To most of us who are around it, this seems like the time of theseason when NBA talent scouts really get to work. There are the bigpre-draft camps around the country, and in Europe, and many teams aregetting up-close looks at players they want to know more about headinginto the NBA Draft.
But, the truth is, thebulk of the hard work has been done. The hay isn't entirely in thebarn, but most of it is. All that is left now is this process ofweighing, measuring, testing, and interviewing. As Portland's directorof college scouting, Chad Buchanan told me on Friday, "I've seen theseguys enough already to know what we're dealing with. This is just thecapper."
As we've talked about, thisoff-season is very different for the Trail Blazers, and that's a goodthing. They aren't in the lottery, and even though they will mostlikely make some noise on draft day, probably won't be one of the teamswith a high pick. Being the agents basically decide where their clientsgo during this period, and who they work out for, the Blazers arefinding it much more difficult this year to get top prospects to cometo Tualatin for a personal workout.
"If aplayer is projected to go in the lottery, or even in the top 20, wedon't have a shot at getting them to come in for a workout," saidBuchanan. "So, we've got to find other ways to see these guys."
Beingthis year's draft isn't seen as exceptionally strong, or deep, the bigChicago pre-draft camp didn't really make headlines. And even theReebok Euro Camp, which takes place over the weekend (Buchanan washeading for the airport to fly to Italy right after I talked to him onFriday) isn't going to be as big as it has been in the past.
Themost cost-effective method of seeing hopefuls these days, and only wayin some cases for teams like the Blazers, are these camps, and workoutswhere several teams chip in and have large workouts in a singlelocation. There was one recently in Minneapolis, one in Oakland, andone in New Jersey next week. Buchanan has been, and will be, at all ofthem.
On Friday, the Blazers did get a look ata couple of guys who have a chance to go in the first round. OmriCasspi (seen in the photo above), who's from Israel, was the headlinerin this group of players who worked out in front of Buchanan, KevinPritchard, Nate McMillan, and the rest of the Portland staff on Friday.
Casspi,who's projected to go from about 20 to 30 in the first round of thedraft, worked out with Maryland's Greivis Vasquez, LSU's Chris Johnson,Jerel McNeal of Marquette, Chinemelu Elonu, from Texas A&M, andGonzaga's Micah Downs.
Along with Casspi,Vasquez is probably the other player who has a shot at the first round,but is looking for a first-round guarantee, and will likely be headedback to Maryland for his senior season. Johnson is said to be apossible late-second round pick, and has finished his eligibility atLSU.
Obviously, with Portland picking 24th inthe first round, Casspi is the guy they really wanted to see in thisworkout. He was an early-entry candidate last season, but withdrew fromthe draft and played another season with Maccabi Tel Aviv, where heplayed along side NBA vets Carlos Arroyo, Dee Brown, and Marcus Brown.Casspi was also a member of the Israeli U20 National Team. This pastseason, Casspi averaged 13 points and 5 rebounds per game in theIsraeli Premier League.
Oneother note concerning the Blazers. As you probably know, Brandon Roy,LaMarcus Aldridge, and Greg Oden were invited to play for the USABasketball Select Team in Las Vegas this summer. While Oden andAldridge will play, Roy will not. The Blazers, along with Roy, decidedsome rest is perhaps more in order, and that certainly seems like agood decision. We have, however, learned that Jerryd Bayless has nowreceived an invitation, and will play on the select team against TeamUSA. This is huge for Jerryd, as he'll join the group of about 16players in this prestigious event.
Baylesswill once again play for the Blazers in the Las Vegas Summer League,and then will stay and play with the select team. The Blazers will becoached by assistant Joe Prunty in the summer league.