Jim Clibanoff gives Nuggets unique scouting perspective in draft room

by Aaron Lopez

Even without the power of the Internet, Jim Clibanoff always seemed to know the statistics of his favorite players.

As a basketball fan growing up in Philadelphia in the 1970s and 80s, he’d study the box scores and then wait a half-hour before quizzing himself about what he had read.

How many rebounds did Moses Malone grab? What did Julius Erving shoot from the field?

“As a kid who didn’t play, that’s how you stayed involved in it – by digesting numbers,” Clibanoff said.

Clibanoff’s love for sports and numbers led to a career in basketball scouting and player personnel. On Thursday night, he will take part in his first NBA draft as the scouting director for the Denver Nuggets.

As usual, he will be prepared for whatever general manager Tim Connelly asks him to do.

“I actually have an additional cell phone with me, so we’re in touch with as many teams as possible and have those lines of communication open,” he said. “I’m at their disposal.”

Clibanoff joined the Nuggets after spending the 17 years of running a college scouting service. He made regular appearances as a draft analyst on NBA TV and offered his thoughts on players during other media interviews.

His work as a scout helped him build relationships with Connelly and Nuggets assistant general manager Arturas Karnisovas through the years. They reached out to him while building a front-office team last summer.

“I’m so happy this is the decision that I made,” Clibanoff said. “Working with such a small group has given me an opportunity to learn so much about everything.

I could’ve done my service for the next 30 years and been self-employed and created my own schedule, but at the end of the day, what would I have had? I didn’t have that additional challenge of coming to the team side and working with a group with defined goals – getting a team better and winning a championship.”


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