Trail Blazers' Scouts Talk Draft Workouts In Treviso
The 1992 NBA Draft will be remembered for a few things. It took place in Portland at Memorial Coliseum in the days before the NBA decided to move the function permanently to New York City. It produced Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning (though not much else). And it was the last time a foreign-born player wasn't taken in the first round.
It's possible that the 2010 Draft will be the first time since Shaq donned an Orlando Magic hat at the Glass Palace that an international player won't be taken in the first round. With Czech small forward Jan Vesely and Lithuanian power forward Donatas Motiejunas, both considered first round locks, opting to spend at least one more year in Europe, French power forward Kevin Seraphin remains the only international player whose name pops up on mock draft boards as a potential first rounder. Even then there are rumors that a minor knee injury might keep Seraphin from working out for teams, which in turn might leave him re-thinking staying in the draft, scheduled for June 24.
"To be honest, I've heard rumors about several players pulling out," said Jason Filippi, the Trail Blazers' international scout, "but I'm the type of person that until I see it in an official announcement by a player, team or agency I tend to not give much importance to rumors."
The perception that this years' draft is void of top-tier international talent hasn't kept the Trail Blazers' from doing their due diligence this past week in Treviso, Italy, site of the three day adidas Eurocamp, a showcase of the best talent residing outside of the United States. Filippi, along with Trail Blazers scouts Mike Born and Chad Buchanan, were in Treviso last week to scout players who have declared for the 2010 Draft as well as players who might eventually get their shot at the NBA down the road.
"International kids want to go to the NBA, (Treviso) is the place where they come to be seen," said Filippi, who has been attending the Eurocamp since 1999. "In most cases its guys that we scouts know quite well having scouted them during the year, but it's nice to be able to see them go against each other all in the same place, very convenient. And there's always some lesser known player who may have startled people by putting his name as an early entry in the draft that not everybody has a good feel for."
NBA front office types hate being surprised, especially this time of year, so at least one trip across the Atlantic is all but required for every NBA scouting department, even if the talent level might not be what it was in the past. And while there might not be a 2010 first rounder currently residing outside of the United States, that doesn't mean 2011 international first rounder isn't in Treviso waiting to be discovered.
"You end up often coming away sometimes liking a younger player who didn't put this name in the draft." said Filippi. "There are some players who aren't even in the draft but have been invited to compete because they are considered good NBA prospects. Sometimes you come away thinking 'Oh, I wish this kid had put his name in the draft. Maybe next year.' But that's the great use, that it's useful for the draft itself and for the future because you'll see some young kid and say 'I need to follow this kid next year.' It's very, very useful from that point of view also."
The camp also acts as a "barometer," as Born put it, to gauge how much players have grown from one year to the next. Born estimated that it could take up to 6 months to scout the up-and-comers in Europe, and even then the picture could end up incomplete due to the way young players are used in the European teams. So it's invaluable to have an event where you can see the best and brightest participate in drills and play up to five games against players of similar age.
"It's a great chance to measure how (a player) is developing, how his shooting is coming along," said Born. "There's numerous kids here who look like they've gotten taller, they've filled out, they're probably 10 or 15 pounds heavier. It's just a nice tool to be able to follow those kids. Some of those kids that are developing like that still won't be in the draft. They're still maybe a year or two away from being in the draft. We're over here to look at kids for the draft for this year, but even as an evaluation tool moving forward I still think it's been a terrific event."
Even if there isn't a first rounder in the mix. Though it should be noted that even if the consensus among the media is that Seraphin is the only international first rounder, the opinions among the scouts aren't nearly as definative.
"There's a couple of kids I still think could potentially be first rounders," said Born. "The international kids have until the June 14 to pull out. What happens with the international kids can still change. If some of the top kids pull out then maybe there won't be, but I definatley think there's a chance that there will be one or two that will have teams consider them for the first round."
Filippi, who lives overseas, didn't sound as optimistic as Born when handicapping the likelihood of an international first-rounder in 2010, but he's hopeful that at least one of the players he's spent years following has his name called in the first 30 picks.
"Without getting into specifics, without naming players, it's a possibility (that no international player is taken in the first round)," said Filippi. "It's a possibility. Obviously in my profession, I'm always proud when there are international players being drafted, especially in the first round. Since I've been in the business there have been multiple first round picks every year. There are, on paper, fewer first round prospects to begin with this year, but it's hard to speculate. Personally I hope it's not going to be that way."