overall the change is quite successful so far.

#3 Worst – DeMarcus Cousins Trade

Hindsight is great. At the time of the trade, I would have said this was the greatest move New Orleans basketball has ever made. The Pelicans traded Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a 2017 first-round pick and a 2017 second-round pick for DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi. The trade was a no-brainer. Dell Demps was able to get a perennial all-star for two first-round picks. Three seasons on and the trade was extremely disappointing. DeMarcus played 65 games over two seasons. Although his averages were great (25.2/12.9/5.0), Cousins did not play a playoff minute for New Orleans. Following the 2017-18 season, Cousins turned down a contract extension and left to join the Golden State Warriors.


Conversely, Buddy Hield and the 2017 first-round pick (Zach Collins) have turned out to be very productive NBA players. Buddy Hield is one of the league’s best shooters and would have paired nicely around AD and Jrue Holiday in the seasons where Davis was with the Pelicans. The 10th pick could have easily been Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo or John Collins. All three players — as well as original selection Zach Collins — fit the player archetype Dell Demps was looking to pair with Davis and Holiday.

All in all, New Orleans traded Hield and the #10 pick in the 2017 draft for 65 games of DeMarcus Cousins. The failed trade was likely the final nail in the coffin for Anthony Davis, as he requested a trade the season after Cousins departed for Golden State.

#2 Best – Hiring David Griffin

Dell Demps’ tenure was awful. Many of his moves were ill-advised and set New Orleans back years in development and production. On the other hand, David Griffin’s lone season in charge of New Orleans is terrific to date. Griffin’s player signings and trades created a roster that made sense and utilized all of its players’ strengths. Administratively, Griffin hired Aaron Nelson, Trajan Langdon and Swin Cash, all highly-regarded basketball minds.

Griffin revitalized the fanbase and team in just a single season. Lottery luck aided Griffin, but he is yet to make a wrong move (his worst move was waiving Christian Wood). Griffin has placed the Pelicans in a place to be a dominant team in the years to come. The next three seasons will define his tenure more than anything, but for now, his hiring and the firing of Dell Demps is one of the best moves of the last decade.

#2 Worst – Signing Solomon Hill

Solomon Hill signed a jaw-dropping four-year/$48 million contract in the summer of 2016. The enormous cap spike seemingly made this contract look like a bargain. That was wrong. New Orleans envisioned Hill to be a 3-and-D wing, capable of being a small-ball power forward and a small forward. The versatility he was set to bring would help the Pelicans shift between big and small lineups. Hill’s first season was decent. Seven points per game, 34% from behind the arc and the second-best plus/minus on the team encouraged the fans that Hill could be the next Trevor Ariza.

A torn quad in August 2017 delayed Hill’s second season. The tear made Hill a shell of himself. He played 56 games over the next two seasons. He could barely hit the rim, let alone make a shot, and his defense slipped drastically. Gentry lost all faith in Hill, and New Orleans traded him to Atlanta in the past offseason.

Overall, New Orleans paid Hill $36 million for one productive season. The inability to move Hill’s contract hamstrung New Orleans as he became one of the league’s unmovable contracts.

#1 Best – Jrue Holiday Trade

Jrue Holiday has been a cornerstone for the Pelicans the last seven seasons. New Orleans traded Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round pick to the 76ers during the 2013 draft. Jrue was coming off an all-star season and looked like he was destined to be one of the best point guards for the next decade. Injuries and untimely family matters derailed the first four seasons as a Pelican. His last three seasons, however, have been nothing but great.

Jrue is undoubtedly a top-five defender in the league. Capable of defending multiple positions, Jrue’s size and anticipation make him a nightly nightmare. Additionally, his offense has reached new heights, becoming a 20-point scorer the last two seasons. Holiday regularly guards the team’s best player and burdens a significant offensive role.

At the time of the trade, it was a win for the Pelicans. Davis needed an elite point guard to complete a formidable offensive and defensive pick-and-roll combo. Fast forward to now, and the trade looks even better. New Orleans gave up Nerlens Noel and the tenth pick (Elfrid Payton). Both players have topped out at low-level starts or good backups. While Jrue has not earned an all-star appearance since his last season in Philadelphia, arguments can be made that the depth in the West, as opposed to the East, has prevented him from becoming an all-star the previous two years.

A hard-nosed player who has overcome injuries and trauma to be one of the best point guards in the league, Jrue Holiday epitomizes the Pelicans. It is without a doubt that this trade is the best move of the last decade.

#1 Worst – Omer Asik’s Contract Extension

Dell Demps executed many wrong moves in his tenure – none worse than the Omer Asik extension. At the time, everyone was shocked. The league was trending in a direction where plodding big man was being replaced by stretch bigs and undersized forwards to go ‘small’. From whatever angle you looked at it, a five-year extension for Asik was blasphemy.

Omer produced one productive season for New Orleans (2014-15), and it was before the extension. In the following three years, Asik played a total of 113 games before being dumped in Chicago, where he was later waived and has not played an NBA minute since.

The money wasted on Asik prevented the team from being in the market for any free agent, and as the contract went on, the harder it was to trade. Demps’ inability to understand the dynamics of the shifting status of the league led to this calamity, undeniably the worst move of the decade for the Pelicans and frankly, one of the worst extensions of the 21st century.

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About Vance Abreu

An Australian trying to make it big in Toronto, Canada. Weekly articles about the Pelicans journey to a NBA championship

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