's Jonathan Givony had a chance to talk with Assistant Director of NBA scouting services, Ryan Blake, about the Portsmouth Invitational, the Chicago Draft Camp, and the NBA draft in general.
Ryan, and his legendary father Marty Blake (the Director of NBA scouting services), are responsible for many of the draft decisions the NBA officially makes. Paramount of these responsibilities is informing teams who the NBA views as a credible draft prospect. In addition to this, they establish who the NBA would like to see in the Portsmouth Invitational.
The Portsmouth Invitational will be played April 6th through the 9th in Portsmouth, Virginia. It is a showcase for NCAA seniors (64 in all), a place where they can be evaluated for the next level. will provide first hand coverage of all the days at Portsmouth.
Before that, decided to sit down with Ryan Blake and get his take on this year's Portsmouth Invitational, but we came away with alot more than that.Jonathan Givony:
Hi Ryan, thanks for taking the time to do this with us. How excited are you about the Portsmouth field you guys managed to put together?Ryan Blake:
I'm always excited this time of the year. We get a number of kids that want to come and really want to play. This is not just fluffing it up either. We always get a number of kids that will pull out every year, the agents will get a hold of them and they pull out, and it gives the other kids that will come in late an opportunity not just for exposure, but to really help themselves further their professional career. But the guys that come in and play, they aren't just the low tier guyswe are going to have a large number of guys that are going to declare for the draft this year, which means that a lot of guys that pull out [from Portsmouth] will NOT get invited to Chicago. Not as punishment, because we don't believe in that, because there will be a lot of people. If they get invited, that will be great, but there will be a lot of guys that need to be seen, underclassmen and internationals, and that's what gives these kids that ARE here the opportunity to make that next step and show the teams that they want to play. We have a good group of kids here. JG:
So the roster I am looking at is already outdated? RB:
Some of it, yeah. It's not that outdated, there are only a few players that have pulled out. I don't know which one you haveJG:
The one that Portsmouth published on Friday. RB:
I haven't seen that either, but yup, some of those are gone. And there will be more tomorrow I am sure, it all dependsJG:
Can you already say who pulled out?RB:
Not yet. JG:
Any sleeper prospects that you are particularly excited about watching at Portsmouth?RB:
Let me get my list. One guy that got put on the list that I think teams need to see is Mindaugas Katelynas
[UT- Chattanooga, NCAA slam dunk champion]. Here's a guy that I've been following and has shown a lot of skills, with and without the basketball. Unselfishness, plus abilitywhen I say unselfishness, he was playing at a position that may not be his position [power forward]. I think he has skills that aren't just for the post, and we want to see him at another position. He's an energy player, and I think that what he showed with and without the basketball warrants a look at the next level. A lot of these kids, these young men, may have the same opportunity. There are a lot of guys that came on this year, and weren't prospects until the end of the year, and have played above not their ability, but their expectations.
Lemme take a look at this list
There are a lot of other guys that may have a position and may have a chanceAlan Anderson
[Michigan State] is a guy that has a lot of ability, and he can play the 1-3, 4. He can post up, he can play point; he has a lot of strengths, not any dominating one, but a guy that has a chance of making the league. Al Sayeed, from Fresno, is a kid that keeps improving every year. Here's a guy that if he doesn't get drafted or make the league he's someone that you're going to have to keep track of because he keeps getting better and better. When it comes to bigs in the league, where its dominated by power forwards and not big centers, he's a guy you're going to look at. JG:
What can you tell us about how the rosters were compiled? Who actually makes the decision regarding who to invite and who not to?RB:
Marty and myself are part of a committee that helps choose who comes to Portsmouth. There's a committee in Portsmouth that's been around for 55 years that also looks at players. They put the rosters together, assembling the teams, coaches, etc. And we deliver the players we want to recommend. JG:
So are there NBA scouts on your committee? GM's?RB:
No. We try to collect advice from everybody. We look around from our perspective and try to gather as much information regarding what we like, what the teams like, what we expect and guys that we think deserve to be there. JG:
Let's say a player came up to you and said: Ryan, what are some of the most important things that I need to show in my four days here? [in order to impress]RB:
Absolutely. That's the biggest question I get asked. I welcome all the calls from the players right now, because basically I talk to the players, I'm in the PIT room, I weigh and measure these kids, I talk to the players before the event. A lot of the kids call me beforehand because their coaches had players [at Portsmouth] before, and they passed on that I'm there as their unpaid agent.
They ask me what do I need to show to show that I'm an NBA caliber player? They want to know their strengths, their weaknesses and all that stuffand I tend to tell them don't worry about that. You need to play to win, if you do anything otherwise you're not going to show what you're made of. You gotta play within yourself. If you can't hit a three pointer, don't go out there shooting three pointers if you're a big center. Play within yourself, play to win, play with effort, because teams want to see guys that want to play. And that's very very important. Some kids will come here thinking that they don't need to be here, for some reason, but the teams want to see that the kid wants to play. And that will come to Chicago as well. People will pull out of Chicago, under the advice of their agents, and a lot of them hurt themselves. You've seen people in the past in both areas, that have not done that and have not gotten undrafted, or got drafted in the 2nd round or whatever, because they got bad advice. In general, teams want to see kids that want to play. That's a plus; it's only a positive, not a negative. JG:
It seems that the 2nd round is such a crapshoot, people can say that this guy is a lock to get drafted in the 2nd round, but after watching the process closely over the past few yearspeople that I thought would get drafted in the 2nd round or in the late 1st round and ended up slipping for one reason or another, maybe not even getting drafted at all. Would you agree that it's basically impossible to predict who is going to get drafted in the 2nd round?RB:
Listen, if they [an NBA team] aren't sure about a player, and it comes between a guy who they say well, he's got good talent or an international kid who is under contract, they might tend to go with the international who is under contract, because they may have a full roster, leave that guy overseas, you don't have to make him a qualifying offer because he's under contract so they may tend to go with the international guy. And that's not a knock against someone who is an American player, or a college player, who may have refused the opportunity that was handed to him. So there is no security. If a guy is labeled to be a 2nd rounder by some of the mock drafts, I'm sure you have one or two?JG:
Wellno one knows what they are talking about. Do you run that website?JG:
And you probably haven't seen the majority of these players, correct?JG:
What? No, that's not true at all. RB:
What's good about your site is that you deliver these guys for the public. You probably have a lot of guys that give you this information, but they don't know what these players are about, what their actual talent is and what the NBA perceives of them. You have the mock drafts that are good for the general public let's say. But for in terms of delivering their actual ability, no one should go by. And I know you won't print that, but that's the truth. JG:
I'll print that. Why not? I wouldn't have asked the question if I didn't want an answer. RB:
Well I mean, a kid will go on there and I'll hear the talk radio out here and they'll say so and so said, on a website and I'll laugh at that, internally, but I get mad too because I go you can't go by that. Because you look at some of these mocks, especially the one on nbadraft.net, I'll have my worker print out one of them once a week, and when no one is playing around the world, the players change, and about 18 players will move on the mock, and no one has played! But their name may have come up in the media so
So you can not go by that, if you're unsure, lets say even expert advice says that you're supposedly going to be taken in the low firstthat means that you can be taken in the 2nd round, easily. That means you're not getting a guaranteed contract, and you're going to be fighting in the summer, playing summer league, maybe, if you're picked in the 2nd round, if you get picked. You have to fight with free agents, guys under contract, 1st round draft picks, international free agents, international guys under contractso we're playing the percentages here, right? Your percentages are going down. We can always go back, and you're probably good at going back in history, and you can look backI'm just going to name you some names: Mario Austin
he didn't come to Chicago, 2nd round, not in the league. Rod GrizzardOmar Cook
you can keep going, you'll find guys from last year who did not show up. There are a few exceptions that have sort have made it, but man you're playing the percentages. Do you want to shoot from half court? Or do you want to shoot that mid-range jump shot or lay-up? You want to give yourself the best opportunity, that's what we look out for. If a guy is going to go 1st round then you gotta go, right? But you gotta be guaranteed. But if you're not, and you're dwindling around that area where you may not get drafted in the first round, why not give yourself the best opportunity A) to improve and B) get to a higher percentage where you are drafted in the 1st round? Improve your basketball game knowledge, etc. JG:
Absolutely. But just to answer what you said before about us never having seen a lot of these guys playthat is not true at all. There is not even one player on any of our mock drafts that I have not seen not just once, but many times, maybe not in person, but at least on tape. And if I haven't seen some of these borderline European 2nd rounders, then our International Director Luis Fernandez has seen them play many times, and by the end of the month when I get a couple dozen more tapes in, I will too. And not just that, we're going to be at Portsmouth, Chicago just like we were last year, we've had someone at all the High School All-star games so far and most of the upcoming ones as well. We go to International tournaments run by FIBA, we're planning on sending someone to the Euroleague Final Four and the junior tournament they run. We don't comment on players we've never seen before. I have hundreds of tapes on basically every 2nd round prospect out there, I've been in touch with the schools all year long, talking to their coaches, turning every stone to make sure that no one goes unnoticed. We're not trying to sabotage what the NBA is trying to accomplish, it's not fair to blame us for kids not showing up at Portsmouth or Chicago because we're not the ones telling them not to go. We've contacted the NBA in the past to try and make sure that we're on the same page, and got no response. We're not out here telling CJ Miles he's a first round pick in contrast to all the evidence that says that he's not. And we talked to him and realized how much harm can come from just putting his name on the mock draft. It's scary. We're not buying domain names of the prospects and then forcing the kids to buy them back once they make it like some other people do. Go and read the stuff that we write, the site is 100% free. Traveling to all these camps that you guys run, the FIBA tournamentsRB:
There are guys that work for you that live overseas, right?JG:
Maybe some journalists or people like that, right?JG:
Sort of. RB:
These guys may not have the experience as basketball guys. See what I'm saying?JG:
Uh, sure. RB:
And that's where it comes down to. I'm not criticizing. Like I said, I talk about the mock drafts, but I always make sure that people know that these are not bad websites to go on and get information by any means. I've been on your website, I think it's a nice website. OK? And one that I'll always go to. I think it's good for information, guaranteed. Now what it comes down to, and this is what we'll always be critical of when it comes to mock drafts, is that if some kid looks at that and says hey, DraftExpress which you probably get a lot of hits, y'all doing pretty well?JG:
Yeah, we're doing OK. 10,000 or so hits a day recently. Something like that. Not making any money off of it, but we're doing OK. RB:
That's great. So, if someone really goes by that, then you know, that could beNow you also as a journalist, with your ethics, probably also go around and get some quality information even from some of the scouts. And that can be taken with a grain of salt. JG:
And that's where we'll always be very criticalbecause you know what? It's shmucks like us telling kids whether they can play or not. It's not like golf or tennis where you just go out and play and if you win you're in. Right? So when a guy takes a chance and he declares for the draft and he goes through the process and doesn't pull out, he can not go back. I mean there's a lot of bad information out there. JG:
We try to be really careful about the information we put out there. We've only got one high schooler on the 1st round of the mock draft right now, Gerald Green
, for most of the year we didn't have anyone. So if you ever see something on the site that doesn't look right to you, you can give me a call, send me an emailRB:
And that's where I don't want to step over the line, especially with journalists. I'm a journalist, I studied journalism, so I wouldn't want to do that. You need to go by your feelings and whatever. BUT, and I can't comment on any undergraduates anyway, so that would be getting a fine, maybe stepping over the line. Not to dwell on that, but it's the fact that this is about the kids making mistakes. That's what I'm worried about. I look out for the players, cause you know what its their dream. It's basketball. Did you play basketball at all?JG:
Absolutely. All through high school. That doesn't mean I was any good, butRB:
And for most of these guys it's that way, they want to give themselves the best opportunity to get to that next level, whatever that next level is. And going back to your original questionwhen you show that you want to play with more than 100% effort and you play within yourself and you play to win, that's the only thing that they should be worrying about right now. That way they don't have to worry about all the other stuff.
Check back tomorrow for part 2 of 's interview with Ryan Blake!