When NBA teams are getting ready to make a draft selection, nothing is left to chance. Teams will fly groups of players in to work them out and match them up against each other to see who is toughest and who competes hardest. A lot of teams administer the same written, multiple-choice psychological survey. I must have seen the same survey four times from four different teams. One team (Chicago Bulls) actually brought in a psychologist to administer a whole set of unique tests. One of the sit down interviews in Chicago may have been a type of IQ test. I’m still not sure.
They test your strength in the weight room, your body fat, watch how you interact with the equipment manager and trainers, and seem analyze everything you do and say. Then, a lot of teams will have you sit down with the General Manager for an interview. I still remember my interview for the LA Lakers. “Do you drink?” They asked. “No,” I said. “That’s the first time in years we’ve interviewed two players in a row who both don’t drink,” they replied. The player before me was a UCLA player who has ended up having a very nice professional basketball career.
Mitch Kupchak (Current LA Lakers GM) asked me an interesting question during the interview process. “Who is the best [current] college player you have played against?” I knew right away. “Jaron Rush,” I said. I still think he was the best I played against in college. I ended up playing with his brother Kareem Rush for the Lakers for a year.
Mitch probably got some good information from all the people he interviewed. What better way to try to assess the draft class and future drafts than asking the people who have grown up playing against each other in high school, AAU, pickup games and college games.
Over the course of years, I’ve probably spoken to well over 10 different NBA general managers. I asked one with a pretty nice draft history “How do you know who to draft each year?” His exact words to me were: “It’s a crapshoot.”
Then it clicked. There are just too many unknown variables that are impossible for GM’s to predict. If every GM was perfect, then there’s no way that Kevin Garnett and Kobe would have been selected as low as they were in the draft. There would never be any draft “busts.”
But someone has to make the decision and that’s why the GM’s go to great lengths to get as much information as possible. When Brevin Knight was a senior at Stanford, the rumor circulation around campus was that there was a private investigator going around campus asking questions to verify Brevin’s very high personal character. We were told that for the top 10 projected picks, private investigators came around asking questions.
When they make a great pick, they are hailed as “great talent evaluators.” When they mess up with a pick they are labeled by the media as “out of touch” or “can’t see the obvious.” To the GM who ends up with the 1st pick in this years NBA draft I say “good luck.”