On the Beat: Colangelo to Bring Consistent Scouting Approach to Combine

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

PHILADELPHIA -  Bryan Colangelo is ready to get down to the business of  “basketball building.”  His first prominent chance to do so comes this week in Chicago, at the annual NBA Draft Combine.

“Obviously, I’ve got a lot of pent up energy,” Colangelo told Sixers.com in a recent interview.  

It’s easy to understand why.

Before being named the 76ers’ President of Basketball Operations, the two-time NBA Executive of the Year award winner had been out of the league for more than three years, after back-to-back general manager and president stints with the Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors.  

In the month since his hiring, Colangelo has devoted most of his time to getting a lay of the land around the Sixers, both in respect to the organization’s infrastructure, and the team’s personnel.  

“There’s some good, young, developing talent,” Colangelo said in reference to the current state of the Sixers during his Sixers.com interview.  “It’s just right now, we’re still looking for someone to step forward and become a star.  That’s not to say that they’re not there, there’s not the potential for one of those pieces to do so.  What we’re looking to do is build.  There’s a lot of good pieces in place.  What we have more than anything, we have resources and picks to move forward and try to add some of those pieces.”

Now, Colangelo will be thrust into a critical stretch of the NBA calendar during which he and the front office will be able to form important opinions about how to best utilize the draft.  In addition to the combine, which runs from May 11th through the 15th at the Quest Multisport Complex, two other major events await on the horizon.  The lottery will be staged May 17th, and the draft itself will take place June 23rd.

According to Colangelo, a “consensus” exists among league circles that there are two prospects who stand out above the rest in this year’s crop of hopefuls.  He didn’t need to name names.  Check out any mock draft, including the highly-respected one from DraftExpress.com, and you’ll likely find Brandon Ingram or Ben Simmons at the top of the board, and not necessarily in that order.  Ingram will headline the group of projected top picks expected to be in attendance in the Windy City this week.   Simmons, though, will be a notable absence.

“I think it’s too early to determine exactly how many stars are in the draft,” said Colangelo.  Between the Sixers’ own pick, the possible conveyance of the Los Angeles Lakers’ slot, and the two other first-rounders the Sixers have in tow, he feels the franchise is in good shape.

“You can look at this draft and say back at 24 [via Miami] or 26 [via Oklahoma City], where our later first-round picks reside, there’s going to be an opportunity there to pull a player.  Or, to take that pick and do something else with it, maybe differ to the future, because we may not want to add too many young players to an already young core of talent.  I think it all depends on what there, and what happens ahead of us.  

“What I think is you’re going to get a really good pick at the top of the draft, and then you’re going to get something that could potentially be a nice piece, a nice addition to a roster in the later part of the round.”

When Colangelo began overseeing Phoenix’s basketball operations in 1995, he did so around the time of his 30th birthday.  From the get go, he displayed a knack for successfully plucking impact talent from the draft.  Between first and fifth drafts, Colangelo had three first-round picks.  With each one, he landed an eventual All-Star: Michael Finley (1995); Steve Nash (1996), who would go on to become a two-time MVP as well; and Shawn Marion (1999).  Three years later, Colangelo snagged Amar’e Stoudemire.  

In Toronto, Colangelo used first-round choices on DeMar DeRozan (1999), another future All-Star, and Jonas Valanciunas.  Both are key components to a Raptors squad that has ripped off three straight Atlantic Division titles, and are selections that reflect the solid track record Colangelo has compiled in 18 seasons as a league executive.

“There’s different circumstances in each draft,” Colangelo said.  “What’s consistent is the process of preparation.  We go through an evolution in everything, but consistency in basketball evaluation, number of live sightings, video scouts, reading the reports of your various scouts, knowing and understanding everything about that player from a basketball standpoint.  You want to do a very diligent job.”

This approach has remained a priority for Colangelo, even as new channels of information have emerged in recent years.

“There’s so much that goes into this process that now we’ve...kind of peeled the onion back more,” said Colangelo, specifically citing that “physical and biometric data” are important tools now available to clubs.  “Analytics, there’s a whole new predictive way that we look at draft picks, what players are capable of, and what they’ve achieved in similar statistical groups.  That’s a combination of everything you look at.  How do they turn out as players?  Is this player similar enough in all those categories and areas that you can project out with some certainty that that player might yield that kind of result?  There’s just a tremendous amount of information that we’re acquiring, assembling, putting together.”

From the observations he’s gathered in four weeks with the team, Colangelo believes the Sixers are well-positioned to make educated decisions.

“A lot of [information] is already in the books because it’s been done, in some cases weeks of work, in some cases years of work,” he said.  “You chase and track talent as long as you possibly can.  There are players that have been on our radar for a while, and they are now about to be drafted, and we’re looking forward to that process coming to a conclusion soon.”

But first, that process truly has to get underway, and it starts with this week’s combine.  

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