Where do NBA general managers go to find out about a seven-footer toiling in Australia, or the lightning-quick point guard from Greece? How about the college player from little-known Western Nebraska JC?
For more than 25 years, NBA teams have relied on Marty Blake, the NBA's director of scouting services, to find the answers. NBA general managers enjoy Blake's honest assessments of players, including, "He's a seven-footer with one notable attribute: He's alive!" and, "He's a three-point shooter, not necessarily a three-point maker."
Blake, who recently celebrated his 75th birthday, has a quick wit matched by few. His evaluations are still sought out and respected, and he retains his zest for the game that has been his life's work. Equal parts trusted advisor to NBA decision-makers, fervent last hope of college coaches, savvy bird dog scout and sage storyteller of the NBA's past, Blake is savoring his place in NBA history as he continues to scour the world to find the NBA players of tomorrow.
Blake shared his vast draft knowledge in a live chat on June 21.
Jeremy Osborne (St. Peter): Would you say this draft class is filled with stars or does it just have a lot of players that have a good up side to them?
Marty Blake: This is one of the best drafts in years, contrary to what some of the members of the media feel. A lot of these players in 2-3 years will be outstanding and many of them will make a contribution right away.
LyricalWhiz: How does Hilario stack up to all the big men in the draft?
Marty Blake: He's a monstrous physical specimen, huge hands, very quick for his size. At a workout in Cleveland on Thursday, he was very impressive. He's only 19 years old and I expect him to be a lottery pick.
Marty Blake: The Lottery while comprising 13 picks, actually has 20 players this year who could go in the lottery. So when you say this is a lottery pick, what's the difference when you pick 15th? The money isn't that much different and a lot of the players who haven't been picked in the lottery have far surpassed those who have.
Dre (Calgary): How good is Drew Gooden? I thik he's overrated for a tweener, and he doesn't seem to have the size to be able to bang in the league. What power forward in the league does not possess exactly that: POWER!
Marty Blake: He was the nation's leading rebounder and he won some player of the year awards ahead of the Williamses and everyone else. He was player of the year in the Big 12 and he was a preseason All-American on most teams and he's actually 6-10 and a half and I'm quite sure that once he gets his feet on the ground with whatever team he is picked. And once he can devote all his time to working with weights, he will enter training camp at 260. We are happily faced with a lot of players who are 6-8, 6-9, 6-10 ... who can play the low floor position and since we can't seem to find centers, this is where our future lies. Gooden will be a high pick.
Jonathan Daley(MD): Can Jaun Dixon play shooting guard in the NBA(like Allen Iverson)next to a bigger guard at the point.
Marty Blake: Dixon has had a marvelous career and if I was a Hollywood movie mogul, I would seriously consider doing a movie about Juan's life. Because as everyone knows who follows the Maryland program, his is a fascinating story. He wanted the ball in the latter stages of the championship game and many other games. I don't perceive he will have many problems. After all, there are very few players at guard who want to compete against Earl Boykins at 5-5 because he is so quick. Dixon is a winner and I don't think there is a problem with him adjusting to any position.
ROD: WHO SHOULD BE CONSIDERED SLEEPERS OR STEALS IN THE SECOND ROUND
Marty Blake: I think certain teams, especially those with multiple picks or those veteran clubs who really don't have a need for immediate help, will look to the many foreign players who have either declared as early entries or who have reached the age of 22 when all foreign players are automatically eligible. This has been done in the past, even in the first round, with Kirilenko, who now plays with Utah. Two players to look for in the second round are Shawn Kennedy of Marist who really knows the point guard position and Jobey Thomas of Charlotte who is probably the quickest shooter of anyone in the draft. You're only allowed two sleepers per question.
Jim/Gainesville: Hi!! Marty
I'm a big fan of Yao Ming especially since I was born in the city which he plays for(shanghai). Do you think Yao would have a long career in the NBA? Also do you know if he will be in New York for the Draft? Thanks
Marty Blake: He will have as long a career in the NBA as he wishes. The question is getting him over here.
Jason (Baltimore): Hey Marty:
Most pundits continue to suggest that the Raptors have an interest in Chris Jeffries (particularly if they can land a 2nd pick)? Is the lack of attention given to him in the press do to his injury? Was it that serious? What attributes would he bring to the Raps? Thanks
Marty Blake: Jeffries has never really played a full season of college basketball, but he's a very skilled player. And since Jim Kelly, who is their director of player personnel is one of the more astute and knowledgeable basketball scouts in the business today and lives in California, I assume he has inside knowledge of all of the abilities of Jeffries.
New Britain, CT: What do you think of Corsley Edwards from Central Connecticut?
Marty Blake: You have to mark Corsley down as a sleeper. As part of the committee for Portsmouth and Chicago, my son and I invited him to play first in the PIT and he was outstanding. He has been playing with Adirondack in the USBL and undoubtedly will make the all-league team and he was very impressive in Chicago. He's only 6-7, but plays bigger and I feel virtually certain that he will be drafted.
Stan (St. Louis): Do you think Maurice Baker from Oklahoma State has a good chance of being drafted, maybe in the second round?
Marty Blake: Maurice has been handicapped by a series of season-long injuries. Going into his senior year, we thought he was one of the 2-3 top point guards in the draft. We feel sorry for Maurice because he has played hurt. I'm sure teams will take that into consideration and take him this summer when he has recovered. AS to whether he gets drafted or not, I can't comment on that because I have no definitive knowledge of teams that are interested in him.
Philip (Lafayette, IN): How do you identify talent? Particularly, how do you recognize an extremely talented high school or small college player? What do you look for as indications that he can play in the NBA?
Marty Blake: High school players, there are very few that can play at the NBA level and the mystique of high school players coming into the NBA is not very well-founded. There are 10000 high school players playing in high school, which as Yogi Berra would say, is the reason they're called high school players. You only have a couple each year. The availability to progress their skill-level year round has come to the point where before they are seniors, HS players play 50 games in the summer through camps and leagues. They travel all over the US and Hawaii and other places to play in summer camps so that the rate of progression is better and a lot of the NBA teams start scouting these people from the time they enter touraments. Small college players are not hard to find. I was the first person to draft a small college player and we keep records of all the schools in Division II, III and NAIA. You go back to Devean George of Division III Augsburg was the first pick of the Lakers. This year we have Ronnie Murray of Shaw who will probably get drafted in the second round and will probably play in the league. Next year we're going to zero in on Robert Johnson at Cal State LA who broke all the scoring records of John Barber in 1959. Johnson is 6-10 who is a super scoring machine who will have the opportunity to play against better players once his season is over. Our office was responsible for finding Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Ben Wallace, Charles Oakley. It's just a question of working at it.
Beau (dallas): could DeAngelo Collins be a steal in the second round?
Marty Blake: I don't know about a steal. There are no steals. I don't think he'll go in the first round unless someone who's brought him in really likes him. He's inexperienced but he does have a lot of talent. I don't think he's ready to step in and play right away, but he's a young man who's decided to forsake college. He feels he's ready to play right away and he has skills. Keep in mind it only takes one team in the first round to like a player to select him.
Andrew/New York: Who do you think the knicks would go with, Wilcox or Wagner if both are available.
Marty Blake: The Knicks have said all along they're looking for up front help. And if Wilcox is available to them at seven, I'm quite certain they'll seriously consider. I like Wagner, but we have to wait and see what trades will happen in the next 72 hours. Of course, where there's smoke there's fire and we'll have to wait and see, but I would seriously consider Wilcox because he has tremendous athletic ability.
Laurie (San Francisco): What do you think of Jamal Sampson?
Marty Blake: We can't find him. We invited him to play in Chicago and he never showed up. The only thing I can tell you is I think he made a terrible mistake in not going back to California. Our scouts happened to watch him and his backup on a particular night in which neither one scored a point. I'm not criticizing him but he would have really helped himself if he had come to Chicago. He's athletic but he's a work in progress. The fact that he's 6-10 might help him to get drafted in the second round, but he's not ready to play at our level.
edgar gomez, manila, philippines: what's your take on jiri welsh? can he play the 2 and contributes right away? some compared him to dejan bodiroga former kings draft pick. is he athletic enough to play the 1 or 2 in the nba? thanks for your time!
Marty Blake: My son thinks so. And my son Ryan, who is the assistant director is an expert on European basketball. If he's available, that is if he doesn't have any contractual problems, he can step in and contribute right away. You must keep in mind that European players, by the time they reach 21, have played 4-5 years of European professional basketball. Jiri is a big time prospect.
JOHN (NYC): How do you feel about Casey Jacobsen? I think the NETS could use him.What do you think MR.Blake?
Marty Blake: He's a very interesting player, really knows how to play, great shooter, knows the game inside out, has passing skills that people are probably unaware of because he was the leading scorer for the past three years. I'm sort of an advisor to Playboy magazine and their selection of their All-America team and he's one of the few players selected to the team after his freshman and sophomore years. THAt should give you an indication of how highly regarded Casey Jacobsen is.
Derrick H (Detroit): Steve Logan appeared to play the point position pretty well in Chicago. Do you think he can play the point effectively in the NBA?
Marty Blake: He's going to surprise a lot of people. He's a tough kid, doesn't say much, does a lot of big things. He was measured at 5-10 and a half, with shoes he's a little bigger and don't forget you have to play with shoes. He's a tough kid and he's a winner. I don't know if he's going to go in the first round, but he will help any team who is lucky enough to draft him. He is a point guard and the player of the year in Conference USA for two consecutive years.
ELY DIAZ: HOW MUCH BETTER WILL THE BULLS BE WITH THE ADDITION OF JAY WILLIAMS IF HES CHOSEN?
Marty Blake: Unless Jerry surprises everybody or makes some catastrophic deal, he's probably going to take Williams. He'll probably help them. There are people in our league who think in a couple years the Bulls will be the team to beat for the Eastern title. They have a fine nucleus there and Krause usually comes up with a pretty good pick in the second round. And Williams wants to play in Chicago, which, he could be a kingpin there.
Josh: Is Caron Butler one of the top 3 players in the draft?
Marty Blake: If he isn't a top 3, he's a top 4 or 5. He is what I call a "cute" player and by that I mean he does so many good things inside that people have a tendency to overlook what he does. He can rebound, he's a good position player, he can score in many ways. He is a very gifted player and he certainly has to be considered one of the best players in this draft and one who will start for whatever team gets him.
Kim/New York: What do you think the Warriors are going to do with their pick?
Marty Blake: I believe they have the third pick and everyone says they're going to consider Mike Dunleavy who I think could be the best all-around player in this draft in a couple of years. I feel that Mike is growing every year, weighs 229, easily could play eventually at 249, good ball-handler, good shooter, aggressive. Don't be surprised if he winds up playing all four spots in the same night at one point in his career.
Othello : Do you ever feel that teams are overrating a player? If so, could you name such a player in the draft this year?
Marty Blake: I don't know of any teams who have indicated who they would take or who they would rate. Teams rightly so are being very quiet of who they like, with the exception of Houston and Chicago. I don't think there are any players who are overrated because when you come to it, I'm the only one who rates players.
Marty Blake: I have a trick question to pose to the fans. Name the two point guards with the Chicago Bulls during their championship season.
Chris (New York): Do you think my good friend Lenny Cooke is going to get pick in the NBA Draft?
Marty Blake: I think Lenny will get picked in the second round, but he came to our camp in Chicago and found out what he had to do right away. Unfortunately he was hurt. But he's older and he played well in the adidas camp in Chicago. He's big and I think someone will draft him in the second round. But I have no knowledge of what teams like what players once you get down there.
Dennis(NJ): What do you think will be the big suprise in the draft this year?
Marty Blake: I don't think there will be a big surprise because it's a very deep draft. We talk about the lottery and the lottery has 13 spots, but in reality this year, I would consider the lottery all the way to the 20th spot because there are 20 players who could conceivably be picked in the original synopsis of the lottery. IF there's going to be some surprises, it will be when and where or how early the 4-5 outstanding foreign players will be taken. And that could change the lottery alignment.
Josh: BJ Armstrong/John Paxson
Chris (New York): Ron Harper
JOHN (NYC): B.j Armsrong & John Paxon?
Marty Blake: Remember we said it was a trick question! So far, everybody's batting .000.
Derrick H, Detroit: I notice that a lot of the 6 foot or so players that have played as the principle scorer at shooting guard, are now being considered at the point guard position for the draft, Steve Logan and Juan Dixon are two that come to mind. To me, the point guard position is the toughest position to master. Is this realistic to have these guys switch positions at the NBA level and expect them to excel?
Marty Blake: That's a very good question, but Dixon is not 6-feet. In 1960 I drafted from Providence a point guard named Lenny Wilkens when I was the GM of the St. Louis Hawks. AFter the draft, Ned Irish the president of MSG and the Knicks, came up to me and said, "Why did you take Wilkens? He's too small." I said "I was picking seventh in the first round and two picks later, you would have taken him" and he agreed. I asked Lenny how big he wanted to be and he said eventually 6-1 and the only time one of my NBA teams finished out of the playoffs was the next year when Lenny was a second lieutant in the army virtually the entire season. Point guards are born, not made. I feel Steve Logan is going to be an excellent point guard. And we have instituted a new position - shooting point - in the NBA because they are so skilled in so many aspects and they develop quicker. They often at the college and even the pro level are often forced to carry the offensive load also.
Greg: Jordan and Pippen, since they ran the triangle there were no true point gurads and they did all the ball handling
Marty Blake: Greg, you win the autographed picture of Jerry Krause! There have not been many better point guards than Scottie and Michael, who could also play many many other positions. Congratulations Greg!
name21: Who is a better point guard, Frank Williams or Dan Dickau?
Marty Blake: They're totally different players, size and ideas of the game. I thought Frank Williams had, for his genre, an off year. Frank appeared at times, by my own observation, that he thought he made a mistake going back to school. Which he didn't. He has great skills, but he looked like he had an off year. He's a very talented player and hopefully he will play up to his talent. That's the same thing with Jamaal Tinsley and his last year.
Chris: Who do you think Dallas is going to pick in the NBA Draft?
Marty Blake: You've got to take a look, first of all, at the rosters of the NBA teams and Dallas, if I'm not mistaken, might have 15 players under contract. I think the NBA next year is not going to have an injured list, but a three-man reserve list who can still practice with the teams. Rather than go through the questions with the players who are not fully injured. We have to look at who Dallas has under contract and at the players they drafted in previous years who might be playing overseas. Then the free agents. Then you have to understand and I don't think they have figured it out, what they have on the back burners for offense and defense next year. They have a number of strong players, like Eduardo Najera which makes me very happy because I recommended him. They were among the first to scout worldwide and always come up with somebody. They have a number of sets they can use with the players that they have. Will they sign again Wang Zhizhi? They have a lot of interesting scenarios and with their second round pick, they can get a player of some type or pick a young European player who has a few years to go on his contract. They've done that in the past and it's been very successful.
Philip (Lafayette): Early in the college careers, players like John Stockton, Jason Kidd and Reggie Miller may not have stood out from the crowd. What are some things that you have learned to look for in a player that help to identify his superstar potential when physically he may not be much more than average?
Marty Blake: I don't think we have enough time to zero in on how I scouted John Stockton. AFter all, it took O'Neal and Jabbar a few years. All those players you mentioned were great college players. Reggie Miller almost made the Olympic team and probably should have. Keep in mind, in the 50s when I first came into the NBA, nobody had the funds to scout. Today, there are no unknowns anymore. You have high school coaches who are going to Germany in the hopes of getting them to come over here and play high school ball. You have 800-1000 foreign Canadian players who play college ball in the US. Occasionally you find a diamond in the rough, like Scottie Pippen, who I knew was special the minute I saw.
Peter (SLC): Marty- Why does everyone overlook Lee Benson Jr? Is it age or because of his pass? If i ran a team, I would choose him regardless of his age and pass times, because he is mature.
Marty Blake: The only reason anybody would bypass Lee Benson, who is a very nice young man is the fact that he is very inexperienced. I think one of the things that you have to take into consideration is he has not really played organized basketball. He has good skills but he showed in Chicago that he needs to learn how to play the game. I think he can play overseas, play in the minor league, he can make money playing basketball and then come back and try out for a team. I think someone will give him a chance to play this summer and I'm not discounting his age. If I'm a team, and they do this in Europe, they don't particularly care how old you are, they care how good you are. In 1970, I drafted a guy named Dino Menghin who was 28 years old. He played 25 years and was rated one of the greatest players in international basketball.
beckers: Do you think it was a mistake for Marcus Taylor to leave Michigan State for the draft this year?
Marty Blake: I can't answer that question by commenting on mistake. Marcus probably didn't want to go to college for any great length of time. He wanted to go to school, especially MSU, to polish his game, which he did to some degree. He's big, he's strong, he can attack the basket. College is not for everyone, but I certainly would have recommended for him to go back to school. Is he ready? What is ready? There are players who have played 4-5 years of college basketball who aren't ready. In his mind, Marcus feels he's ready to play against NBA competition. Living in the area in which he does, he's played innumerable times against NBA players. I don't think anyone should be surprised when Marcus is drafted next Wednesday night. Where I don't know because we always point out that it only takes one team to like you.
JOHN (NYC): I Love Dan Gadzurick.Do you think He will last to thje 36 th pick? I would luv to see the Knicks get this kid!What do you say Mr. B?
Marty Blake: I saw Gadzuric play twice this year. I saw him play as a senior in high school. He's much improved. He needs to work on his offense, which is improved, but not much. He's a terrific rebounder, ultra aggressive player who needs to tone down his aggressiveness because he is foul-prone. He did not accept an invitation to play at either PIT or Chicago. However I saw him play against Chris Christoffersen and the 7-2 Danish prodigy has improved tremendously. You can't consider one game, but in that game, Christoffersen had something like 16 rebounds. I would consider taking Gadzuric because of his aggressiveness, his ability to run the court and the fact that if he plays 30 minutes, he's giving you 30 hard minutes. Let me point out that only the Pac-10 conference had an centers this year - Gadzuric, Borchardt and Christoffersen. So it's somewhat shocking when you consider the lack of centers and it's interesting to see everyone looking at them to be drafted at 20-40.
Moderator: Mr. Blake has rushed off to do another interview. But he thanks everyone for their questions. Tune in after the draft for his team-by-team review of draft day!