clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Scout's-Eye View

New, comments

We had the great fortune to sit down with Mike Born, the Blazers’ Director of NBA Scouting, for the first half of last night’s game versus Minnesota. Mr. Born shared his impressions of Summer League, player development, and what the team is looking for. I wanted this piece to be live, giving first-hand impressions of the ongoing action, but the arena was too loud for a tape recording device to be employed effectively. Therefore the reflections attributed to Mr. Born are from notes. They are conceptually accurate but the responsibility for the literal wording is mostly mine. In other words, take the broad picture from the discussion but don’t get hung up reading too much into specific wording.

Blazersedge:  Give us a general idea of what you’re looking for when you come to Summer League.

The process isn’t necessarily about individual games. We’re looking for progress from the players. We’re comparing guys to what we’ve seen from them in other leagues or on film. How well are they picking up the game? How have their skills developed? How are they handling this level of competition? We want to get minutes for our three main players and see what they do with the experience. We’ve got an eye out for players who might be able to play for us in the future. We’re not just looking at our own guys either. I went to the Orlando Summer League and I’ve seen every game since I’ve been here. You want to be able to identify talented players who could help down the line.

Blazersedge:  What specific things are you looking for from the players participating?

Summer League is a time for experimentation. We’ve seen so much film on these guys. We know their styles and tendencies. We want to see how they handle different situations and different opponents. Some of these players have not seen opponents this quick. Some are not used to the roles they’re playing. How will they respond? In our last game one of our players got run into hard and then got an elbow upside the head. How does he come back from that? Does he shy away or does he come back aggressively? How they compete is as important as anything.

Blazersedge:  How much can Summer League really tell you?

It’s a comparatively small piece of the puzzle. It’s part of a much larger body of work that stretches back through their prior experience and for some will continue on through fall camp and pre-season. It’s not a major piece, but it’s a piece.

Blazersedge:  So we should be careful not to read too much into this week?

That’s generally accurate. Something you have to remember is that these guys are young. Their games will improve over time. Part of the Summer League process is for them to understand their weaknesses, what they need to work on to make it. We want those things to become clear to them. We look for teaching moments in games and in practice.

Blazersedge:  Sometimes we fans tend to overreact or make snap judgments about a guy after one or two games…

You have to remember not every guy will score 20, here or on the main team. Not everybody is brought in to do that. In fact some of the guys you think the least of could have an easier transition onto the main team than guys who are more noticeable. Utility players tend to improve as they get better players around them. They’re able to fit in. Understanding a player’s role is important. Our guards here are mainly scorers…that’s their strength. Batum is one of those utility guys who is not going to stand out in an environment like this. Of course you hope he plays aggressively and scores well but scoring is not the only measure of his game.

Blazersedge:  Expand on that a little. Down on the floor, what are you noticing about Batum?

He’s running the floor. He’s matched up against Corey Brewer, who is athletic and has NBA experience. This is a good test for him. We're looking for him to be an active individual defender, a good team defender, and to recognize defensive situations. To this point Brewer hasn’t scored. (Ed. Note: Brewer went 0-4 and scored 1 point for the game.) We want Batum to get experience defending this kind of player. We want to see him defend, run the floor, rebound and then push the ball, hit a shot when open, and play efficiently.

Blazersedge:  How much of a problem is it that he appears to be drifting to the weak side corner and then standing on offense?

Not much at this point. Remember this team is designed for the guards to score. Also Batum averaged 12 points per game in France. We don’t expect him to come in and be a dominant offensive player here. He’s available for the guards to pass to, but we want to see other things that might not show up statistically.

Blazersedge:   Petteri Koponen is quickly becoming a favorite and seems to be having a good week. What do you see from him?

He’s a scorer. He brings energy, can defend, and is unselfish. He’s getting experience handling the ball against quick guards. He hasn’t had to bring the ball up or make decisions against this kind of pressure before. Many opposing guards are trying to get a job in this league by being active defensively. Petteri may not see active defense like this anywhere else.

Blazersedge:  This brings up a question: How much different is Summer League from college or Europe?

It’s hard to generalize. Europe has so many different levels. Guys who were on major college programs or in the highest levels of Europe would have seen competition like this. For others it’s more of an adjustment.

Blazersedge:  What are the biggest adjustments for a player, not just in Summer League but in the NBA in general? What are these guys facing?

Players are bigger, longer, more athletic. A point guard may have been coming off a screen and facing a guy 6’4” and another guy 6’9”. Now you come off of the screen and are trapped by Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. Those extra inches against you make a difference. The floor feels much smaller when defenders are larger and can move quicker. There’s not as much space to move freely. There aren’t as many angles to make passes. You can’t see the court the same way. Plus you’re playing against guys with multiple skills. You may be used to sagging off of an offensive player. In the NBA you usually can’t do that the same way. You also have to understand the players on your team. The right move on a play is often determined by who is next to you. Is that guy over at the three-point line a shooter? Should you give up the ball to him or drive? You have to understand the strengths and weaknesses of ten guys on the court and play accordingly.

Blazersedge:   Complete this sentence for us: Summer League will be a success if…

…if we feel like our players walk away with a good learning experience.

Many thanks to Mike Born for taking the time to share his experience with us. If you ever have the chance to speak with him, the experience is both enlightening and entertaining.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)