Scouting Rumors

Every team had advanced scouts who’d dutifully jot down the plays that the next opponent was running, but few, if any, had pro personnel departments dedicated to gathering every last tidbit of information about NBA veterans they might acquire via trade or sign as free agents. Now, most teams have numerous people doing this dirty but necessary work. The proliferation of pro scouting came at a time when less information about college players was available than ever before, as players stayed in school for at most one or two years. The draft was becoming a much riskier way to build your team. With this trend came the realization that the financial investment in draft picks was minimal compared to a big-ticket free-agent signing or franchise-shaping trade, either of which could make or break your franchise.
Scouts and personnel men quickly learned that the real scoop would come from ball boys, equipment guys, teammates, various members of a player’s entourage and even other scouts. (In case you’re wondering, yes, media reporting on the NBA has evolved in much the same way.) “All the GMs have their guys out there, and their job is to go get information,” said another person who is an executive with a team. “It’s really extreme, but it’s what is going on right now. That is the norm, it has to be done, and every team does it.”
So in describing what kind of investment Deng would be for the Hawks, Ferry didn’t say a word about his wing defense or his offensive rebounding, or even what kind of fit he would be with the various talents on the roster or with the coaching staff. Instead, his scouting report — prepared from multiple sources, including former teammates and yes, ballboys, according to a league source — read more like a psychological profile filled with loosely verified gossip and innuendo. In this way, in the tabloid culture of the NBA and pro sports in general, it was no different than any other scouting report or, frankly, most of the sports coverage you read or watch on TV.
How to scout an NBA season. This comes anonymously from an NBA advance scout. I’m going to break this extended interview into three parts, so come back next Friday for Part II: “Each year, I do 100 games during the regular season where I’ll go to an arena to scout other teams. In addition, I’ll be at about 20 of my own team’s games, so I’ll wind up going to 120 games over the course of this season. “What I generally try to do — and most other scouts do the same thing – is to go see a team live twice before our team is going to play them for the first time. Then the next time you play that team, I’ll try to go see them another time before my team plays them again. If it’s been a long time since we’ve played them — maybe they’ve had a coaching change or a major personnel change — then I might try to see them twice again to get myself ready for the new things they’re doing.