Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 22 No. 39
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Closing Shot: Take Your Pick

The NBA draft is a year-round process of evaluation and discussion, and a lot can change — or go wrong. As this year’s edition draws near, one team’s executives explain what the final steps of the process are like.
Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo soared up draft boards last year after he won Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors, eventually going No. 17 to the Bucks.
Photo: getty images
Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo soared up draft boards last year after he won Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors, eventually going No. 17 to the Bucks.
Photo: getty images
Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo soared up draft boards last year after he won Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors, eventually going No. 17 to the Bucks.
Photo: getty images

Few decisions determine the fortunes of a team more than the NBA draft. A smart pick can put a team on a championship trajectory, while a big miss can set a franchise back.

Despite endless hours spent in scouting, evaluation and analytics, the draft is an inexact science loaded with risk and pressure on the most public of stages.

“If you don’t feel a lot of it, you are working in the wrong business,” said Milwaukee Bucks general manager Jon Horst as he prepped for Thursday’s draft in Brooklyn. “It is the representation of the work of your staff and their ability to evaluate talent, culture, fit and analytics. You are putting your reputation and your staff’s reputation on the line.”

While much of the evaluation work is already completed come draft week, team GMs and scouts spend the final hours leading up to their pick tweaking their strategy.

“The goal is to crystalize everything, formalize it and communicate it,” Horst said. “The draft for us is a continuing process. There is not a start and finish; it’s a year-round evaluation and year-round discussion. The end result is a plan of attack with priorities that leave you with an easy decision.”

Bucks assistant general manager Milt Newton said, “You do the best possible job you can during the season when you evaluate. I know for us as a staff, we really put a lot of work into the selection and when the draft is over, we all feel good about it. There is some anxiety. You never know what can happen. Injuries can happen.”

When evaluating talent, teams are maniacal in gathering information from as many places as possible. When draft day finally arrives, there is little or nothing that a team doesn’t know about a potential draft pick.

“Once we’ve had the draft workouts, taken [potential players] out for dinner and spent time with them, on the scouting side, the whole goal is to give Jon and Milt all the information,” said Matt Bollero, director of scouting for the Bucks. “By the last week, all that stuff has been funneled in.”

When NBA Commissioner Adam Silver calls out a team’s selection on draft night, the scouting staff can finally breathe a bit easier.

“Whether you make a pick or trade the pick, there is always a sense of relief no matter what the result,” Horst said. “You’ve done everything in your power.”