Most coaches go out and they try to sign or recruit players without having a plan behind it. I try to share with them my experiences evaluating players and trying to put my world into theirs. I’ve never recruited for a college as I evaluate college players for NBA,International, and Minor League for professional clients. Even though the system is different where in the professional leagues for the most part you replenish your talent not by always signing players, but by drafting.
I think your thought process must be the same as you need to understand your surroundings before you go out and just try to get players. In this post I will take you through my tools and tricks of the trade to help you pick up a thing or two when it comes to evaluating.
Clean Up Your Backyard
Before I look at one college player or college game I first need to understand the level in which I am evaluating them for. The first thing that I did after leaving the Celtics as a scout was design a database program to keep all of my notes and ratings of players in. It is funny to think that I waited until I left the NBA scouting profession, before I organized my evaluations.
When I was in Boston I would do what most probably do. I opened up a word or excel file and put all of my data in there. It was ok because at least it was somewhere. The only problem there was that when I needed specific data like talking about the top small forwards in the Pac-10 it was very difficult to get that data quickly.
I’ve invested a lot of time and effort into my database for the past 5 years or so. It’s one of those love hate things where the product is great, but it takes up a lot of time perfecting. Now I can bring up lists of players in any league and have all of my reports in one place where I can produce reports on a push of a button. I can view a list of the top NBA shooting guards, or top rookies in this year’s rookie class.
Too many coaches at all levels don’t spend enough time trying to organize their thoughts and design a system of evaluating players. Hey I’m not going to preach to anyone here as if you can get players and be totally fine with writing your intel on cocktail napkins more power to you.
I think if you have the time and resources investing in a user friendly database where you can put your rankings and reports on players in is a great idea for you. Make sure that it is easy to use as well as easy to manage. I think having schedules, phone numbers, and emails catalogued as well can make your life so much easier and save your staff a lot of time.
Be An Expert In Your League
I started to write about before watching any college games for evaluations that I need to be an expert at the level in which they are being evaluated for. When I first started out in scouting, my mentor Leo Papile who was the head scout for The Boston Celtics gave me some great advice.
It was 1998, and he was in the second year on the job with Boston and he told me to be a GM or a scout that you first needed to know every player and roster in the NBA. It made total sense to me as if you are evaluating players to play in the NBA you needed to know where they would fit and why. He told me that if you didn’t know the NBA inside and out how could you ever try to figure a college player’s pro potential was.
So in my database I have every player in the NBA rated and ranked. I put them in categories. I think not only is it important that every player that you scout have a rating number, but they be placed in corresponding categories. Here are the categories that I rank NBA players and prospects in:
NBA Franchise Player
All Star Level Top 2 On Team
Borderline All-Star 3rd Best On Team
High End Roll Player
Roster Player 10-12(euro+)
Borderline Act Roster 12-16
Europe A1 DLeague T20
Euro A2 D League Top 50
Euro B Avg D Player
Low Europe – Low Minor
Now you don’t have to go into that much detail. Whatever works for you and makes you comfortable by all means do it that way. In my database I’ve rated every player in the NBA and write reports whenever I watch games. My rankings constantly change as players get older, injured, and just fall off. It is important for me to stay current with them so when people ask me questions on players I can give them an answer that makes sense.
Once I have every player ranked I want to also rank them my position. This enables me to put college players in categories at their position where I can rate them agains current NBA players. I’ll also then go in and get the depth chart of every NBA team to further evaluate players and what roles that they play for their teams.
When evaluating draft prospects I will put them in a category rank them overall and by position. I think the more information that you can store on a player the better. Now when evaluating players it is easier for me to understand where they may fit and what NBA clone they should be compared to.
I think if you want to be a great coach as an assistant or head that understanding your league is so important. Produce scouting reports, ratings, and rankings for every player in your league. You should know depth charts, strengths/weakness, as well as the overall talent level in your league.
When gathering information on recruits and trying to make decisions on who to recruit and what type of priority to give each knowing your league will give you better understanding. It is very important to know what type of players are successful at your level and which are not. I think it is so important to identify players that aren’t good enough or that you choose not to recruit so this way you don’t have to waste time with them.
Make Friends With A White Board
If you don’t have the means to make a database on the computer then invest in a white board and put up depth charts in your league as well as recruiting classes. It’s great to have something in your office to see what the league looks like as well as the players that you are targeting.
You can then take a look at a player and put them against every starting player at their position in your league. When I got to the Celtics I remember going into the office and seeing these white boards filled with magnets of every roster in the NBA. On the other side there were the college players that we were evaluating for the draft.
It is always important to have testing examples to put your recruits against. See how they will stack up in your league and then move forward with the process. I didn’t understand it at first, but today I am a very big fan of using depth charts. and having them where you can see them.
It’s important that you have your own philosophy in how you evaluate players. What is useful to me, may not be as useful to you and your program. I think you need to have a plan of attack in evaluating players and recruiting. You need to understand what type of players make it and don’t not only on your team but at your level.
It’s not good to be tunnel visioned and just evaluate your situation, you need to have a good understanding of your league/level. Take notes on players and keep them even after they have decided on schools or graduated. It is always good to look back on what you thought of a player and where they ended up. I always go back in past drafts and like to see what I though of a player before and after. Making mistakes is a great way of learning.
Always stay current with your team and league. If possible continue to watch players throughout the season as they can be dramatically different in December than they are in February. Never assume that they will be the same as experience and minutes could have dramatic effects on players.
I hope this was helpful. Until next time……..