Transcript: Kevin Pritchard Talks Draft Strategy, WARP, Job Status, Summer League, Oden

In case you missed it last week, Portland Trail Blazers General Manager Kevin Pritchard went on 95.5FM's Wheels at Work with Brian Wheeler and Kenny Vance to discuss the upcoming draft season and other offseason topics, including Summer League roster news.  Sean Meagher has the audio if you'd like to give it a listen.

A number of interesting items that we shouldn't let slip through the cracks.  

First, Pritchard states that he needs a right-hand man to assist him with salary cap related issues. "Once you get in the draft, I don't think... there's not many people in this league that can have a great frame of mind in terms of the cap and also be the talent evaluator and the strategic guy. If I look at my strengths and weaknesses, I need someone to say [whether a deal is viable] immediately."  Pritchard then admits he doesn't know whether he will have someone in place to assist him by draft night.  "I don't know. It's more important to get the best than to get the quickest."

Second, roughly three weeks after the Blazers season ended, Pritchard has yet to receive his much-ballyhooed offseason evaluation. "[My status] seems to be the pink elephant in the room, that's for sure. Maybe not the 800 pound gorilla," Pritchard tried to joke. "And I don't know if it's going to happen today, tomorrow, when they will do an evaluation of me."

Taken those two together and we're looking at an unnecessary mess for both Pritchard and the organization. No wonder Pritchard is making contingency plans.  Owner Paul Allen must ask himself whether he is putting his team in the best position to succeed on draft night.  At this point, I'm not sure how he could answer that question in the affirmative.

Perhaps the simplest compromise is to continue as is, with Pritchard using extra bathroom breaks on draft night to phone Penn for advice from one of the stalls.  

"Hey Tom, KP here, I only have a minute.  Hypothetically speaking, would we gain a trade exception if we moved Rudy and..."  

"Kevin? Kevin? Hello?  There's a really bad echo.  Where are you calling from?"

Shifting gears, it's also interesting to hear Pritchard use two new words --' "preventative" and "alternative" -- to describe the organization's approach to the health of its players and, in particular, Greg Oden.  "I'm not scared of anybody when we're healthy. So we've got to figure out a plan, do as much preventative stuff as we can going forward," Pritchard said. 

As for Oden specifically, Pritchard appears to admit that the team's past approach to his health won't suffice going forward. "I do think it's time to think alternatively," Pritchard said. "I think we've got to worry about getting his body in the best possible condition to handle 82 games. I do believe his injury this year was a total... you know, coincidence or happenstance. It happened. We want to get his body as good as it possibly can get. We're working on his mind in terms of helping him deal with these types of pressures."

Last but not least, KP name-checks WARP for you numbers nerds out there .  Good times.

Click through to read the full transcript.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter

It's draft season again

I think in the last six drafts, if I'm not mistaken, we've adjusted our position. I'll put it that way. How about that? What we really try to do in a draft is look at everything and be open to all the possibilities and then figure out who you want, and go get it. No matter what it takes.  Go get that guy. Assuming you don't have to give up too much, future, players, all that kind of stuff. Be creative in the way we think about it.

Chad [Buchanan] does an unbelievable job of taking a look at the player pool of 500 players and getting it down to the 15 or 20 we really like. That's the hard work. It really is. Chad does an amazing job of really understanding how to go through the process. How we eliminate players. Once we get it down to the 15 or 20 players, I think we do as much background and really dig deep on those players. It's served us well. We think we've done a decent job in the draft. We think that's where you try to hit it out of the park, take chances, some of them work out, some of them don't. So far so good.

Is there room on the roster to bring on more rookies?

Well, what we are finding out is that if you pick the right rookies and let them develop a little bit -- it all depends if they've played four years or two years -- but Dante [Cunningham] and Jeff [Pendergraph] did play this year and gave us some good minutes. We feel like those guys are really prepared to take a bigger role next year. So it is hard.

 At some point in time, it's about what we call WARP: Win Over Replacement Player. You've got to either bring in a better player or a player that brings in a lot less money that's equivalent, right? That's the two things you're trying to evaluate. I don't want to be very narrow-minded in what we're doing. I want to keep all of our options open.

At a certain point in time the draft becomes less important because you're growing as a team. You want to make sure the guys are within somewhat of an age range. The one thing I liked about this team was the value of the veterans and what they did in terms of teaching the younger guys. I'll give you an example: Juwan Howard was an amazing influence on Jeff Pendergraph. They became really good friends. Jeff in his exit interview was saying, 'look, Juwan is like my big brother now.' And what better person to learn from than Juwan Howard? I mean he was terrific for us on the court and terrific for us off the court. So there is that value in having veterans and young guys.

We're growing up, we're going to be judged differently. We get that. But I like our position. I think we're positioned very well for long term growth.

Summer League Roster

Well, what I would say is, Jeff and Dante will definitely be on that. As a second year, we want to see some growth. We've thought they've had good seasons this year but we want to see them get a little bit out side their box and expand their game. And that's what Summer League is for.

A lot of people get caught up in, 'they went 3-3 or 2-4.' I really don't care. I want to win, don't get me wrong, I want to win, but it's more about developing. I want to see those two for sure.

Patty [Mills] is a restricted free agent, we have his rights. I would like to see him play in the Summer League because we saw him in the minor leagues do some really good stuff. Patty, the one thing is, he was the youngest player in the Olympics a couple of years ago and led Australia in scoring. We know he can do some things. We've seen it in practice. We want to give him the ball and let him go play.

Bayless will not play. Not important. He's got to develop and he's keep playing and get better this summer, and there's a plan in place.  I'd rather see Patty in that role and see what he can do.

Who else? Oh, [Victor] Claver. There's a rule, it's sort of a gray area rule, where Koponen, Freeland and Claver may not be able to play in Summer Leagues. If this FIBA rule that we're sort of getting some feedback on, that states if you're under contract with another team, even though they'll give you permission, they may not be able to come over. What we do like is that Claver is getting much better. He won a big award this year and it's kind of the biggest award in Europe other than the MVP or best player. That's the Cup Newcomer of the Year. Rudy was that a few years ago. It's a big honor. They sort of celebrate the young players as much as they do the veteran players over there. So we're happy about that. 

But we love Summer League. It's a way to grow your players.

Do you see the Blazers Filling Tom Penn's VP of Basketball Operations or Assistant GM Position?

I do. Tom [Penn] was unbelievable at that stuff. He was part of developing some of those [draft day] rules and it's important to have someone because it gets very complex, right? The way my mind works is, I want to just know, 'Can it be done, tell me now, and how?' 

And so once you get in the draft, I don't think... there's not many people in this league that can have a great frame of mind in terms of the cap and also be the talent evaluator and the strategic guy. If I look at my strengths and weaknesses, I need someone to say that immediately. So yes, we'll look to add that position.

Would you fill that position before the NBA draft?

I don't know. It's more important to get the best than to get the quickest.

Your job status is the 300 pound gorilla in the room. Do you have any indication about changes to your job status?

It seems to be the pink elephant in the room, that's for sure. Maybe not the 800 pound gorilla. 

I don't. And I don't know if it's going to happen today, tomorrow, when they will do an evaluation of me. Here's what I will tell you... I love this team, I love working with Nate [McMillan], I love working with you guys, Wheels, it's been an honor and an absolute priviledge to be a part of this organization. I feel like, I feel like that this is my family. I walk into the Practice Facility every day, from where we've been to know, it feels like part of my family. 

You play college basketball and you always sort of go back to say, 'That's where I really learned...' I would tell you this. For me and my growth, the Portland Trail Blazers have done so much more than anything or anybody has done. I'm blessed. I'm blessed because I'm doing exactly what I want to do every single day. I work with people that really care about this organization. I think we've done a decent job. I think we can improve and I've said this all along. I need to look into the mirror and figure out where I need to improve. If it starts with me, I think it will trickle down to everybody else. So I want to be here but no decision has been made.

Has your relationship with Blazers Owner Paul Allen changed?

I think relationships are always changing, right? You're never really static. What I would tell you is that I've enjoyed my relationship with Mr. Allen immensely. He's been a mentor of mine. He's been as challenging as anybody has been on me. I played for Coach [Larry] Brown and I thought he was challenging. That being said: I like to be challenged, I'm not above reproach. I want to get better. We always had a way of communicating that's very direct and very honest, and that continues today. 

Again, it's all about how we can make this organization better. That's what he cares about and that's what I care about.

Have you asked him for definition in your situation?

No, not really. My goal is to get ready for the draft. Status quo, you know, I'm very proud of what this organization has done on draft day, free agents, who we have on our team. Not only do we have a team that's competing at a very high level, and if we're healthy I think we're at one of the highest levels. I'm not scared of anybody when we're healthy. So we've got to figure out a plan, do as much preventative stuff as we can going forward. We've got to tweak the roster, which we're willing to do. Given a healthy organization, a healthy team, let's go play. I'm as fired up about our organization and our team as I've ever been in my entire life.

Greg Oden's summer

Well, you know, I've said this a million times: He will do whatever we ask. I do think it's time to think alternatively. I think we've got to worry about getting his body in the best possible condition to handle 82 games. I do believe his injury this year was a total... you know, coincidence or happenstance. It happened. We want to get his body as good as it possibly can get. We're working on his mind in terms of helping him deal with these types of pressures. And we do that with every player.

He's going to be around [in Portland], [Trainer] Jay [Jensen] will be a big part of that, [Strength Coach] Bobby Medina who does an amazing job will be a part of that. We look at the player as a whole and do as much as we possibly can. I think it's pretty thorough and extensive. We talk about the nutrition, anything we can think of that can help we work on it.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter

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