The Lasting Benefit Of Being Active On Draft Day
By caseyholdahl Posted in: Blazers, 2010draft
The process of evaluating players in the days leading up to the NBA draft has evolved as teams have started to fully grasp its importance as it pertains to building a franchise. Between a free agency structure that allows teams to pay a player more to stay with his current team and the implementation of set rookie scale salaries that often result in teams getting young players at bargain prices for their first four years in the league, the importance of the draft to a franchise's success from both a competitive and financial standpoint is at an all-time high.
As teams have come to realize that building a franchise through the draft makes the most sense on all fronts, their has never been a greater desire to leave no stone unturned as it pertains to evaluating draft prospects. Much of that research can be done from a distance through scouting and various investigational tactics, but with millions of dollars and the future of a franchise potentially at stake, teams like the Trail Blazers all but insist on getting some face time with potential draftees.
"We spend most of the year evaluating them and watching them play but also gathering information," said Chad Buchanan, Director of College Scouting for the Trail Blazers. "When you finally get the chance to sit down and sit across from them at dinner or lunch or in an interview session, that's your chance to really get information from them that you want to get and figure out what type of kid they are when you look them in the eye."
Agents know this as well, which is why they now go to great lengths to get the players they represent ready for one-on-one interviews, which in turn makes the opportunity to speak with a player face to face that much more important for scouts who earn their keep by being able to separate fact from fiction.
"It's hard for kids to fool you," Buchanan said. "They can fool you in a 10 minute interview, but you sit down with them long enough, you're going to walk away with an idea of what that kid is made of, what kind of fiber he's made of."
And therein lies the challenge for players and those who evaluate them leading up to the draft. The request from teams for face to face interviews and workouts has increased to the point where draftees and their agents have to make decisions on which teams they'll visit based on where they think they'll go in the draft. There's only so much time to travel from city to city, and there's only so many workouts a player can put himself through before tiring out, which can negatively impact his draft position at the worst possible time.
Teams have reacted to this by holding "super workouts" in which numerous teams invite large groups of players to the same location in an attempt to see as many players in the shortest amount of time. It's a decent compromise and certainly better than not having a chance to see a player workout or interview, but there's simply no substitution for evaluating a player in your own house, on your court, running your drills, taking instruction from your coaches, answering questions from your local media. It's impossible to re-create that setting in someone else's gym.
But if you're the Trail Blazers, picking all the way at No. 22, how do you get the more talented players in the draft to make the trip all the way out to the hinterlands of the NBA? According to Buchanan, being a team that is known for their draft day activity helps.
"I would guess that my conversations with agents are a little different than most teams because when I tell them where we're picking or when they ask me where we're picking, they're kind of like 'But, we know that you guys are probably not going to end up there,'" said Buchanan on Wheels At Work. "It's been a little easier because we have a little more credibility in telling an agent 'Well, we're picking here, maybe you feel like your client is not going to be in that range' and we can tell them 'You know what, pretty much every year we've been in this draft with Kevin we have not picked where we started the night.'"
Other teams might try to convince agents they're truly willing to do whatever it takes to move up to pick a player, but few teams have Portland's track record of draft day moves to back up their argument.
"Agents get that and they understand that Kevin (Pritchard), Paul (Allen) and the rest of us are very aggressive in identifying who we want and figuring out anyway we can to get that player," Buchanan said. "We have a little more clout when we tell (agents) we've targeted their player and we're trying to do everything we can to get up there and get them. So they're a little more willing to give us some leeway and maybe send us a player for a workout who another team who is picking in that same range may not get."
And of course, having an owner in Paul Allen who follows the draft closely and is willing to write the checks to get the players he wants has probably convinced an agent or two through the years to send players Portland's way.
"(Allen) has been behind all the guys we've drafted," said Buchanan. "He's very involved... Draft day is a fun day for him. It makes it fun for the rest of us too because he gives you the resources to go get the guy you want and that's all you can ask for from our standpoint. I think that's the big reason why we've had so much success on draft night."