When the Portland Trail Blazers hired Draftexpress and ESPN analyst Mike Schmitz as an Assistant General Manager for their scouting department, reaction across the NBA atmosphere ran positive. This was especially true in Portland, where a welcome face brought even more welcome feelings of recognition and joy. Several readers wrote to the Blazer’s Edge Mailbag to ask our thoughts on the hire. Here’s one of them.
I love Mike Schmitz! He’s one of the best experts out there. He may be uniquely the foremost expert we could have gotten. It feels like we finally did something right. Do you like the move and do you think this will change the approach to this year’s draft?
I don’t think it changes Portland’s approach significantly this year.
First, Schmitz isn’t coming on board full time until after the draft. He’s finishing out his obligation to ESPN. I’m sure he can, and will, advise if needed, but he’s not likely to turn the battleship on a dime by his mere presence (or remote presence).
Second, Portland’s problems can’t be addressed by a single draft pick, unless perhaps that pick is the first or second overall. Seventh place doesn’t add up to a miracle, which is what they’d need to find salvation in a single player. If Jabari Smith, Jr. somehow dropped to 7th, the Blazers would know to take him with or without Schmitz. Otherwise, the smart money is still on making moves with that pick.
I would guess Schmitz could be helpful executing a mid-round pick if the Blazers traded down. He can also give input into the second-round picks the Blazers already have. Either way, neither he, nor they, will revolutionize the franchise in this draft.
As far as Schmitz being unique... yes, in a sense. He’s one of the top media draft experts out there. The draft is an area where media work and formal organizational work overlap easily. His experience will translate. But there are scouts across 29 other franchises with noses to the grindstone, trying to break through, living this topic day to day. Schmitz isn’t unique from them in the day-to-day work. He’s unique in being able to present his work in a publicly-understandable way. That skill set doesn’t translate to the private franchise job as readily, nor will his unique ability with it come into play as much. In other words, he’ll be judged by evaluations and results the same as any scout or scouting executive, not by the things that have set him apart in the media world.
Those things do make Schmitz look better to the public than any other hire, though. If Adrian Wojnaroski had said, “The Blazers are hiring Joe Schmoeball from Topeka as Assistant GM to advise with scouting,” everybody would have shrugged, even if Schmoeball were quietly the best scout ever.
Schmitz feels awesome because he’s been explaining draft prospects to you for years and doing it well. You feel an instant connection. Media colleagues will also wax poetic about the hire, in part because they know and appreciate Schmitz (which is, in itself, a recommendation of sorts), and in part because a professional team hiring someone from their ranks makes them look great. The positive echo chamber is a welcome relief for a franchise that’s been through a hard year. The acquisition makes the Blazers look good in a unique, and at least topically important, way.
So yeah... “Good hire, good move!” is the appropriate reaction at the start. The real proof will come over the next 2-3 seasons, but we won’t know those results until we get them.
Thanks for the question! You can send yours to email@example.com and we’ll ruminate on them over the summer!