Draft Discussion with Milton Newton
Milt, this is the first year where U.S. players must be 19 years old and a year removed from high school to be eligible for selection. How has that impacted this year's Draft?
I think the only way it’s impacted the Draft is that you really don’t have that young high school kid that has a lot of potential. Every once in a while you have a LeBron a Garnett or a Kobe, but the majority of kids coming out of high school aren’t ready to give that type of addition to a team right now. A lot of those kids are young and they're talented but they don’t have the maturity.
This year you have more guys that have been in college a couple years and are more mature. They might not be as talented as those one or two high school players that are ultra-talented but immature, but overall I think it’s going to be a solid draft. No superstars, but a lot of good players.
With the Wizards holding a mid first round draft pick (18th overall), is the team better
off with the new rule as compared to previous years?
Yes, I think so especially for our team. We have a good mixture of veterans and young kids and we have about two or three really young players, so I don’t think we need to add any more young players. This year you are looking at guys throughout the draft that are maybe a junior or senior in college that have more maturity. I think the rule does well for our team.
In your position as the team’s Director of Player Personnel, you
spend 365 days a year evaluating talent and that often takes you into international
territory. How do you see international players affecting this year’s
I think, like last year, there will be a few international players selected, but not as much as in years past because over the past couple of years some of the more highly touted international players haven’t really panned out as teams would like them to have. I think a lot of the international players are really wary of what it really takes to play in the NBA, so a lot of them are waiting until their draft year. That said, there are going to be a few international players picked, but I think a lot NBA teams have seen the college players, so they know everything about the college players that are in the draft. I think they might be a little more comfortable picking an American player, coming out of college, as opposed to an international player, especially if they are looking for something right now to help their team.
What are the Wizards looking from the players in these pre-draft workouts
that have been held in recent weeks at Verizon Center?
This is pretty much a time to cross the T’s and dot the I’s for myself and the personnel staff. As far as our coaching staff, they haven’t really seen that many players, but as far as myself and the rest of the personnel staff, these are players that we have seen over the year three, four, five times.
When we bring them in, it’s more so for the coaches, but it is also a chance to put them against the other top players and see them compete. Sometimes they have to do certain things for their college team and so we put them in situations here to do things that they didn’t do during the year; see if they can handle the ball a little bit better, see if they can shoot the ball with a little bit more range. Because maybe if they are a power forward their team needed them in the post and they’ve spent the whole season in the post. We try to see if their range is a little bit more, we try to see them compete in one-on-one and two-on-two drills.
The workouts are held to pretty much to confirm what we have seen during the season and also to see if they can do things a little bit more than what they were allowed to do during the college season.
If a guy has a great college career but has a poor workout with a team,
does that affect a team’s opinion of that particular player?
No. Like I said, you have to go on about your work. If the kid comes in and he doesn’t have a really good workout or if he doesn’t shoot the ball well, maybe he had a long trip over or whatever, but you know this kid can shoot the ball - you’ve seen him shoot the ball well in games. Then you just chalk it up to him not having a good work out. Maybe he was nervous, but in our work outs we really try to concentrate on competition and seeing guys compete. Will they compete when they get tired? Will they compete when they get knocked down? Will they get up and fight again? And so if a kid has a bad work out that’s just a very small blip in terms of his body’s worth that we’ve seen over the years.
The team has a first a round pick this year, and in past Drafts, Ernie has
stated his philosophy of selecting the best player available. Will that continue
this year, or is filling a specific position/need more important?
Yes, that is exactly our philosophy. We will take the best player available, and hopefully the best player at the time is a “big” player. But if it isn’t we also have to accumulate assets - that is the way we go about it.
We haven’t had a first round pick since Jarvis Hayes (10th overall in 2003), but I think we’ve done pretty well with second round picks. So we’re going to go about continuing to do our work and continue to evaluate the Draft and hopefully when Draft day comes around we get a good player.
Do you consider this year’s draft to be deep in talent? And if
so, with the D-League in place, is it better to draft a player in the second round
that can be moved down to the D-League and spend more time developing and hopefully
make strong contributions in the future, or draft a player that can add something
to the team right away?
Yes, I do feel this year’s draft is deep. And for us right now, we’d probably be more inclined to pick a player (in the second round) with a huge upside but who’s maybe not ready right now. Because if you look at our team, we’ve got a pretty good team, we have a talented team, and we have a lot of spots that are pretty much covered. So in terms of our second round pick (48th overall), maybe he’s a young kid that needs a little more maturity; kind of like a P.J. Ramos, who has size, but it was just a matter of him getting more playing time. So if we send that player down to the D-League or overseas, he can develop, and when he’s really ready in a couple of years then we have an asset right there.
Speaking of the D-League, you served as the
Director of Player Personnel for three years. Looking at the D-League now, how
much pride do you take in it?
I’m really proud because some of the things that are going on right now are things that we were pushing for in the initial stages. But you had to have an agreement between the league and the association in terms of whether or not you could send guys down from the NBA and things like that.
Another thing we wanted on the jump street was maybe having a D-League team per NBA team and they’re not to that point but they’re getting there. The league has definitely grown, we’ve seen a lot of players go down and come back up more mature and ready for the NBA.
Prior to his hire with the Wizards organization, Newton held several basketball related posts. Most recently, as a key contributor to the creation of the National Basketball Development League, Newton assisted in the development of league policies and procedures and served as the Director of Player Personnel for three years.
In that role, Newton was responsible for the evaluation, recruitment and signing of players and assisting the Executive Director in the league’s day-to-day basketball operations. In the league’s first two years of operation, Newton played an instrumental role in the transition of 22 players from the NBDL to the NBA.
A member of the 1988 University of Kansas National Championship team under Larry Brown, Newton was named to the NCAA Midwest Regional and Final Four All-Tournament teams.