FanPost

Draft Strategy

This is an oft-discussed topic at this time of year, but it really should be quite simple.  Logic dictates that with each pick you have in the draft you should select the Best Player Available to your team.  There can be no argument about that.  What sense does it make to use a draft pick on a player that you believe will be anything less than the best one available to your team?  None.  Sometimes the best player available to your team is the one that will fetch the best assets in trade.  This is important to remember.  Sometimes the best player available to the other 29 teams in the league is not the best player available to your team.
What this means is that you assess which available player will be best for your team, with fit being one part of the equation.  I believe this approach will result in drafting a player at a position you already have covered as often as not.  It's kind of similar to the "tier drafting" style that Chad Ford describes in many of his draft related articles. 

The difficulty with this simple proposition is determining which player is in fact the best available player for your team.  This involves a ton of work.  You have to get as much relevant information as possible about each and every available player.  You need to assess what skills each player has and what skills they don't.  You need to assess what skills they will likely be able to acquire, and what skills they won't.  You need to factor in the age of the player.  You need to factor in how long they've played the game.  You need to factor in how much they love playing the game.  You need to factor in how much they know about how the game is played.  You need to factor in how much they improve over certain definite periods of time.  You need to factor in how much they want to improve.  You need to factor in what type of personality they have.  Once you've factored in all of those things and more, then you can start grouping the available players into tiers.

Of course, having the players grouped into tiers is only the beginning.  After going through that exhaustive process you need to form a second list that reflects the tiers of needs your team has.  This involves a ton of work.  You have to get as much relevant information as possible about each and every player on your team as well as the systems your team will be running, both in the short term and the long term.  You need to factor in what skills are present in the players you already have, and what skills aren't.  You need to factor in what skills are likely to be acquired by the players you already have, and what skills aren't.  You need to factor in the availability of the players you already have, both in the short term and the long term - this includes the likely cost of retaining those players and/or the likely cost of obtaining players to replace them; the ever-present concern for remaining under the salary cap (be it league-imposed or owner-imposed) looming in the background; injury concerns; aging concerns; etc.  You need to factor in what skills are required to win games in the systems your coach employs.  You need to factor in the short term and long term feasibility of employing that coach's systems.  You need to factor in how the personalities and play styles of existing players interact with each other and how they will interact with other various personalities and play styles.  Once you've factored in all of those things and more, then you can start to create a list of needs for your team and group those needs into tiers.

When you cross-reference the needs list with the available players list you form a draft board.  Unless something occurs to cause a change to one of those lists (e.g: you acquire a player via the draft or trade that changes the hierarchy of needs for your team, or you find out something new about an available player's injury history that changes which tier you place them in), you stick to drafting the highest player on your board and don't try to get cute.  Of course, if you have multiple picks in a draft then you may also need to assess the relative abundance and scarcity of certain skills amongst the available players in order to determine which combination of players will be the best available to your team.  However, when making such a determination it is important to remember that in the NBA it is virtually always better to have 1 A-level talent paired with 1 C-level talent than it is to have 2 B-level talents paired together, and at least as often as not it is better to have 1 A-level talent paired with 1 D-level talent than it is to have 2 B-level talents paired together.

 

So, what are the Wolves' needs?  I must say that our needs are rather difficult to assess considering that we don't even know what systems we will be employing because we don't know who our coach will be.  We're left to fall back upon the list of generic needs for winning basketball games to use as a framework for assessing what needs we have.  This is a major impediment to making forward progress.  We can assess the skills that we have at our disposal without knowing what systems we will be running.  We can assess the skills of the players available in the draft without knowing what systems we will be running.  But trying to assess what needs our team has without knowing what systems we will be running is like going to a hardware store and buying tools without knowing if we have screws for a flat head or a philips head screwdriver - we might luck out, but we also might end up stripping the heads off the screws, or we might have to go back to the hardware store to buy new tools after we've figured out if the screws we have are philips head or flat head.  Right now we're in the car headed to the hardware store and we don't even know if we need a hammer or a screwdriver, let alone which kind of either makes the most sense.

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