Glen Grunwald: "This year's draft will break a little later"
What is your assessment of the Raptors’ season this year in terms of player personnel?
Glen Grunwald: It was a surprisingly good year, especially towards the end of the season where we made a character push with this team. Because of the parity in the Eastern Conference, it makes it difficult to assess a team’s past performance. You can miss the playoffs the previous year, like the Boston Celtics and the New Jersey Nets, then challenge for a chance in the NBA Finals.
What is your overall take on the available talent in the upcoming draft? Will there be players that make an immediate impact on the franchise that selects them?
GG: Well, we’re drafting at 20th pick. I do think that the draft is deep enough this year that we’ll get a pretty good player, unlike the Mo' Peterson year when the draft broke at the 21st pick. This year’s draft will break a little later. In terms of real impact players, Jay Williams of course, and Yao Ming, I suppose, but from what I hear, he is two years away from being a real impact player in the NBA. It’s always tough for rookies to come in and make an immediate impact. But then you look at the end of last year’s draft with players like Pau Gasol and Tony Parker, who came in immediately and played great. I suppose it depends on the right situation.
How are you approaching the upcoming NBA draft? Is your outlook more focused towards one particular position over another?
GG: It sort of depends right now. We’re trying to figure out where we’re at. If you look at our roster, we have eleven guys under contract, and we’re thin in the backcourt with Chris Childs and Dell Curry being free agents. They’re good players and we’re trying to retain them, but in terms of positioning for the draft, you can make a case for a point guard or a shooting guard. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll draft at that position, because you can rearrange positions if need be, depending on the talent available.
What are your criteria for assessing draft prospects?
GG: Well, we try to look at all areas of a player. We scout him to see him over the course of his career. Some careers are relatively short, especially if you are talking about a prospect out of high school. You don’t get as much game scouting with those players. We try, however, to assess them athletically, try to quantify how quick they are, how fast they are, how high they jump, different speeds, how strong they are.
We do workouts to try to breakdown their individual skills, to see what they do well, what they don’t do well, areas they can improve on, how their footwork is, etc. Then we do background checks (laugh), but not necessarily to find skeletons in the closet. Sometimes the adversity a player has to go through is a strength rather than a weakness, especially if they’ve overcome obstacles. We also conduct psychological profiles to see if we can try to get into their heads to see what they’re thinking. (Laugh)
Do you expect there to be a lot of activity come draft day, and how has the influx of European prospects altered your preparation?
GG: I scouted the Euroleague Final Four, but a lot of the good players there have their rights controlled by other teams. However, there are more players in that tournament that can help an NBA team than from an NCAA tournament, not to disparage the NCAA in any way. The players from Europe are more experienced and they have played 60 or 70 games over there, which makes the transition smoother. As for draft day activity, there is always trade talk but it takes two teams to get something happening, and for us, nothing is imminent right now.
Does Vince have any input on whom you will draft?
GG: Well, I talk to a lot of our players about our current team, and what they think we need to do, if they know a person, etc. You try to get as much information as you can and players are a great source for that, and I think you have to respect a player’s opinions. They’re not just players, they understand the nature of the game.
Do you approach the upcoming NBA draft with an overall basketball philosophy, or style, in mind?
GG: You have your basic personnel and Lenny Wilkens is a very adaptive coach. He’s going to use the players we have the best way he could, whether it be up tempo or slower in the halfcourt. We’d like to play at a fast pace; we think we have some players that can get up and down the court. It’s better for a player, like Vince Carter, to get the ball in an open court situation.
GG: Definitely, it’s not always what happens on the court. There must be the potential for off court chemistry as well. But even if you have the same players the year before, it’s not going to be the exact same situation again. Things change so quickly in this business. Chemistry is an evolving thing on a team.
Have you entertained the possibility of packaging your first round pick with a player for a more seasoned NBA player? You’ve had success doing that before, i.e. the Antonio Davis trade.
GG: To match your needs with another teams needs if very difficult at times. In addition, every trade has to match up salary wise. That being said, we will certainly explore all possibilities of trades in order to improve our team, as well as signing our own free agents.
You’ve done exceptional in the past with your draft selections. Do you feel the pressure now to live up to those past accomplishments when you are drafting a player?
GG: Well, there is always pressure. It’s a publicly scrutinized business and it’s very competitive on this front. Other teams are doing their best to improve their talent especially when there is such parity in the Eastern Conference. Little changes, injuries, or mistakes, can drastically affect the way a team plays. I don’t think it’s ever been as topsy-turvy as it’s been this year.
Finally, who are the front-runners for your first round pick in the draft?
GG: Well, I’m not going to tell right now. (Laugh) We’ve had some good workouts. We’ve had Dan Dickau and Juan Dixon work out here, and others of course. The talent pool is getting younger and younger, which is why a lot of teams are basing their draft on potential. We’ll see what may come.
Dean Serravalle is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com
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