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Pacers Enter Final Phase
of Draft Preparation Process


By Conrad Brunner | June 14, 2005
While the annual Chicago Pre-Draft Camp generally brings the dawn of media interest in the June 28 NBA Draft, it actually represents one of the last steps in the preparation process. Though scouts, coaches and personnel experts converged on Moody Bible Institute to watch more than five dozen prospects scrimmage in organized games last week, their work was largely done before they arrived.

"It's great for the general managers and player personnel people to get together and talk and it's a good situation for the coaches to get a look at some players," said Joe Ash, the Pacers' Director of Scouting, "but as far as a piece of the total evaluation process, you have to keep it in perspective. Just because a guy has a good Chicago camp, you can't discount your evaluations over the past two or three seasons."

In fact, fewer and fewer top prospects even participate. Of the top 40 prospects as ranked by NBADraft.net, just one Kentucky center Randolph Morris participated in the Chicago scrimmages. Last year, three players who played in Chicago were drafted in the first round: Delonte West (No. 24, Boston), Tony Allen (No. 25, Boston) and Beno Udrih (No. 28, San Antonio).

"Our first-round pick, more than likely, wasn't in Chicago," said Ash. "But the second-round could very well have been."

Last year's second-rounder, point guard Rashad Wright of Georgia, did play in Chicago. So did John Edwards, an undrafted free agent from Kent State who spent the full season with the Pacers, and USC shooting guard Desmon Farmer, one of the final cuts of training camp.

It has become prevalent for first-round prospects to go to Chicago only for the height and weight measurements, not the scrimmages. Those that feel compelled to show their wares often hold their own workouts. In his 20 years of NBA scouting, Ash has seen the Chicago camp evolve from center stage to off-Broadway in terms of talent level.

"The biggest change is the games being played in terms of who's going, who's not going, who goes and pulls out, and then guys that don't go but their agents set up individual workouts," he said. "It doesn't bother me that much because I think we do our work all year long. I don't think there were any surprises to us in Chicago this year. The guys that were there, and the guys that weren't, we've covered very well during the year.

"Chicago is just one small part of the overall evaluation process. It's important to see the guys that are there but if they aren't, I still think we know them well enough."

Because the Pacers, at No. 17 overall, hold a top-20 pick for just the second time in the past eight years (Fred Jones at No. 14 in 2002 was the other), this draft could yield a player capable of not only competing for a roster spot but pushing for playing time.

At this stage of the process, they haven't targeted any one player, but rather a group they believe will be available. In the two weeks leading up to the draft, the task will be to narrow the focus.

"Right now, we have a group of guys we think will be there at No. 17," Ash said. "Now, we go into our comparisons and how they fit and how they stack up and we'll rank those guys. Eventually, what we've got to do is get this down so we know the 16 people taken ahead of us. Right now, we can lock in on 10 guys we know are not going to be there."

In addition to locking down their own mock draft, the Pacers' scouts and personnel experts will conduct a handful of group workouts and interviews of prospects. Ash said up to 17 players will be brought in, slightly fewer than in years past.

"We don't believe in bringing in a lot of guys for workouts," he said. "That's why we put so much emphasis on the coverage during the year itself with games and tape evaluations. I think (team President) Larry (Bird)'s main thing is the workouts aren't quite as important to him as the face-to-face contact. We do have a pretty good feel for who they are and what their game is. We just like to get that personal touch and have an informal interview process to talk and get a little bit of a feel for them.

"We don't get into a competitive thing we're we say, 'Play one-on-one or two-on-two to see who's better,' we just want a competitive workout and some of that stuff comes out in the process. We're looking for the skill areas for that position. If he's a two-guard, how does he shoot the ball? How does he shoot coming out of some of the stuff in our system? And you look at their defensive quickness, see how they can put the ball on the floor, how well they move their feet. We have a pretty good feel for that coming in but sometimes a guy will surprise you and he'll be stronger or more athletic than you think he was, or vice versa."

Come Monday, they'll convert the front office's primary boardroom into "The War Room," and the entire personnel department will move in for the week leading up to the draft.

"We'll have seen everybody by then," said Ash. "The evaluation phase will be finished."

By Monday the 27th, the goal is to have turned the mock draft into a lock, identified the players they anticipate selecting at No. 17 and No. 46 in the second round, as well as those they might like to make a move to acquire.

They won't have to wait long to find out if they were right.