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Navigating the Pre-Draft Process

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Former agent Matt Babcock takes us behind-the-scenes of the intricate process leading up to the NBA Draft.

2017 NBA Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

When the 2018 NBA Draft rolls around on June 21st, it will mark the end of a long, important process for every player selected, as well as those not selected. The leg work for this process begins months in advance, and starts when a player decides to end their college career and hire an agent, officially entering their name into the proverbial hat.

Former agent Matt Babcock, in a special piece for Sports Illustrated, details what happens next:

Agents need to survey all 30 NBA teams by calling at least one of the following, if not multiple, executives from each organization: assistant general manager, director of player personnel or director of scouting. The titles vary from team to team but those positions generally rank second, third and fourth in line of the front office. And they’re more valuable resources than lower-level scouts and even the general manager, who truly functions as the “boss”. Those above mentioned upper-level and second-tier executives have a pulse on the entire staff’s opinions of players. Whereas a scout may have a definitive opinion on a player but his role often times is limited to sending scouting reports to the team. Scouts generally do not have much of a voice or influence.

Each team is different regarding how their front office is setup, and the structures often change with hirings and firings each season. Some questions I would ask myself before making calls to teams would be: Who runs their scouting department? Who knows the players in the draft the best? Who has influence with the general manager, or the decision makers of their team? Once you answer those questions and find a solid grasp of the team’s decision-making structure, it’s important to determine who you can trust that will speak with you candidly.

By contacting a front office, agents are able to survey how the league views their client, and it gives them an idea of a projected draft range. Babcock stresses the importance of not over-selling a player:

I truly believe an agent needs to manage their player’s market, not create it. That is probably the biggest misconception of an agent’s role, in my opinion. During the recruiting period, agents often lean on selling players and parents on how powerful they are and how much influence they have with teams. There are certain steps that can be taken by an agent to promote a player and improve his market, but there’s really only so much that can be done. B.J. Armstrong, Bill Duffy and Rob Pelinka are a few examples of former players turned agents, but the majority of agents with much relevancy have never played or coached basketball at a high level. NBA front offices are comprised of former players and coaches. It’s only common sense that NBA personnel would not want to be lectured by agents about anything basketball related.

Mock interviews and etiquette training are also a crucial part of the process, and could be the deciding factor if a player is viewed similarly to other equal candidates. Indeed, no stone goes unturned in the journey to the draft.

The Portland Trail Blazers own the 24th overall pick in this year’s draft, which takes place at 4pm PT on Thursday, June 21st at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.