Q&A with Neil Olshey
D.J. Foster, June 20, 2011

The Draft

Clippers.com:You have two picks (#37 and #47) in the second round. What's the plan with those picks?

Neil Olshey: It’s cliché to say best player available…but best player available. With two picks we have some flexibility and we have a target group of players for the 37th pick. If it looks like guys are going off the board that we think can help us, we can combine the 47th and 37th pick and move up. Based on the cap hold in the first round and its effect on our cap room, I want to stay in the second round. I don’t want to move to the late first and have a cap hold that will affect the flexibility we tried so hard to create at the trade deadline. The cap room and the player we can acquire with it via trade or free agency is going to improve our team more than anyone we would get in that range anyway.

If we get a guy at 37 we like, then we can do multiple things. We can take an international player at 47 and stash him overseas. We can find a trade partner and move pick 47 into the future. We can include either of them in a bigger draft day deal if that’s what we need to do to execute a trade.

Clippers.com: In the second round, do you look to hit a home run? If a guy falls to you with a lot of potential but with some question marks, do you roll the dice?

Olshey: Absolutely. From a risk/reward standpoint, you’re better off taking a swing in the second round. You have a much greater margin of error in the second round. You can’t miss in the first round. When you get a pick in the top ten or a pick in the lottery, it just sets your franchise back too far if you have a complete miss. If you miss in the second round two or three times but you hit on a DeAndre Jordan, it makes up for some misses on the chances you took.

From a replacement cost standpoint, the guy you are going to get in the second round -- unless you do hit the homerun -- is a guy you could get with a veteran minimum contract anyway. What you can’t do in the first round is take someone with a huge arc in terms of success or failure and completely miss because it sets you back too far.

If you look at our history, we’ve been pretty consistent about getting guys you can get on the court that are productive. For the most part, the guys we’ve taken are who we thought they would be while still having a high ceiling. Thornton, Gordon and Griffin were all rookie players and as far as what Farouq (Aminu) and Eric (Bledsoe) came to the team with, they have what we bought. There have been no surprises; there are no holes where we didn’t know there were holes. There’s no ceiling that they can’t surpass in terms of their ability and potential.

Free Agency

Clippers.com: As far as free agency goes, you’ve talked about bringing in a veteran small forward. What does that guy do?

Olshey: When you talk about free agency you speak conceptually about how you’re going to shore up weaknesses, and we have the flexibility. What we really want based on how we play and the addition of Mo (Williams) at the point guard who’s a big time shooter is a small forward version of Eric Gordon. We want someone that can really defend on the ball. We want someone that can make plays off the dribble within the flow of the offense, and late in the clock they can make plays. Ideally it’s a guy who can stretch the floor because we do have Chris (Kaman), Blake (Griffin) and DeAndre, who need some room to play. But I think when you have two guys that are elite finishers the way that DeAndre and Blake are, the more guys you have on the floor that can make plays for other people, the tougher you are to cover.

Clippers.com: I know in the past you’ve said you don’t want a two-guard masquerading as a three. Does the next guy have to have some size?

Olshey: Ideally? Absolutely, but it’s more about the production. If you’re giving up length but the guy still rebounds, if he can guard size, then it’s okay. It’s really more about what they can produce. The ability to rebound from the three spot has been a weakness for us for a long time and it’s one of the reasons we drafted Farouq.

Clippers.com: Do you look for a guy with similar skill sets to Farouq to mentor him?

Olshey: All the skills that we want in a player at the three spot, Farouq has. The issue is, Farouq was the youngest guy on the roster and was the only guy that was really learning a new position. Bledsoe, while he played the two at Kentucky, had the ball in his hands quite a bit and he’s played point guard his whole life. Farouq is trying to move from power forward to small forward – not unlike Thaddeus Young, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari or some of the guys that have been successful doing it. He’s got to follow that mode, and he’s in here working every day.

I think the fact that Mo is here will help Farouq. Baron was the type of point guard that wanted to hold the ball and keep it in his hands and make the play ending pass, I think Mo will defer because he’s a great shooter. He’ll let some of the wing players do more of the stuff in pick and rolls and dribble handoffs and dribble weave action. And that’s what Farouq is here for.

But from a free agency standpoint, what you really want is Farouq, but three years from now. Everything we want in a small forward we feel like Farouq brought to the table. But I think we’re accelerating our growth. The excitement over Blake and how good a year he had, Eric Gordon’s jump, DeAndre’s jump, the flexibility of the roster…I think the time for being patient has passed. I think we want to accelerate it. If you were to go with the patient model and build slowly, you keep grooming Farouq and wait for him to develop, not unlike how we had to wait on Eric Gordon a little bit and DeAndre Jordan a little bit. I see all the same things with Farouq, but I think the excitement over how we finished the season after the trade…you could see the potential of the team. What we need is some veteran leadership, and we do need a guy who is going to be today where Farouq will be three or four years from now.

The Future

Clippers.com:So capitalize on everything now?

Olshey: Capitalize on the roster composition now while still keeping Farouq in the fold. And eventually -- the way Eric Gordon replaced Cuttino Mobley who was a starting two guard on a playoff team, the way Blake has replaced Marcus Camby -- I think it’s the same thing with Farouq. I don’t think he’s ready to step in and become a 40 minute a night guy, but he certainly can contribute with the things he does well. We just need to make sure we have a veteran in that spot that helps us win now without jeopardizing his (Aminu’s) growth going forward.

Clippers.com: I know there have been comparisons here to the Oklahoma City model. Is it fair to say that getting a small forward this free agency will sort of be like your Kendrick Perkins move? Where it’s time to stop being patient and go for it?

Olshey: Well I think people say that, but the model here is a little bit more like Portland under Kevin Pritchard. Sam (Presti) has done an unbelievable job of building that roster in Oklahoma City with draft picks, but he had some big time players on that roster he had to move to follow that model. He had Rashard Lewis, he had Ray Allen, and he did a great job of having that morph into a younger version of those guys that they could go forward with.

Kevin Pritchard did a great job of cleansing the roster and starting over. I think that’s very similar to us. We had some contracts here that we needed to move in order to ever move forward. Now I think for the first time we really do have a clean slate. I think we’ve got a great cap position – we have 13 million in room based on today’s cap – we’ve got really good young talent and we’ve got the Minnesota pick. We have a lot of assets to make this better, and now it’s just a matter of when do you take the leap, take some of your flexibility away and add a piece you think can get you to the next level?

I just think that we’ve got the depth, we’ve got the youth, we’ve got the star power with Blake and Eric and the leadership with Mo. Now it really comes down to that there’s one spot on the floor that from a PER standpoint was our weakest position, which means we need to improve that to be a factor in the playoffs.