Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld Talks Draft
Well this is an exciting time. Anytime you have a draft with multiple picks: 6, 18, and 34. We brought in a lot of players because the wheel house is long on that one, so we probably had in 60 players or so who we worked out and evaluated. Obviously this is not the 1st time we’ve seen these players. We’ve seen them for 2 or 3 years depending on how many years they have been in college or it varies with some of the foreign players we had in. It’s an exciting time. We’re going through a rebuilding process that we started last year and we had a lot of rookies on the team last year, seven at the end of the season, four 1st round picks, and we are going to be able to add to our core. Our plan is to get a solid core together, players we can build with and players that can stay together. We were fortunate to get some good players last year and maybe we can add to that core this year and we’ve also gotten some financial flexibility moving forward. So we’re going to continue our game plan and continue the rebuilding process and we think we’re making progress.
On key traits he looks for in a player:
There are 3 ways to improve a team. One is through the draft, one is through free agency, and the third is through trades. So you are always looking for different opportunities and different things, but it takes two to tango, so you need a trade partner. We’re looking for players that are team players, players that think winning is important, players that are willing to sacrifice for the benefit of the team, and the players we feel will fit into what we’re trying to do. Obviously we were fortunate to get a player like John Wall who is a player that can make players around him better. He is a pass first kind of player and he can create some good opportunities for his teammates. We’re trying to get players that compliment him as well as some of our other young players. Last year was about development and putting some pieces together as I’ve said before, but some of our young players that we’ve had developed last year. Our rookies got better, JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche, and Nick Young all had career years. Obviously Nick is a free agent, but he is a restricted free agent this year, so we'll have to handle that situation at the appropriate time. We think we have some good pieces in place, although it’s a young team, I think our young players got some good valuable experience last year.
On which players have impressed the team:
I can’t tell you which players (laughs), but there have been a lot of players. I liked the draft better last year where we could pick whoever we wanted. This year it’s a little bit different because the player we pick will be determined who goes in front of us. But we’ve done our work. I think we’re going to get a solid player. Last year, only three rookies came into the league that averaged double figures, so it’s very seldom that a rookie comes in and makes an immediate impact. Unless they are a top two or three pick and even then it doesn’t always happen. I think we have some good players. I think we’ll get a nice player at 18 although we really don’t know who is going to be there, but we want to get someone who will complement the players we currently have.
On whether they are looking for the best player available or looking to draft a big man:
We’re probably looking for a bigger player if possible, but you never know, if someone slips to us who could be a guard and could be ranked a lot higher then that’s someone you take a look at. In all likelihood we will be looking for a front court player if possible.
On whether intangibles are valued higher this year because it has been deemed a "weak" draft:
We’re always looking for good character, four year players, that always plays a key role, no matter what type of draft you are going through. It’s a whole package, you’re looking for a total package: can they play, are they athletic, are they versatile, are they team players, do they have good character. All those things come into play.
On whether they are looking to draft players who can run the floor with John Wall:
I think you always look for athletes, but you also need different types of players. You need guys who can set picks that free up players, you need shooters who can make those shots. You look at all different types of players and different qualities a player has.
On backing away from international players because of Kevin Seraphin's struggles last year:
We don’t think Kevin really struggled. He struggled with the language, but I think he made some nice progress for a 20 year old player. If it’s a foreign player or a player from the United States, all rookies struggle initially in this league. Kevin did have the initial problem of the language barrier, which he overcame as the season went along, but I think at the end of the season he showed some signs. Now it’s up to him as to how hard he works and how hard he continues to develop, but big guys usually take a little bit longer to develop. We’re not scared of international players. International players make up 20 % of the league right now, so I think they’ve shown they can compete at this level and they can have a lot of success at this level.
On the influence of Ted Leonsis:
I talk to Ted all the time. Obviously he is the owner of the team and we have an outstanding relationship. I make my recommendations and obviously anytime you make a trade the owner is involved somewhat, but I don’t think Ted has hit the path of the recruiting of players or the scouting of players. I don’t think he went to colleges to see these players and he’ll be the first one to tell you that, but he follows it closely as he should.
On the difficulty of scouting international players:
Obviously the more you can see the players the better off it is. Nowadays with the internet you can see almost every game of every player even if they are international players. We’ve taken trips over there and I’ve seen all of the foreign players in person, not only this year but previous years as well, because we follow the careers of these guys and our staff has seen them, so we feel that we have a pretty good handle on these players. Some of these players have played in big time competition, so obviously the more you can see the players the better off you are, but with technology today you really have a lot of games at your disposal.
On what the team will do if they take a big man at pick #6:
It depends, we will try and get a balance with the other picks if we can, but again, if someone we really like slips back to 18, even if it’s a duplicate we’ll still take that player. But we’ll try and get a little bit of balance, if we can a big man at some point whether it’s at 18 or 34, and maybe get a wing player and best available or maybe a guard that might be the direction that we take, but it all depends on how the draft falls. A lot of that is out of our hands, it depends on what teams in front of us do.
On the rumors floating around that the Wizards are trying to trade up:
(Laughs) That’s this time of year. There are a lot of conversations, and we’ve had conversations, there is no question about it, about doing a lot of different things, as have a lot of other teams, that’s what you do at this time of year. Last year at this time we didn’t know we were going to trade and get another pick and actually we had two other picks, we moved up to 23 and we did the Hinrich deal, and two days before the draft it wasn’t on the table for us, so things pop up, and things come up, you never really know. Right now, in all likelihood, we’re going to be picking from where we are right now, we’re comfortable with that. But if the right opportunity presents itself and it’s a thing we think can help us both short term and long term that’s something we'll look at, but those kind of things pop up closer to the draft, and I wouldn’t believe all the rumors that I read either.
On what is planned for the next 48 hours:
We’re going to continue to do our meetings. We’ll have a lot of phone conversations with some other teams, we’ll keep going over and over our draft board, and probably make a lot of adjustments from today to Thursday night. But we’ve gone through this process for a long time, we’ve been talking about these players for the last two or three months, and it has especially intensified the last month or so as we’ve gone through all of these workouts. We feel we have a pretty good handle on who may be available at the positions we’re picking, but again, everyone rates their players a little bit different and we’ll just have to wait and see who is available when it’s our turn to pick.
On whether a workout has changed an opinion on a player:
That’s a good question. We work these guys out for an hour, hour and ten minutes, and it’s just a small process in the whole evaluation process. It’s just one part of it, you want to get to know the players, you want to see their work ethic , you want to see how quickly they pick things up, see their speed and athleticism, but we follow these players through their college careers, so we have a good feel of how they are with players around them. 1-on-1 a lot of people can have a lot of success but when you have a lot of players around you have to show you have a feel for the game. This is a part of the whole evaluation process, but we don’t put 100 % stock if a player has a good workout or bad workout.
On whether you have walked into a workout and thought you need to have that player:
It depends, I don’t think so, but if a player was a top player and we said this is the guy, it may really clarify it for you and say this is the guy we want. But it wasn’t like someone wasn’t on your radar and all of a sudden I’m going to take this guy. We have a lot of players on our radar and maybe they’ll move up a spot or two on good workouts or down, but no one is going to take a quantum leap from one of these workouts.
On the workout process for the players:
It’s an interesting process. These players are going through an NBA lifestyle right now, because they are going through 10, 12, or 14 different workouts and doing a lot of traveling. They have to be in really good shape. The workouts are probably similar in most places, but it shows what kind of stamina they have, what kind of shape they are in, their level of concentration, and you can see a couple of things like that. It’s also very important you get a chance to talk to these guys. You get to spend a half hour or 45 minutes talking to them, getting to know them a little bit better. See how they interact with our staff, with other players around them, which is all very important from a chemistry standpoint.
On whether the Wizards draft board has been altered:
Yes, occasionally we move our board around a little bit, but again nobody is going to go up or down 15 spots. Maybe one or two guys change and we have a difference in opinion, and the good thing is we have a lot of discussion which is very healthy.
On whether criteria changes as they see more players:
No our criteria mainly remains the same. It’s very seldom you have players back. We’ve had a couple players have a few workouts, but most of the time, you have one player in and it’s one time and that’s it. Every once in a while you have a player in for a second look. Maybe he didn’t have a good workout so you want to see him again or maybe he had a great workout and it peaks your interest to see what he does next time.