Just after the 2008 NBA Draft there was an incredibly revealing interview of Bucks GM John Hammond on the blog Brew Hoop. Hammond talked about the process that was used to make the disastrous selection of SF Joe Alexander, and how much work he and his staff put into the selection.
In fact, one might have called it a curious amount of work. Anyone who read the interview should have seen the flop coming right then. Read on.
“Now let me see you try a chest pass, Joey“
In the Brew Hoop interview Hammond described the arduous evaluation the Bucks brass did on Joe Alexander. Hammond was practically saying “We were never actually sold on this guy” without saying it. What was really odd was when he revealed that the team brought Alexander back in for a second workout just prior to the draft.
First of all, I think the NBA’s tradition of holding player prospect workouts is a laughably useless institution to begin with. What the hell can you learn from watching two guys go halfcourt one-on-one against each other, or from watching a big man do the Mikan Drill or run the floor alone and make layups? Its just a stupid practice altogether.
But if that isn’t bad enough, why on Earth would you bring a guy back for a second workout? To see if his jump shot improved? To throw him different kinds of passes? I mean, get real. What could you possibly learn that wasn’t learned in Workout I? I mean, how comically inept can you be?
I can just imagine what was going through their heads:
“Oh look, Joe’s dribbling much better! Oh, that’s a relief. Now we can draft him in the top ten! Screw his mediocre college stats!“
To me, a second workout smacks of not knowing what you’re doing.
Here’s an excerpt from the book, as posted on the WoW Journal web site. See if it rings true to the Alexander fiasco:
It may seem somewhat surprising to hear that decision-makers are better off considering less. This argument can be illustrated if we consider what was uncovered with respect to rebounds. Rebounds don’t impact where a player is chosen on draft day, but are found to be related to future productivity in the NBA. Such results suggest that decision-makers are not aware of the importance of rebounds. Such a suggestion, though, is hard to believe. Rebounds have been tracked for NBA players since 1950 and we can be fairly certain that decision-makers in the NBA understand that better rebounders help teams win games.
We also suspect, though, that decision-makers believe a vast list of factors is connected with winning basketball games. Unfortunately, the size of the list is the problem. People are taught to consider everything before making a decision. Such advice would be good to follow if the human mind had unlimited computing power. The human mind, though, has clear limits. Too much information has actually been shown by researchers to result in declines in the quality of decisions.
We believe this is what’s happening on draft day. Decision-makers try to consider everything, but the limits of the human mind undermine this effort. In order for a decision to be made, the human mind has to simplify the vast list of factors considered. The simplification process ends up emphasizing the factors that are most conspicuous. In other words, the final decision is dominated by scoring, age, height, and Final Four appearances; a list of factors unrelated to future productivity in the NBA.
Well, Thank God Hammond’s knows how to evaluate veterans. His lottery picks, I think, are blind shots in the dark. Thankfully we shouldn’t have to worry about those much any more.
By the way, this will be my final “Joe Alexander was a bad pick post”.