NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The only definitive statement Dell Demps will offer about the New Orleans Pelicans' plans for Thursday night's NBA draft is that he intends to maintain a "poker face" in hopes of making it as hard as possible to predict his club's course of action.
That's an easier task this year than last, when the general manager sometimes chuckled while refusing to admit his franchise — then called the Hornets — had every intention of drafting Anthony Davis first overall.
This time, the Pelicans have the sixth pick in a draft for which there is little consensus about the order in which top prospects should be snapped up.
Demps said he would happily entertain trade talks leading up to draft day, but also left open the possibility that the Pelicans could draft a player who might not fit a glaring need — such as they have at small forward — or may not even be ready to play a significant role as a rookie.
"I don't know if we get the greatest area of need in the draft. A lot of it depends on who is available at that pick," Demps said this week. "We want to get a player who will fit. In today's game, a lot of guys are interchangeable, so I don't know if we can just say, 'We want this position or this guy.' I think you want to get a piece that can fit in to your system and help you win.
"This is a draft where you have a number of guys who are ready to help you right now and you have a number of guys who are going to help you along the line a couple of years from now," Demps continued. "That's the big question. Are you going to get a guy that helps you right away or are a guy that takes a little longer?"
The Pelicans, who have no second-round pick, have hosted only one workout, which featured only two guards: Michigan's Trey Burke and Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams.
Demps said New Orleans was limited in terms of players it could work out because many agents now believe it does not benefit their clients to attend workouts with teams holding certain draft picks, or to perform drills against certain players.
The general manager was able to meet and interview several other prospects, however. Those included 7-foot-1 Maryland center Alex Len, Indiana guard Victor Oladipo, UNLV forward Anthony Bennett and Kansas guard Ben McLemore.
Burke was the AP Player of the Year, but at 6-foot-1 he'd be limited to playing primarily at point-guard, as opposed to being the type of combo guard that Demps and coach Monty Williams seem to like. The Hornets have three players — Eric Gordon, Greivis Vasquez and Austin Rivers — who are capable of playing both guard spots.
But Burke did average 18.5 points and 6.7 assists per game for a Michigan squad that made it all the way to the national title game before losing to Louisville.
"It's a young team that the Pelicans have, and I think that I could come in and make an impact right away and help this team win," Burke said after his recent workout with New Orleans.
Burke also would relish a chance to play with an athletic big man like Davis.
"He blocks shots and he can go get it when you throw it up to him," Burke said. "It's a point guard's dream to play with a guy like that."
The 6-foot-7 Bennett appears to be a talented enough offensive player to provide immediate scoring from either the power forward or small forward spot, but he is not known to be a lock-down defender, which might make him a risk to the defensive-minded Williams.
Oladipo and McLemore both show promise of being productive combination guards, while Len, who did not work out in New Orleans because of a left ankle injury, could provide the Pelicans with a strong interior defender and rebounder who also averaged double-digit points in college.
For Williams, the key to a good draft is often less about trying to hit the jackpot with a future star than using common sense and playing the percentages.
"It all has to line up. If the film looks good and what you've heard about the kid is good and all the numbers on paper are good, then hopefully you got yourself a good player," Williams said. "We look to get at least two out of three of those variables. I think most of the guys we brought in fit that mold. ... Any time you try to get too complicated and over-scout, looking for a perfect player, you get yourself in trouble."