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Behind The Scenes: Player Evaluation

Jun 5 2003 11:35AM

Randy Pfund

With a plethora of exceptional basketball talent competing at high levels all around the globe, NBA teams are scouring the world to evaluate the best of the best. As the Miami HEAT continues to leave no stone unturned, HEAT President and General Manager of Basketball Operations Randy Pfund and his scouting staff travel incessantly year-round in search of the best players in the world.

Whether it is at a major university, on a court halfway across the hemisphere, inside a high school gym or at a small community college, the HEAT scouting staff comprised of Pfund, Director of Player Personnel Chet Kammerer and scouts Adam Simon and Randy Embry, runs the gamut to make sure they have not only seen all of the players in a game-time atmosphere, but familiarized themselves with the young hopefuls as well.

Pfund describes the scouting process in three phases. For starters, Kammerer is responsible for the first line of evaluating talent and identifying the landscape in terms of who’s out there. He has a network of contacts in the basketball world, as well as different scouting services that provide helpful insight as to national and international players who may pique NBA interest.

From here, Kammerer and Pfund coordinate where their scouts will head off to. From Mobile, Ala., to Madrid, Spain, the hard working group is in and out of airports, practically living out of hotels and traveling by rental car for many months at a time. Commonly, a scout will observe a morning practice, drive to a nearby afternoon game, only to catch a flight and make it to a nighttime contest just in time for tip-off.

While most scouts have their own system by which they take notes and record what they see, the information the HEAT crew comes home with is about the same. First and foremost, they are looking for outstanding talent: a player who rises above his peers in skill and capability. As Pfund says, some players will excel in a specific area such as three-point shooting or rebounding, for example, while others may demonstrate pro-level proficiency in many facets of their game. HEAT scouts are looking at size, quickness, athleticism, NBA player comparisons and an overall evaluation of player performance in that particular game. They write-up a statistical analysis and even take notes on the player’s confidence, comfort level and poise under pressure, typically incorporated into a two-page evaluation form.

Although they wish they could be in many places at once, HEAT scouts try to make the most of their time by watching players of interest from different teams play against each other. This does not include only players in the United States – the HEAT scouts also try to see key European player match-ups as well.

As basketball season progresses and players begin to rise above the masses, Pfund becomes that much more active in the evaluation process. Going by feedback from Kammerer, Simon and Embry, he then makes arrangements to take a look at “key players” about three to four times before the June NBA Draft.

While some teams keep their scouts regionally based, Pfund prefers a system where the scouts see as many players as possible worldwide, creating a cross-section that allows the group to analyze more efficiently.

The second phase begins when the basketball season ends and the competitive tournaments begin. Evaluating top players in annual competitions like the Portsmouth Invitational, EA Sports Roundball Classic, McDonald’s All-American Game and the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp, the HEAT scouts are out in full force making final notes and comments to report back to Pfund, and ultimately President and Head Coach Pat Riley.

At this point, it is the third phase of scouting, the draft is right around the corner, and players are brought to Miami by invitation for interviews and personal workouts with the HEAT coaching staff. Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Andy Elisburg and his staff get involved, utilizing vast resources both inside and outside the organization, to research these players’ medical records, background information, and in the case of international players, their NBA eligibility.

It is time for teams and players alike to really begin focusing on possible scenarios. Pfund emphasizes the need to stay positive and prepare for every eventuality. By now, the group has seen as much as they’ll need to see and can present the whole range of potential situations to Riley, prepared to move and turn in any direction.

As the scouting group and top HEAT executives gather on draft night in what is known as the “War Room” inside the AmericanAirlines Arena front office, there is really no predicting exactly which way the draft will go until the moment it happens, which is why the HEAT’s extensive analysis of all players gives the team an advantage, no matter what draft scenario eventually happens.

The HEAT’s 2002 NBA draft picks Caron Butler and Rasual Butler are two of the most recent examples that serve as a testament of how effective the HEAT scouting staff has been.