Q&A With Chad Buchanan From The Predraft Combine
By caseyholdahl Posted in: 2011draft
Members of the Trail Blazers scouting and front office staff are at the NBA Predraft Combine at ATTACK Athletics facility in Chicago. It's the first large-scale workout leading up to the draft on June 23.
Chad Buchanan, Portland's director of college scouting, is among the Trail Blazers contingent in Chicago. I caught up with him on Thursday to get an update on what he's seen so far in Chicago. Read what he has to say about this year's draft class, the lack of live contact drills, the team's evaluation process, who players compare themselves to and how some guys are like the new girl in school.
Who from the team in is Chicago for the combine?
"From our team we've got Nate (McMillan), Rich (Cho), Bill Branch, Steve Rosenberry, Mike Born, myself and Joe Cronin. Every team is allowed seven representatives and that's our seven. They've limited how many people you can have here."
What are you general thoughts on the combine this year? Better or worse than years past?
"Ever since they moved it to Chicago when they took away the 5-on-5 aspect of it, it's been pretty much a similar format. For what you're allowed to do, to not have 5-on-5 and some of the guys not participating, it's probably fair what the league has put together. They've kind of got their hands tied a little bit because this time of year the agents have a little more control than probably you'd like them to have. But I think the NBA does a good job of running it, very organized, allows us access to meet with up to 18 players.
"You get to see them at least run up and down the court a little. They're not competing against each other very much but you can gauge how a guy looks compared to when you last saw him at the end of the college season. Has he slimmed down? Does he look quicker? Does he look faster, stronger? Is the guy in shape? Did he address some areas of weakness in his skill set. For what the agents and the league allows us to do, it's probably as good as you can expect."
It seems like we read a lot of complaints about the lack of competition, but it sounds like it's helpful in some respects. So maybe not as big of a waste of time that some would lead us to believe?
"I wouldn't say it's a waste of time at all. We've already met with a couple of kids already, had dinner and lunch with them and we'll meet with another tonight. The basketball aspect is probably less helpful than what the personal aspect is, getting to meet these guys and really get to see their personalities, ask them some questions we want to address with each guy individually, assessing their psychological makeup and their physical and medical. It's very worth while coming here, it's just if you're here to watch the guys basketball-wise, you're not going to get much out of it, but that's what we do from July to March every year. We see these guys plenty.
"Obviously a guy like Nate doesn't get to see these kids live other than here, so that's harder for him and the coaches who are obviously busy during the season, but for us, we know these kids by now as players and it's not so much evaluating them on the basketball court as it is off the court this week."
I know you guys like to keep things pretty close to the vest, but can you tell me how many players you've interviewed so far in Chicago?
"Yesterday we met with six players. By the end of (Thursday) it will be about nine or then total by the end of the day. Then (Friday) will be another five guys."
You had mentioned on Courtside that you didn't think there were many "high ceiling players" in this year's draft. Have you seen anything in Chicago that has changed your opinion of that?
"Well the top guys in this draft didn't do the workouts. Five to ten guys pull out of the workouts and all they do is get measured, interview with teams and do the medical testing. So what we saw today -- Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, the international group -- those guys aren't our there on the court. I think the group that is out there, there's some four-year players out there that are going to be solid. I think as far as potential stars in our league, not a real class for those players in this draft. I think after the top few guys there's some pretty solid players; I just don't think there's a lot of high ceiling guys."
I read that Marshon Brooks had "rubbed people the wrong way" because he referred to himself in the third person during interviews. Are you guys really that particular when looking at potential draftees?
"It kind of depends. You're always looking at a guy's personality to see how they fit, number one, with your team and obviously your coach. You want kids to be a good fit. Obviously you want the talent but you also need them to be a good fit. If a guy is rubbing you wrong, you're like 'Geez, our guys are not going to like this guy. They're not going to respect him.' And that factors in. But it's very rare that a guy rubs you so wrong that you would cross him off the list completely because most of these kids are trying to make a good impression on you.
"A lot of these kids have been prepared by their agents and other people to put their best foot forward and treat it as a job interview. You want to make a good impression, leave a good, lasting impression on the team you meet with. For the most part these are all pretty good kids. They're all trying to make a good first impression on you.
"You want kids to be realistic about themselves. And be real, be genuine, don't try to be some you're not or try to make an impression that you're going to be like 'I'm going to do something here to wow them.' Just be yourself. For us that's the biggest thing. Be yourself, because if we draft you, you're going to be around us 300-plus days a year. You can really sniff out guys that aren't being genuine pretty quickly.
"We have a pretty down to earth group of guys. You know what guy is going to fit in with our locker room and who won't. You interview some guys and it's like 'Eh, I don't know if he would fit in with our group.' You really try to gauge their personality and their goals and how they view themselves as a player because that's what the biggest part of it is, making sure a guy understands himself. Is there a false vision of what they are as a player? You want a guy to believe in himself but at the same time you don't want a guy who is a second round pick who views himself as the rookie of the year. It's good to have a goal, but also be realistic too."
In that same vein, their was mention of Travis Leslie saying he thought he was "better than Tony Allen."
"We've had kids say those kinds of things before. You ask them who they compare themselves to or who they like to pattern their game after. You get a lot of guys who say Derek Rose or Kevin Durant or Dwight Howard. Those are the kids that you're like, you know what, maybe this guy doesn't quite understand or see himself in the correct light. That something that you consider, like this could be something we'll have to kind of bring back down to earth a little bit, get him on the right path and accept the role that he's going to be at our level. You don't want to squash a kid's dreams or anything like that because who knows, maybe the kid does turn out to be something special when you don't expect it. It is important. That's part of your basketball IQ is you can look in the mirror and describe what you are as a player and be accurate, that's a reflection of a high basketball IQ player."
With guys, especially those expected to be selected with the first few picks, skipping drills, basketball IQ might be the only thing you get a better understanding of at the combine. Do teams even bat an eyelash anymore when a player decides he's not going to participate?
"I think at the very moment it happens you're disappointed. You'd like to see a kid want to come out there and perform. But Blake Griffin didn't do it and I don't think anybody bats an eye like, geez Blake Griffin is a nice NBA player but he didn't want to do the drill workout at the combine.
"The reality is in the big picture, in the long run, it's really not that big of an issue. You'd like to see all of them out there but you also understand from the agent's perspective that they can't hurt themselves by not playing, I guess you could say. Ninety-nine percent of the time it's not the player who doesn't want to go out there and play, because that's what those kids do. That's what they love doing. The agent taking hold and saying 'We're not going to have you go through any of the skill work today. You'll do the physical, you'll do the testing but we're not going to have you perform at all because your stock is high right now. A bad performance in front of the entire league isn't going to help you.'"
This year you have guys in Bismack Biyombo, who was unknown by most before the Hoop Summit, and Enes Kanter, who didn't even get to play this season, who are probably going to go in the Top 10. Does that say more about the quality of those players or the lack of talent in this draft?
"I think in a normal draft, if all the guys who could have come out did, I think that would bump some of these guys down that are being talked up there pretty high. But I do think some of these guys that you talked about, some of the guy who are under the radar you could say, at least to the average fan, but not to us NBA scouts. Scouts have seen these guys a bunch. Those kids are talented.
"I talk about not having star potential up there. Those guys you mentioned are probably going to be good NBA players but they're not stars, but they're going to be drafted pretty high in this draft because of the caliber of the draft. I think sometimes you see these college kids over and over and over and a new guy bursts onto the scene and it's like the new girl in class that all the boys want to date because she's something new and different. But I don't think it's really indicative of the quality of the draft as it is that there are some sleepers out there that kind of pop up to the average fan that we've seen enough of to know that they're good enough to play in our league."
There have already been reports that some teams might be interested in trading down, and that was before the combine. Are you hearing the same thing, and if it possible that teams in the lottery are looking to trade down because of the perceived lack of talent in this class?
"I think it's pretty typical, to be honest with you. If you're one of those teams and maybe you're not in love with a guy right now where you're going to be picking, you want to toss that out there just to get teams thinking about what they could throw out there to get your pick. At the end of the day, those top picks rarely get moved. You may slide down a spot or two or up a spot or two but very rarely do you completely get out of the draft when you've got a high pick.
"I don't think there's anymore talk this year than in the past at this stage. We just found out the draft order a few nights ago and I'd be surprised if a team has decided at this point that they want to get rid of their pick this early in the process. More or less, teams want to put it out there 'Hey, we'd be open to moving a pick.' That might generate some interest or maybe they get an offer from another team that they wouldn't have gotten had they not thrown it out there that they're open to moving it. I think it's still too early in the process for a team to trade a pick. You don't trade a high pick this early before the draft. It usually happens right at the draft."