"What are you looking at?" OR, How I assess prospects

Feb 16, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; NBA legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (left) and Bill Russell talk during the 2014 NBA All-Star Game Legends Brunch at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Since we’re hip-deep in prospect evaluation season, I thought I’d take a few minutes to share my views on what I’m looking for. These are general principles, and better thought of as tools for narrowing down the prospect list, rather than how to come to a conclusion on an individual. Let’s imagine I’m at a college game to watch a player of interest named Jimmy Hotstuff.

  1. Jimmy, you’ve got to show me something on both sides of the ball. Unless you’re the second coming of Pistol Pete Maravich, I better get solid evidence that you’ve got more than a vague clue about defense. I don’t need spectacular shot blocking, although I’ll take it. I’m more interested in whether your man is getting easy shots, either by shooting over you or blowing by you. Can you provide help defense? Are your hands up? Are you communicating? How’s your lateral footwork?
  2. Conversely, I don’t want a defensive specialist. If you’re a prospect, you should be able to score within your team’s schema. I’m not in the least comfortable about you, Jimmy, if you can’t put up points against your college opponents. If you can’t score at this level, why should I believe you are going to do it in the big league?
  3. How strong are your fundamentals? Is your jump shot sound, with toes together and pointed at the basket, and a high release point? How solid are your screens? Do you recognize an opportunity to take a charge on D? Can you box out?
  4. How do you handle adversity? You just had your shot blocked/missed an uncontested layup/had your pocket picked at mid-court by their point guard…Do you fold? Do you race back into position, or do you hang your head? Everybody makes mistakes. I need to see a positive response when you do.
  5. I need a strong sense of your intangibles beyond coping with adversity. Are you the last guy back on defense three times in a row? Do you ignore your coach and/or your teammates? Do you chirp at the refs? Because if you are guilty of any of those sins, Jimmy, I’m leaving the gym without a backward glance.

I haven’t dealt with statistics as yet, which are hugely important but don’t need a scouting trip to grapple with. We’ll leave them for another time.

What about you, Rapture Nation? What do you want to see (and not see) from your Raptors-to-be?


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