Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder was one of 48 players who participated in last weekend's workout in New Jersey
Buchanan Discusses New Jersey Predraft Workouts
By caseyholdahl Posted in: 2012draft, draft2012
This past weekend, interim general manager Chad Buchanan, assistant general managers Bill Branch and Steve Rosenberry and director of NBA scouting Mike Born joined front office staffs from around the league in New Jersey for a two-day workout featuring draft eligible players. The event, along with similar group workouts that take place at the Portsmouth Invitational, has become a mainstay of Portland's predraft evaluations.
"In two days, there were four separate workouts, we saw 48 players," said Buchanan. "This is the one workout where they're allowed to play 5-on-5. The NBA permits one workout where draft prospects can play five-on-five and this is the one that has been permitted by the league to allow that. It's 48 kids coming through over the course of two days, pretty much the entire league is represented there. You get to see a lot of guys in a short amount of time. The teams split the cost of running the workout. It's a very cost efficient way to see a lot of kids in a short amount of time."
With the prospect of having two picks in both the first and second round, the Trail Blazers are wasting no opportunity to collect information on what many expect to be the deepest draft in years.
"There were a couple guys who made a good impression on us, guys we liked during the year and were kind of reaffirmed that at the workout," said Buchanan. "How they performed kind of backed up what we felt from them during the season. So there were a few guys who distinguished themselves, at least in our eyes."
Buchanan will travel this week to southern California to watch workouts put together by various agents, which will be followed in a few weeks by another group workout put on by the Timberwolves and Hawks in Minnesota. But the New Jersey workout presented a unique opportunity to see players compete in a 5-on-5 setting, something that is becoming more and more of a rarity these days. Even though the talent level of the players who participated in the New Jersey workouts are typically in the late first round to undrafted range, the opportunity to scout 5-on-5 performances against similar players is invaluable.
"I don't think there's maybe a ton of all-star caliber talent in this draft, but I think it's deep with a lot of guys who are good enough to be in a rotation, including several guys who were at this (New Jersey) workout," said Buchanan. "Seeing guys play 5-on-5 is a great evaluation tool. You get to see how guys have improved since the season ended and you last saw him, both from a skill standpoint and a physical standpoint, conditioning standpoint."
Along with the on court workouts, Buchanan and his staff conducted interviews with selected players in New Jersey. The Trail Blazers, for obvious reasons, put a premium on drafting players who fit their culture, so the chance to talk with a player, possibly for the first time, is arguably as important as the actual workout.
"We interviewed guys that we went had previously targeted," said Buchanan. "Some of these kids will come through Portland as well. Any chance you get to sit down and talk with a kid, get to know him a little bit, we try to take advantage of that. This was an opportunity to meet with some of these guys while we were there… Didn't take anybody to dinner or anything like that, but were able to sit down and meet with a bunch of guys while we were there.
It could be argued that Portland's second round picks carry more significance this year than in past years, as the team has stated they'd be willing to trade their first round picks
in exchange for a veteran player who plays a position of need, such as point guard or center. But according to Buchanan, the approach is pretty much always the same as it always is.
"I think for us, it's always about identifying the players we would like to add if we have the opportunity to add them," said Buchanan. "If they're there with our picks in the second round, then we'll pull the trigger on them. But we're not going to draft a guy just because we have to draft a guy either. We've got to feel like the guy is capable of helping us, whether immediately or down the road, and we feel like at pick 40 and 41 there's a chance there's a couple guys who make it that far down who we like who we won't be afraid to pull the trigger on, regardless of what we do with our lottery pick."
Buchanan was also quick to point out that, while there may be a stated interest in acquiring veterans
, the team is by no means set on one particular course of action. And if the best way to improve the team is through the draft, rather than trading for a veteran, that's what the team will do.
"I think in general, we're trying to improve our team," said Buchanan. "Whether that's using our pick to acquire a veteran -- we're open to that. But we also like this draft enough that we're open to adding two young players or however many it ends up being. If it's players we like and believe in, we're open to adding some young pieces to the team as well. Best way to put it is we want to leave all doors open at this point, whether it's a veteran or a combination of a veteran and a couple young players."
Having said that, don't expect the Trail Blazers to feature three rookies (Buchanan refuses to count the Top-3 protected New Jersey pick until the draft order is decided) on the roster come the start of the 2012-13 season.
"I don't think having three rookies is probably our choice," said Buchanan, "but at the end of the day that situation could present itself. If it's three players we really believe in, maybe that's where it ends up, but I don't think that would be likely."
At this point in the process, almost every scenario is still in play. Whatever approach the Trail Blazers end up taking to improve the team, be it through the draft or trades or free agency, is likely to remain fluid throughout the draft process. While there are certain to be primary and contingency plans in place, the Trail Blazers believe that remaining flexible will yield the best results.
"From year to year, each team is in a different boat," said Buchanan, "just like we're in a different boat this year than we were last year with what we need to try and address. At pick 11 or 12, or wherever we end up, there's some value in this draft. We like some of the players in that range and I know other teams do as well, so we'll kind of keep all doors open until the very last moment."