The 2011 NBA draft is set to take place in just 17 days, so all but two teams (can you guess which?!) are now setting up their draft boards and looking into a number of their most coveted prospects. It's an annual rite, a chance for teams to improve without spending money and hopefully find some diamonds in the rough. Due diligence matters.
However, as technology improves and game tape becomes more widely available, team-organized workouts mean less and less. That's why teams like the Portland Trail Blazers are cutting back on the amount of players they bring into town. From Joe Freeman (no relation) for The Oregonian:
Leading up to the 2008 draft, the Blazers released a calendar-like list of their planned predraft workouts before the process started. It featured 16 days of private workouts for more than 50 players. The following year, the number of workouts had been reduced to eight. In the summers since, the number has continued to decrease and the Blazers no longer bother releasing a schedule of planned workouts.
And they're not alone.
"To be honest, it's really a trend across the league," [Blazers interim GM Chad] Buchanan said. "A lot of teams have started to do that -- pretty much every team across the board this summer. In talking with other teams and agents, everyone is kind of following the same thinking process."
The Blazers' scouting department sees so many college and international games throughout the course of a season -- and a prospect's career -- that the front office already has formed a well-researched opinion about the draft's talent by the time June arrives. Also, there are plenty of other opportunities to evaluate prospects during the summer.
This line of reasoning makes a lot of sense, and not just because teams probably want to save some money in advance of the lockout. Workouts are nice ways to get a sense of someone's skills, especially because executives and coaches get to see them in person, but tape with plays broken down by type gives a much more thorough sense of what someone can provide on the basketball court.
Some players are still likely to get picked mostly based on workouts and hype (e.g. foreigners and top prospects who get hurt in college, like Kyrie Irving), but this approach will probably help teams find out which guys are best-suited to contribute right away. For a playoff team like the Blazers, it could pay immediate dividends.