NBA Draft Chat: 6/23/2006

NBA Draft Chat: 6/23/2006
Jun 24, 2006, 01:32 am
A wide-ranging interview conducted with Toronto Raptors blog RaptorsHQ.

Thanks to Howland of RaptorsHQ. for conducting and transcribing the interview.

Howland: Obviously with the draft coming up you guys have been super busy. What have you been up to the past few weeks?

Jonathan Givony: Past two weeks? Today is Saturday the 17th? Exactly two weeks ago I got in my car with our Director of NCAA Scouting Jonathan Waters and we drove to Orlando for the start off of our NBA pre-draft coverage. On Sunday we went out to watch Alexander Johnson, Guillermo Diaz and Jeremy Kelly work out and then on Sunday we were at IMG to watch Patrick O’Bryant, Thabo Sefolosha, Kyle Lowry and Cedric Simmons. Then the pre-draft camp. Coverage there, and I’ve been home since working the phones and going back and forth with some people trying to get as much info as I can and relay to others. Been following the trade stuff, and breaking down a lot of tape. We have a cool tool now we can use now where if you want to study every move that say Tyrus Thomas has ever made, every isolation or post move this season, or any move he’s made on the perimeter, it breaks it down for you into about a three minute stretch. So we have been looking at that a lot which helps us break down some isolated things you can’t see on tape as much. And that is pretty much what we do, watch a lot of tape, talk to a lot of people, etc.

The thing that needs to be mentioned is, we did most of our work in November, December, January, February and March. Now we tighten the screws a little bit. We still have a little more tape to break down, but we have done most of our work already. In terms of analyzing the prospects, the pre-draft camp…I don’t think really swayed me that much, or the workouts. The games are what decide how good these guys are going to be as NBA players in my mind.

Howland: We have checked out your site for a long time and really enjoy it. When did you start this?

Jonathan Givony: We started in December 2003, I believe. It had a couple of different names. It started off as NBADraftZone, and after about two days we thought it would be a bad idea to use the word “NBA” in our name, and then it went to another name. We did that for about a year and a half, and then the shit hit the fan, so we switched to DraftExpress with all of our important old staff members, and it has done well. Just looking at our traffic we have about three times as many people today as we had at the same point last year, and about fifty times what we had two years ago.

With all the interviews we get, the tapes we acquire and the great contacts we have, we’ve become pretty well established at this point I feel. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are doing well for ourselves so far, far better than I ever imagined at least.

Howland: So when you decided to do this, what was the thought process? Was it simply thinking “I love ball, I love the draft, so let’s do a site?”

Jonathan Givony: The thought process was, we looked at what was out there at the time and thought “This is not really an accurate assessment of the NBA Draft landscape.” We really just didn’t like what was out there, or thought that there was room for someone to come in and expand on what was already out there. So instead of complaining about it, we decided to do something on our own. I just didn’t think that the level of pure basketball analysis on the prospects and games was sufficient. We also really felt that a lot of bad messages were being sent out about certain kids rising to the top five in one week and the next he would be in the second round. Too many exterior motives coming into play if you know what I mean. I know for a fact that all the players visit the site, all the family members. I felt like a bad message was being sent and we kinda wanted to be a balancing force in this and bring a little bit more level headedness to the process....and then it blew up more than we ever thought it would. We thought we would just be a couple of hacks ya know, but it turned into something a lot more professional very soon, which forced us to become much more professional as well as you’ve seen. We got into the pre-draft camp on our first year, and we were the only NBA Draft site there, as well as last year. It has been going pretty good and we are pretty pleased with it.

Howland: Yeah that is sorta the same thing we did. We looked around at what was being covered for the Raps and thought “This is all just garbage.” So you went to the O’Bryant work out. How was that?

Jonathan Givony: I saw him work out twice. It was fun. He is an impressive guy to watch in a setting like that. He’s got some tools, I can tell you that…

Howland: So when you go to these workouts do people recognize you now?

Jonathan Givony: Well we’re usually invited there. A lot of times what will happen is we will be talking to their representatives, or maybe even someone in their family, and they will tell us “We think this guy is a lot better than what you think, a better ball handler than you give him credit for” or “He’s a much better shooter”....or just “You have to come see how good this guy is.” So we ask whether we can go and watch them work out. We did that a few times and it went well and people liked the reports and now we are pretty much invited to a lot of workouts that we even have to turn down. With O’Bryant it was specifically IMG.....we have been going there for a couple of years, and they were pretty happy with how professional the coverage was, the level of analysis, and they did not have a problem with us coming in again, and taking a look.
Exposure is what this business is all about, and people understand that we are not just going to give favorable reviews before we walk into the gym. People respect that and they value our professional opinion and that is why we are invited back. People can’t fault you if you make the extra effort to come see a guy. No one can question you if you put the legwork in. And as you’ve seen this year, we’re working non-stop to cover everything in a way that hasn’t been done before.

Howland: So how many site visitors do you get in a day?

Jonathan Givony: About 100,000 visitors these days. This is our peak time and it rises every day. We usually break our traffic record every day now. There is a lot of interest, we have done a lot of interviews with some big papers, like the LA Times, the Washington Post, and I do a half a dozen radio interviews a day or more in some really big cities, but most of it really is word of mouth. People love the draft and they want more detailed coverage on it and that is why the word spreads.

Howland: Now, have you ever been asked specifically by an GM or a scout for an opinion at a work out?

Jonathan Givony: Absolutely. It happens all the time. Everyone wants to know what other people think and compare it with what they think and it’s just a back and forth. Especially during the middle of the year that happens a lot, now people are a little more tight-lipped about their opinions on prospects. During the season I will make my top 100 list of prospects, sorted by position, and send it out to a few select NBA teams that ask me for it. So they do their own homework but I feel that they respect what we do, we bring a bit of a fresh perspective because we have been putting the time and the legwork in and they respect what we have to say. It doesn’t mean they listen, but again, we are out there watching as many games and tapes as they do, so at least our opinions are well-founded.

Howland: Ok, so we only have a short period of time between now and the draft. So what is the next week like for you? You said it’s down time, but are there more workouts to go to?

Jonathan Givony: No more workouts, because most are now private workouts with specific NBA teams over the next 10 days, and it will mostly be working the phone, watching tape and finalizing scouting reports, and making sure we are in the loop....analysis, articles, and just try and keep it going. For us this is kind of a dead time. I’m much happier in February and March when there are a lot of games going on, and I prefer writing about basketball....there are some times when we have to be more journalists than scouts, and that’s fine, but now is more the journalism part of the business, investigative reporting, and keeping guys in the loop and trying to sort out what’s real and what not. DraftExpress is the middle-ground between being a journalist and a scout, and at this time of the year there is more journalism than I’d probably prefer. Put me frontrow at a Euroleague or SEC game and I’m the happiest guy in the world, the other stuff not as much, but its part of the business and we enjoy that too. The hype definitely generates more interest and controversy than the pure basketball analysis, and that’s kind of a shame.

Howland: You obviously watch a ton of NCAA, but how do you cover all the Euros? Do you get tape from over there? Dish?

Jonathan Givony: Well we have Luis Fernandez who lives in Spain, we have a guy in Croatia, Greece, Italy, France, these guys do great coverage for us, and we also trade a lot of tape. Having people who actually live and are from the countries these guys play in is a huge plus that even NBA teams don’t have, and it gives us a perspective that you normally wouldn’t get. There are also a lot of people in Europe who have great interest in college basketball players who are not going to make the NBA, so we will record games for them and then trade tape, they will record games for us and we trade it back and forth. Luis has been great about taping a lot of games, and sending DVDs, and the internet is great because it is not that hard to put video up online and people share that way. So it takes a couple of hours to download an Andrea Bargnani game and that is how I have 10 of them now. We have a lot of tape, the problem is finding enough time to watch it. We have tape on every prospect in the draft....all the international guys, the problem is actually finding time to watch. It is a little more difficult to evaluate European prospects then NCAA, because the style of play is so different than what you are going to see in the NBA. Often these guys only play 10-15 minutes and they are the 5th option on their team so it is a little more difficult and requires more experience. This is where our outstanding International scouts come in.

Howland: So let’s get some overview and your thoughts in general on the draft. Everyone says there is no Tim Duncan or Lebron James, which the haters keep bringing up, but how do you compare this years draft to say the past 2 or three?

Jonathan Givony: I think it compares pretty well to last years draft. Last year there really wasn’t a sure fire no-brainer number one pick. Andrew Bogut pretty much became the consensus number one guy but that was more for a lack of other superstar players, and people were afraid to think outside the box a little bit with Chris Paul, because you never take a PG who is six feet tall #1, but in hindsight that was erroneous. But I think it is a good draft, particularly once you get passed the fact that there isn’t a surefire superstar in the top 3 and realize that there are still some damn good players that will be in the league for a long time well into the teens. People are underrating a little bit, I felt like it was a much deeper draft before I went to the pre-draft camp, where guys who I thought were going to be NBA players ended up looking horrible, I mean that’s just one small part of it, but you did kinda get the feeling that there is more room for some European guys who you can store overseas. But I think it’s a good draft, it’s probably the craziest draft I can remember, and I have been following the draft for as long as I can remember, and I don’t remember a year where we have no idea who is going to go #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 and we are ten days before the draft. I mean last year we pretty much had the top four figured out at this point and this year we are not even close.

Howland: So how disappointing was the draft camp in Orlando?

Jonathan Givony: Well I thought what was most disappointing was the fact that there was so little energy in the building, the atmosphere, and we were kinda stuck behind the wasn’t really the nosebleeds because we had a pretty good view, but I felt that Chicago was a lot more intimate and we were just right there courtside, right in the middle and we could get a much better feel for the players and there was a sense from the could see the disappointment, in how the games were being conducted. The level, I thought, was just as good as last year, last year was a little disappointing too, a few years ago was probably the best I’ve been to, with players like Nate Robinson, Damien Wilkens, Tony Allen, Delonte West, and Beno Udrih. All in all it was a little disappointing, but for us it is just a great experience and a great time to go up and meet a lot of NBA guys who are sitting right next to you and wearing the DraftExpress shirt...and you just get approached by so many people saying, “You guys do a great job, we read you every day,” and that validates what we do, all the hard work we put in.

Howland: So when you guys go to Chicago do you bankroll it yourself?

Jonathan Givony: I pay for it off the banners that we have. Advertising pays the hosting costs, and a little bit of travel. No one is ever going to get rich off of doing something like this but the advertising money is enough to get by if you are in a position like ours when you don’t mind being long as you are not trying to finance a house or a family. There really isn’t any money in this, but I look at this as an investment in my future, which has paid off very nicely so far. It’s really disappointing how poorly internet advertising pays, though, relative to the work we put in, I can tell you that.

Howland: Ok, back to this years draft. Say you are an expansion team now, and you have to take one guy to build a franchise around....who do you take?

Jonathan Givony: That’s a real tough question. I would probably take Adam Morrison, I mean, just looking at it from a complete terms of getting fans excited, getting a guy who is ready to play right now, getting someone that is charismatic, and that will have a great work ethic in practice, passion to win, leadership skills and all those things, and being a really damn good player besides the fact, I think Adam Morrison is that guy.

Howland: Ok, so can you give me some more info on this Tyrus Thomas bit? The whole agent thing, and having him going 7?

Jonathan Givony: Well they just thought that it was a stupid move to make. I mean the day before I came in to watch him workout and all…I tried to explain that the lottery happened, and that based on team needs, we felt there was a legit chance that he might end up slipping a little bit and they disagreed. I guess Tyrus was the one that really decided to call it off. I mean what happened after…we still talk to them, we are still on good terms, we met up, had dinner, shook hands, said let’s let bygones by bygones and that was it. We are not going to hold any grudges against them or Tyrus Thomas. It’s water under the bridge now.

Howland: Shows how many people read your site at the end of the day.

Jonathan Givony: Yeah. People do care about what’s written, which is why we have to be a little more careful than I’d like sometimes, being kind of a loose cannon by nature. I personally think that our mock draft is not really going to have a huge impact on where guys end up going, I mean General Managers have done their research, I think the mocks in November and December are more influential because it tells guys who they have to scout and it builds them up. Look at the top 6 guys on our board right now; they have been the top six guys over the last three months. Nobody would have told you that Brandon Roy is even a first round pick before the year started. We had him going late first round, I thought that was a good call on our part, and he consistently rose until he became a consensus top five pick. He was like our Ike Diogu of last year’s draft, sort of similar to Thabo Sefolosha this year as well. So I think in that regard, it helps establish who the top prospects are. Once we are into late May and the lottery happens, I am not sure how much our mock influences anyone. The Chicago Bulls are not going to look and say, “oh they only have him at 7" so we can’t take him second. I don’t think we have that kind of power at this point.

Howland: A good example of that, if the rumours are true, that Atlanta has a promise to take Shelden at 5.

Jonathan Givony: Exactly. That is pretty much what everyone is saying, although I don’t buy it for a second.

Howland: Ok, so you said you would take Morrison if you had to start from scratch....and you had Bargnani at one for the Raps, and now you have them taking Morrison. What changed your mind there to do that?

Jonathan Givony: Just from what we are hearing the Toronto Raptors have no idea at this point who they are going to draft, which makes the draft so hard to predict, they are really shopping that pick pretty heavily, but their asking price is probably a little too high, so it’s hard to say what they will end up doing. I feel like there are a lot of teams that want to trade up to get Adam Morrison, which is the most realistic scenario right now, and I feel like when Adam Morrison goes in there and if they do decide to go number 1 that he is going to make them feel like he is the guy to go with. He fits their needs pretty well, he can really help them and I think he has a legit chance to go number one even if Toronto keeps the pick.

Howland: So you would say this whole Bargnani thing is a bit of a smokescreen? In all the papers up here that is all they talk about is Bargnani.

Jonathan Givony: Toronto’s doing a great job of establishing that they might take him, they are setting the table for it, so it would not be a shock if it does happen. I think what he (Colangelo) is really doing, is that of they do trade down to #3 or #4, and gets a nice asset in return then he’ll look like a genius, cause he will have not only gotten the guy he would have taken at 1 but also got a great building piece so that’s making him look like an awesome GM, which he is obviously.

Howland: So Portland and Charlotte are the teams you think have the most interest in trading up for Morrison at this point?

Jonathan Givony: Well there are definitely some other teams out there. I think Indiana definitely has some interest, Minnesota has some interest in him....I think there are a lot of teams that really like him....Boston in particular, even Houston or Phoenix. There are some teams looking to move just depends on how high the asking price is. But the most likely movement will happen within the top 4 it seems.

Howland: Thing is on the Raps front is that we have not seen that much tape on Bargnani. He does play 20 minutes or so a game, but still it’s not like NCAA.

Jonathan Givony: We have a lot of tape on him. I probably have about a dozen games here, and I have watched them a lot and he has been on the radar a long time. He was at the Hoop Summit two years ago, Benetton came to Toronto to play, and anyone can watch him practice because they are so open about getting to see him. He has been around for a while, so he isn’t as much as an unknown as most international guys usually are.

Howland: Biggest sleeper in the draft?

Jonathan Givony: Would have to say Thabo Sefolosha. I don’t get where the hell everyone else has been on this kid. It’s not like he’s playing on Mars or anything. I also really like Jose Juan Barea. That’s a guy who is getting no love from a lot of people, just because he is only about 5'11'. He doesn’t have a great wingspan, but just watch him play on the court. I have very little doubt that he will have success in the NBA. Whether it is in a backup role playing 15-20 minutes, or maybe even being able to start at some point. I am very high on competitiveness and heart, and feel for the game, how smart a guy plays and I think he has it all and he is just really really skilled. He’s an amazing point guard and I am shocked that more people are not considering him in the first round....but that’s just how it works. Size, and physical attributes speak a lot more right now than skill or work ethic. That’s why someone is going to make a mistake because I really feel like he is going to be a contributor whether it is next year or a year down the road. But this is a kid that might go undrafted when it’s all said and done, and who knows if he’ll ever get the shot he deserves then. I can already see the article in three years talking about how he “came out of nowhere.”

Howland: Who is the most over-hyped?

Jonathan Givony: Bargnani. Not because he is not a great player, but just because I feel like he is a guy that in any normal draft would probably go somewhere between 5-15. He’s a guy that is not going to fit in on just any team. He has some pretty glaring weaknesses, in terms of his rebounding and his defense, and watching him on tape you get the feeling that when things are going well he’s a great player, but when things really are not going well you don’t really see that mental toughness or that great intelligence like you see in a lot of European player. Not that he is a dumb guy, but he is a little individualistic, and for all the talk of how incredible of a scorer he is, you would like to see him do some other things like passing a little bit better, rebounding, just being more of a complete all around guy. When you have someone like LaMarcus Aldridge, I don’t think there is any question as to who is the better all around player right now or especially down the road. I am just surprised that he is getting consideration for the number 1 pick, and I think he would be a great pick from 5 on down. To consider him number 1, that to me shows where we stand right now in this draft.

Howland: Now this is a debate between myself and another writer on the site, but if you had to take a point guard, who is the first guy you take?

Jonathan Givony: Absolutely Marcus Williams. There is no doubt.

Howland: You guys do a lot of interviews with all kinds of players, Jay Williams etc. Who is the best guy you have talked to...a guy who will give you the straight up goods?

Jonathan Givony: What’s great about this draft is that almost all of these guys are really awesome kids off the court too. That just makes things easier in terms of projecting them into the NBA. You can see it in the way that they talk that they really do want to become great basketball players. I was very very impressed by Adam Morrison, people say that he is cocky and arrogant, and I don’t see that at all, he’s just a really good, ‘normal’ guy. Ronnie Brewer impressed the heck out of me. He comes from a great family, really well spoken, and he has it all figured out.
Marcus Williams is a guy who is very charismatic, even though people like to rag on him a lot because of the lap-top issue, and sure that was a horrible decision on his part, but I think that will make him a better person down the road. Brandon Roy impressed me, Randy Foye really impressed me....Cedric Simmons is a guy who is very shy, he doesn’t really know how good he is going to be at this point....but all of them come from good families, all well spoken kids, very humble. Most of these guys are great off the court which is a huge plus in my book. About the others, its not that they aren’t great guys, but more of the fact that I haven’t spoken to them as much.

Howland: So you take Morrison over Aldridge if you are the Toronto Raptors where you have zero at centre...sure Aldridge plays 4/5, but we have Charlie at 3 and we drafted Joey last year. Still Morrison?

Jonathan Givony: I still take Morrison. I just think he is a sure fire guy, he’s going to be a 20 ppg scorer, maybe not in his first season but very soon. I think the Raps need to get better a lot quicker, and if you have the number one pick, you have to get some sort of return on it pretty soon, and Morrison is that guy and he is going to get a lot better down the road. He also fills a great need for the Raptors in terms of having that perimeter scorer, having a great shooter, having someone with the work ethic and the passion and coming from a winning system. The guy is just programmed to succeed and I feel like wherever he goes he will do whatever he can to win and that’s what the Raps have a need for being so young.

Howland: Let’s talk about one last guy. Is Redick going to make it in the NBA?

Jonathan Givony: I think so. Redick is going to find success and he is going to be a nice third option on a team as a starter. I just look at the guy, the way he competes, skill level, and putting the ball in the basket, he is great at all those things. All the other things, defense, putting the ball on the floor and those things...he’s going to get better. There aren’t that many guys who can come off screens, space the floor and shoot with the type of range and accuracy he has. That’s a skill that every team needs, but few have. He has an amazing work ethic and it’s a shame about the DUI, and his back coming out now, but it really doesn’t take away from what he did during the season and I think that he is more ready and more of a sure fire guy and anywhere between 10 and 15 he’s a steal.

Howland: Last question...obviously it depends on who goes where but who is your ROY?

Jonathan Givony: Adam Morrison. It kinda depends like you said, but Morrison is the guy who wins ROY and if it is not Morrison it’s Roy just because he is going to come in and play 30 minutes a game wherever he goes. That’s a pretty safe bet there.

Howland: So you say Morrison in a Toronto Raptors uniform wins ROY?

Jonathan Givony: Yes, because he actually compliments Mo Pete and Joey Graham pretty well. He’s a two guard offensively, and it’s nice to have him next to a guy like Mo Pete who can guard either the two or the three and maybe Joey is not a great defender right now but I think he will end up figuring out how to utilize his tools to become a better defender. Morrison could play either the two or three spot for Toronto or Charlotte and he’ll have a huge impact right off the bat. I mean Amare Stoudamire had how many points when he won ROY, 13? So essentially the threshold is not always that high.

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