Every NBA team has its own scouting department, and Ryan Blake consults with all of them.
Conflict of interest? Not quite.
“Well, for me, I help deliver a lot of information to all our NBA teams so they can make . . . easier, better (decisions),” the senior director of NBA scouting operations said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “All the scouting stuff . . . just makes it easier. Jerry West once said that it’s not telling the teams who to go see but also who not to go see because you have to travel the world (to study prospects). But when you talk about advanced analytics, all it is is stats. You can look and go, okay, a guy shoots 20 percent form behind the arc. Well, he’s not a good shooter, right? But some of the advanced stats that they’re getting are just other things that they can tag or log, like whether or not Marc Gasol is a good screen setter or where he moves after the screen or if he keeps in front or does he pursue a rebound out of the area? It’s just advanced stuff that’s technical that helps you either help develop a player (or determine) whether or not a player is good in different areas. Hey, I’m not a math guy myself, but when it comes to sports, anything that you can do to help a team get better – all analytics is is stats.”
It’s also just one piece of the scouting pie – and, in some cases, a small piece at that.
“You’re going to have the eye test, you’re going to do your homework, you’re going to have all that stuff,” Blake said. “(Advanced analytics is) just stuff that may help you shade in that little area to answer or ask more questions.”
Here’s a question: Using the eye test and advanced analytics, Is Karl-Anthony Towns this year’s clear-cut No.1 prospect?
“Well, a few weeks ago, I was going to say no,” Blake said. “I was going to say Towns, (Jahlil) Okafor and (D’Angelo) Russell (were all in) the mix. However, Towns has not had that work out for the Lakers. So he may just have that promise up there (in Minnesota). When you have someone like Towns who has that skill, that has that share-the-wealth mentality, is a player that can play in the culture of a team, it’s hard to overlook someone like that as well. The upside on him is extremely high, as well as the other players.”
Russell, especially. The Ohio State product averaged 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists as a freshman last season. Some scouts see Russell as a point guard, others see him as a shooting guard, and others see him as both.
“You might want to call him a combo guard, (but) I want him operating and being the quarterback,” Blake said. “He can make others better. He makes himself better when he has the ball in his hands. He’s not the most elite athlete, but he’s a heck of a lot better than what you think. And really, what makes an athlete is what’s between the ears, and for him, the game comes so slow. He makes plays like a hockey play. It’s one of the things we track: an assist-plus – a pass to teammates who (get) the assist. He just does that so well and he shoots the ball well, he can score, he’s just very versatile and he has size at 6-5.”