2012 Draft Central - Ryan Blake Interview
June 22, 2012
BROOKLYN, N.Y—With the 2012 NBA Draft approaching, Senior Director of NBA Scouting Operations Ryan Blake has become a busy man. He checked in with brooklynnets.com to discuss scouting, the draft and how the Brooklyn Nets stand heading in.
BrooklynNets.com: For those who may not know, how did you first get into scouting?
Ryan Blake: I would say 100 percent it was my dad (longtime NBA Director of Scouting Services Marty Blake). We can call it nepotism, but I was with my dad back in the ABA days, at 4 years old, ballboying for Dr. J and Billy Cunningham. Then, in my high school days, I started traveling with my dad and all the legendary scouts that are still around scouting, so I was really tutored in the game of basetball through them and playing basketball as well.
I started scouting in my teens and late teens, and I played through college, but I ended up quitting basketball to play professional tennis. I set up an international network system to put a lot of influence and attention to international scouting in the late '80s and '90s, and have kind of been doing that ever since.
BrooklynNets.com: With that knowledge base, when you look at the prospect pool in a given year, what indicators mark a potential NBA player?
Ryan Blake: He's got to have an NBA skill set and he has to play NBA position. What we do, it's a lot of intuition, a lot of factors that go into how we come up with a denominator for making that decision or evaluation. It's not an exact science: we've been doing statistics for a long, long time, and I still do a lot of the statistics on guys, but we've got to figure out if guys have an NBA skill set.
And a guy doesn't have to be a 6-10 power forward or a 7-foot center -- our game is totally different. There's more than just five positions that we've really dictated throughout the years. There's a lot of different spots on the floor that you can find a rotational player for. When we look in the first round, guys are looking for franchise players, and some of the smart teams are not looking for just franchise players, they're looking for guys that can fit into a need or role or rotation as a sixth man or a guy that might have the potential to be a starter.
BrooklynNets.com: Why is this year's draft widely considered to be deep?
Ryan Blake: Well, I think when you look down, you've got so many players that can make a team, that have the potential and opportunity to even make themselves better and become again a roational player -- all the way through 60 picks. You and I can sit around here, and we can debate whether or not Perry Jones III (Baylor) or Thomas Robinson (Kansas) or Kyle O'Quinn (Norfolk State) are good enough to make the league or someone's better than the other, and it doesn't make us right or wrong -- we can bring up valid points, but when we do, we go: what's the difference between Kyle O'Quinn and (another player)? And there's such a fine line.
We have so many good players this year, that still have potential, especially in the power forward area. This is the deepest position in our draft, and we've got such a variety of different types of power forwards. And if you want to throw Meyers Leonard (Illinois) in there; if you want to call him a stretch center, he can be that stretch 4, really.
I was working with USA TODAY and we have so many guys that can play two positions and aren't really defined at a position. You have a lot of depth, you have a lot of variety and you have a lot of versatility in this draft. I hate it, because I'm a competitive guy, and I don't get to pick the players -- they get to pick the players, and that's where it's going to be tough for the teams.
BrooklynNets.com: So what type of player might be available to the Nets at No. 57?
Ryan Blake: Oh, let's see here. Okay. let's just bring up something on the power forwards. You could have Kevin Jones (West Virginia), Mike Scott (Virginia), JaMychal Green (Alabama), Terrance Henry (Mississippi), I don'/t know if Miles Plumlee (Duke) will go that far, Richardo Ratliffe (Missouri), Mitchell Watt from Buffalo who's a swing, Herb Pope (Seton Hall), Xavier Gibson (Florida State) is another guy, Eric Griffin (Campbell). If they want to hold a player or try to trade, someone like Tomislav Zubcic from Croatia that's really a 6-11 swing. There's just a lot of guys.
And once you get past the first round, it's kind of a crapshoot on where these guys are going to land. It's not a strong international draft, and that's why I think it's going to be interesting. I think guys are going to go, 'I really want to take a chance on some of these other guys,' Maybe a Chace Stanback from UNLV who could be your real utility guy or a Hollis Thompson (Georgetown) or Rakim Sanders (Fairfield).
So what's your teams need? You need a point guard, and you need a power forward -- you've got a player option in
BrooklynNets.com: What differentiates the types of players available in the second round in this deep draft from a "normal" year?
Ryan Blake: Well I don't know what your "normal" year is: last year you got Isaiah Thomas (at No. 60) who was a great player; before that, you've got Landry Fields, you've got
Our point guard spot is probably our weakest positon, but we have decent players there: Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas) is going to be there, and Scott Machado from Iona, I consider him a late-first guy. But if it's an international player, I don't know if they would want to take Evan Founier (Poiters Basket 86, France) -- is he going to be around? He's staying in the draft. But you can get guys like Kevin Murphy, who's kind of like a Kevin Martin-type from Tennessee Tech - 6-6, 195 pounds and just knows how to score; he's got a go-to mentality.
When you have depth like this -- it's not deep in the point guard spot, but you've got a lot of good players all around, and you've got to include the small forwards. That's what makes it so interesting this year. You think of a big like Garrett Stutz from Wichita State, a 7-footer; Justin Hamilton, we've talked about Kyle O'Quinn or Henry Sims (Georgetown), who's what I consider a small forward type at 6-10, 250. And those guys have the ability to be there (in the league).
I don't know what (Nets GM) Billy King's plans are and what (Assistant GM) Bobby Marks' plans are, but I know them and their track records are strong. And they work extremely hard, and they'll work extremely hard for one pick or try to move up.
BrooklynNets.com: With that type of depth and unpredictability, what would be the advantage of trading up in this draft?
Ryan Blake: That's a great question. Sometimes, it's not, especially when you don't know what that player's going to be, if your player's gonna be available and you don't know how that player's going to turn out -- unless you're absolutely sure you can get what you want, and that's what you get. And then you look at that, and those percentages are low.
But you also can take (advantage) of opportunities you consider a mistake, whether it's knowledge or a belief that you don't think the other teams do know or have.
BrooklynNets.com: You mentioned the international class was weak this year -- what defines that group as a whole?
Ryan Blake: Not ready. Just not ready, you know? I said years ago, you can pick guys if you're a first-round, good team that's done well in the playoffs and you've got all of your positions and you've got guys under contract and you don't have a spot to fill; you find (an international) guy that you're intrigued by and you like, and you say, 'Hey, you know what? I like this kid, I don't have to offer him a buyout and I can keep him overseas and let someone else develop him. That's also what you can do in the second, and that's what we tend to do a lot.
For a lot of these guys, it is a different game. Sometimes you don't get to see these guys enough, but sometimes you do, and you might make that right pick and say, 'You know, let someone else develop him for a while. Let's save our spot.'
BrooklynNets.com: Speaking of development, the Nets have a 1-to-1 NBA D-League affiliation with the Springfield Armor. How might that impact a team's thought process?
Ryan Blake: That's an in-house decision. You want someone to develop, but you want someone to help, because you're paying the guy! You can take a guy and go, 'Hey, let's bring him into Summer League, see how good he does and then we can sign him to a contract after that, if we believe in him.' But if you're just going to say, 'Okay, well we've got a spot, we've got money,' sometimes it doesn't make sense. Sometimes you have to make that decision before you make a commitment on closing more salary cap, especially on a team where you have some indecision on some star players.
BrooklynNets.com: Earlier, you mentioned all the "different types" of power forwards available in this draft. How has the concept of "positions" evolved in the NBA?
Ryan Blake: Well you can have just a rebounding power forward, a defensive power forward, a rebounding and scoring power forward, you can have a swing power forward or a stretch power forward, that's a mediocre rebounder. You have guys that run, so that if you're bringing in your second unit and they're runners, then those could be the guys.
Take Draymond Green (Michigan State) for example: What position is he? He's a "swing." He's a great passer, he can shoot the ball. He's not an extremely high jumping, fast-twitch guy, but he knows how to play -- a DeJuan Blair type that could start for a team or may not find minutes for a team, that can make other players better. You've got to remember, even as lottery picks, these guys aren't coming in as your first, second, third or fourth option -- they've got to earn it defensively. So when you get into the second round, you want a guy that has that versatility and he's gonna play defense or he ain't gonna find time on the court. You've gotta have knowledge.
BrooklynNets.com: Anything else we should expect this year?
Ryan Blake: I think Anthony Davis (Kentucky) is gonna create a stir -- he's not gonna have a unibrow when he shows up on stage, ha.
For more on the 2012 NBA Draft, check out Draft Central, presented by Party City.