Suns News

Suns Scouts Talk Draft Preparation

Blanks and Co. are in the last stages of preparing for the upcoming NBA Draft.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: June 1, 2011

When the time arrives to select the No. 13 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, the Suns will have five minutes on the clock to make their selection. But what few fans thoroughly understand is that those five minutes are a culmination of a year’s worth of extensive scouting and dedicated research.

When Suns GM Lance Blanks was hired last August, Phoenix began to overhaul its entire scouting department. Former Erie BayHawks Head Coach and Division I assistant coach John Treloar was hired as Director of Player Personnel, with the rest of the front office filling in behind the pair.

Former Suns assistant coach John Shumate stayed on board as a scout, while Drew Kennedy, Dan Panaggio, Chris Jones and Kornel David were also added as scouts in September. From that point on, that crew of talent evaluators has been examining players all around the country and world in preparation for this draft.

The draft can be a very unique animal because not only is a team unaware of where it will ultimately pick, but draft picks can be traded or changed as the season evolves. Adding to the draft's complexity is the idea that scouts are attempting to look into a player's future and pinpoint his potential value for their organizations.

“With the draft, you’re trying to project something that hasn’t happened,” Blanks said. “There’s a fairly large percentage of these guys that will fail and a much smaller percentage that will be successful. You can analyze it in 100 different ways and we try to analyze it in every way possible, but at the end of the day, you’re still going to have to make a gut judgment call based on taking in a lot of data and information.”

With Blanks being the ringleader, the scouts initially all met in training camp to discuss each others’ assignments. From there, they embarked to different parts of the world to begin studying players.

As early as October, Suns scouts were attending the college practices of prospects in their respective regions. Starting in January, the scouts reconvene every month for a scout summit.

The summits give the scouts an opportunity to exchange and relay information to one another. After a summit, they head back out on the road, cross-checking each others’ work.

“The summits give us the opportunity to download one another, re-organize and redirect our focus to whatever stage we are in the season,” Treloar said.

Once they’ve identified prospects with potential, they’ll have Treloar and Blanks follow behind them to see him play, as well. Starting in November and December, the scouts begin to eliminate players that they don’t believe are NBA-ready.

After the NCAA Championship game and the Euroleague Finals, the next phase of analyzing players occurs. There are a bevy of scouting showcases for NBA scouts to attend.

For example, the Postsmouth Invitational features the best college seniors in the country, the NBA’s Pre-Draft Camp in Chicago is the first opportunity for team personnel to speak with prospects, and combined group workouts with other NBA teams pits players of similar positions against each other. In addition, there are also NBA-sanctioned high-school events like the McDonald’s All-American game that gives NBA teams the opportunity to catch their first glimpse at the future stars of college basketball.

Once the Suns scouts have whittled their prospects down to a manageable amount, they begin hosting individual workouts based on their draft position and needs. One workout may consist of potential lottery picks, while another workout may be comprised of players that will go undrafted.

In that type of workout, the Suns’ staff is hoping to find a hidden gem that goes overlooked. Miami’s Udonis Haslem is a prime example of a player that has contributed greatly to a championship team, all while going undrafted.

As a talent evaluator, the individual workouts are advantageous because the players face each other in the Suns’ system. In addition, the scouts get to know the personality and character of the players off the court.

“You put them in situations that you can’t put them in during college games,” Blanks said. “In college, they are putting a player in the best position for a team to be successful, whereas you are putting him in positions to see what he can do. It’s also the time you get guys to come into your environment, learn about them and have a more intimate interaction than you would’ve had with them before this.”

While the individual workouts are occurring, the Suns’ scouts zero in on their favorite players that could be available at their draft position. And even though they’ve already seen that player multiple times live, the scouts will pull all of his video and literally watch each and every one of his games from the season.

In order to evaluate all of these players, Blanks has developed a system that each one of the scouts applies toward both college prospects and current NBA players.

“You have to come up with attributes that you believe fit the organization and make sense for where the organization is in its life cycle,” the Suns GM said. “And then it’s a judgment call of how the guy performs from a basketball standpoint, as well as off the court. When you put all of that together, you still are going to get back to your gut in determining whether or not that player makes sense or not to select.”

As far as the Suns’ pick at No. 13, the front office is looking to fill needs on the roster. If the type of needs they desire to be filled are already gone, they’ll nab the best player available.

Now figuring out what goes into finding the best player available is the magic of scouting.

“We do have a grading system and within that system there are different categories,” Treloar said. “Lance is the one that has created that system for professional and college players. It’s very in-depth and it covers the basketball part, as well as the cultural aspect of helping us win a championship.”

On June 23, the Phoenix faithful will see who that will be.

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