Frequently Asked Questions: 2013 NBA Draft

Pelicans Frequently Asked Questions About the 2013 NBA Draft
June 12, 2013

With the June 27 NBA draft rapidly approaching, it’s time to empty out the Twitter mailbag and try to address (in far more than 140 characters) some of fans’ most common questions. The New Orleans Pelicans own the sixth overall pick of the first round. The Pelicans do not have a second-round pick, as a result of a 2012 three-team trade with Memphis and Philadelphia.

When will the Pelicans begin working out draft prospects?
Very soon. Pelicans head coach Monty Williams indicated that at least a couple draft prospects have declined the invitation to come to New Orleans. Often at the advice of their agents, players projected to be picked early in the draft sometimes choose not to visit clubs selecting lower than their anticipated spot. For instance, if a player believes he will get chosen first, second or third, his agent may instruct him to skip visiting the team that has the sixth pick. It’s a tactic Williams has frequently and publicly criticized throughout his three-year tenure in New Orleans, but one that all NBA teams have dealt with at some point.

Pelicans Draft Central “It’s a different (situation) now, where guys don’t want to work out (for specific teams),” Williams said. “I’m not really a fan of that, but it’s the climate that we live in.”

How important are draft workouts in the evaluation process?
It depends on a team’s philosophy and emphasis, but in general, NBA front offices do not believe a one-day workout should override a player’s body of work accumulated over one or more seasons against top-level competition. If a player had a disappointing college career, for instance, a fantastic three-hour workout will not erase all of an NBA team’s concerns. In addition, draft workouts primarily feature two-on-two or three-on-three halfcourt play, which obviously does not come close to replicating game conditions.

Best player available, or draft for need?
Is “both” an acceptable answer? During his USA Basketball press conference this week, Williams sounded hopeful that the Pelicans will be able to accomplish twin objectives on June 27 when it’s their turn to pick.

“Hopefully the best player (available also) fits your need,” Williams said. “We’re at a point with the franchise now where we want to get a really good player who does fit a need we have. And yet, we have a lot of young guys. It doesn’t slow down the process, but (having a young roster) does lend to a ton more teaching than if you had a veteran coming in. We have money to spend this summer and we’ll have what we think is going to be a really good player in the draft. It’s going to take time to get that guy to come around. You’ve got to find a guy who can play and fits the need of our team.”

Williams points to the ongoing NBA Finals as a telling example of why teams must be patient with youth.

“When you look at the NBA, San Antonio and Miami aren’t winning with rookies,” Williams said. “So to put that kind of pressure on a rookie, that doesn’t work. You don’t see any rookies out there right now doing work. It’s all veterans and guys who’ve been in that situation before. So this young guy you’re talking about (the Pelicans’ No. 6 pick) might get there three or four years from now. That’s just the way the NBA is.”

Would the Pelicans considering trading up or down?
It’s a possibility, based on the comments of Williams and general manager Dell Demps since the conclusion of the 2012-13 season. Given the highly unpredictable nature of this year’s draft class, that may increase the likelihood of NBA teams moving up and down the draft ladder. Perhaps more than in any recent offseason, there seems to be little consensus on the top prospects, which could encourage trades.

“It’s that kind of draft,” Williams said. “(Draft analysts are) talking about how a guy could be (picked) No. 1, or he could be 10th. I’ve never seen a draft like that. In this draft, guys are all over the place. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Draft night should be pretty interesting. Teams may trade picks, because they don’t understand this draft the way they did last year. Last year we looked at the draft and were like ‘Anthony (Davis is) number one, and it’s not close.’ You never know. You could find a really good player with the sixth pick. That’s why we’ve got to do our work.”

As is the case with every NBA team, the Pelicans will have all options on the table in order to make the decision that most benefits the franchise.

“If something presented itself, and Dell and Mickey (Loomis) felt comfortable about it, I trust their judgment,” Williams said when asked specifically about possible draft-night maneuvers. “I don’t study the (overall) draft the way those guys do. I have to trust they’ll do what’s best for the team. I’m sure if there is an opportunity that presented itself, up or down, we’re going to do it to make the team better. That’s our goal.”

How does the dynamic between a GM and head coach work?
Evaluating college and international draft prospects is a year-round pursuit for NBA general managers. For obvious reasons, that’s not possible for NBA head coaches, who contend with an endless amount of time demands during the 82-game season, preventing them from closely monitoring college basketball. When he enters the draft process in earnest each spring, Williams brings a different viewpoint than Demps and the Pelicans’ basketball operations staff, who delve deeply into the off-the-court background of potential draftees.

“Those guys spend more time studying players,” Williams said of New Orleans’ scouting department. “They watch (prospects) all year long. I started watching them last month (after the regular season ended). They’ve talked to (prospects’) high school coaches, AAU coaches, family. I haven’t done all that. So from my standpoint, I’m watching film and I’ll (see prospects) here for a workout, but I’ve got to see it from a different lens, because I don’t have all the background (research) that Dell and his staff have.”

Given those two outlooks, it’s not unusual within any NBA team for there to be differences of opinion.

“There (may) be a (prospect) that I really like that (Demps and his staff) may know more about than I do,” Williams said. “They may have a different perspective, because I haven’t studied them as well or as much. “(As a coach) I’m trying to look at how does he fit (with the team on the court)? Those are the ongoing discussions that we have, because we’re always trying to mesh the two (perspectives).”